Buddy Holly by Uncle Bill

Unlce Bill - Bill0666@aol.com - February 3, 2005
           I originally wrote this several years ago and posted it on a couple of e-mail discussion lists. I was grateful when it was picked up and reprinted by two newspapers and news sites. Updated, I offer it again on this anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly ...
           In the early hours of February 3rd, 1959, the crash of a small twin engine airplane in a corn field near Clear Lake Iowa created the first Rock & Roll "Legend." His name was Charles Hardin Holley, better known as "Buddy Holly." In essence, Rock and Roll was barley three years old if that. But in that short time America had witnessed the greatest youth social revolution since the roaring 20's.
           All created and motivated by a brand of music that was part country, gospel, blues and jazz. As American as can you get ... The men and women who pioneered this new musical art form were to influence nearly every great rock artist to come, from the Beatles to John Mellencamp. I don't believe any of them really knew or understood how they were shaping their places in history.
           Buddy Holly was one of those pioneers, and was the legend to be made, and he was one of my heroes. Sitting in front of my little plastic RCA 45 rpm record player, almost every afternoon after school and into the evening, I would play Holly's records over and over and attempt to copy his chords and licks on my big yellow Kay guitar. I learned that a lot could be done with chords and capos, and that simplicity could sound full and powerful.
           I saw him only once in concert, and in one amazing minute shook his hand and and was nearly speechless.. You have to remember that in the mid 50's, Rock and Roll was being invented. Everything that was happening was new. And it was happening in a hurry.
           The electric guitar had become the "power" symbol of a new generation of budding musicians. We ate,lived and devoured anything guitar. Unlike the rock guitarist of today, we didn't have Hendrix, Clapton or Randy Rhodes to copy from. Scotty Moore, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins and James Burton were our guides. "They" were inventing the guts of Rock and Roll. When I first heard "That will be the day," I was astonished. "Damn, that's a Fender Stratocastor: Chuck Berry type rhythm. Why does it sound so high? I can play that!"
           Holly had a simplistic way of playing guitar. Three or four chord structure with flourishes and simple leads. Something that most of us could play with a little practice. Because of this, bands were playing his early music at every school or YMCA dance, sock hop, roller-rinks or where-ever bands were playing.But Holly had innovation on his mind and while he pioneered many first and became more polished, he never forgot to keep the edge on his music. Unlike Elvis Presley who totally abandoned his grungy roots for a more acceptable image, Holly managed to smooth his image while keeping the edge in place. "Peggy Sue" was proof of this. Recorded as a single for Holly on Coral records,it was the best produced recordings that Holly had made to that date.It was also the song that set him apart as a real rocker. The driving lead as he slams the toggle switch from the forward "rhythm" pickup to the "lead" pickup and the raw, unprocessed sound of a 56 Strat turned way up almost lifts you out of you seat.
           It is one of the most recognized guitar leads ever recorded by a rock artist. I still get chills when I hear it. "Rave On" and "Think It Over" are later Holly recordings that also reflected the Holly edge.
           While Holly could rock, he proved he could write love songs as well. The beautiful "True Love Ways" and "Words of Love" are classics in their own right.
           Holly had many first to his credit ... He was one of the first "white" artist to rely almost exclusivity on his own material. He was the first "Rock" singer to double track his voice & guitar. The first to feature the band singing background vocals, even though they really didn't on "That will be the day." Another singing group did. Possibly on other recordings as well. The first rock artist to have a solo career as well as a group identity with the Crickets. The first to have both a group album and a solo album released and on the charts at the same time. "The Chirping Crickets" on Brunswick, released November 1957. And "Buddy Holly" on Coral Records released in March 1958. The first to put "Strings" on a rock record. And possibly the first rock star to wear glasses on stage.
           Had Holly not have been killed some forty-six years ago, God only knows what he could have done. How far he could have gone, what wonderful music he could have created.
           For thousands of us who sat in front of tiny record players and searched for chords and memorized words; Who tingled with excitement whenever we strapped on a "Strat" or a "Les Paul," and who felt like part of us died in that Iowa cornfield that awful night, Buddy Holly will live on; Every time I pick up my guitar ...
           In 1961 I finally had the money to purchase my first of three Fender Strats. It was a white 56-57 series with a maple neck. I can remember the feeling when I first played it through my Fender Pro Amp. It sounded just like Holly's ... I think I played until my fingers hurt. It was like I was possessed ... "Maybe I was."

Uncle Bill;
I don't remember if I cried, when I heard about his widowed bride.
But something touched me deep inside. The Day the music died.

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