Considering that he had only been recording officially for two years at the time of his death in a plane crash in February 1959, Buddy Holly's influence on several generations of rockers is astounding. His hiccupping vocal style and melodic compositions would inspire everyone from the Beatles to Bob Dylan and the Hollies, and Elvis Costello would emerge in the next generation with a Holly-inspired bespectacled look.
Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock Texas on September 7th, 1936. The 'e' in Holly's name was dropped due to a spelling error on his first recording contract. Excited and not wanting to jeopardize his contract, he simply signed his name as Buddy Holly.
Holly performed during his teen years with close friend Bob Montgomery. Billing themselves as Buddy and Bob, they performed local events throughout Lubbock. It was after opening a show for Elvis Presley at a local gig in 1955 that Holly's direction became clear. Success came in the form of his new group, the Crickets, which consisted of Jerry Allison on drums, Niki Sullivan on guitar and Joe Maudlin on Bass. The Crickets recorded "That'll Be The Day" in the Clovis, New Mexico studios of producer Norman Petty, hitting the top of the charts in September of 1957.
The group continued their success with songs such as "Oh Boy" and "Peggy Sue". Holly, however, was growing restless, and in the fall of 1958 he split with the Crickets and Norman Petty. He married Maria Santiago and relocated to Greenwich Village in New York City. During September sessions in Clovis, extra musicians, including saxophonist King Curtis and guitarist Phil Everly joined Holly. Waylon Jennings, then unknown, provided backing vocals on one track; during the same period, Holly produced Jennings' debut single. In October of that same year Holly recorded "True Love Ways" and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore".
In December 1958 Holly began assembling a band to take on the "Winter Dance Party" tour of the US Midwest. Allsup was hired on guitar, Jennings on bass and Carl Bunch on drums. Also starring Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, Dion And The Belmonts and the unknown Frankie Sardo, the tour began on 23 January 1959 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
On the afternoon of February 1st the tour played in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but an evening show was cancelled owing to bad weather. The February 2nd date at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, went ahead. It was following this show that Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper chartered a small plane to take them to the next date in Moorhead, Minnesota. The plane crashed minutes after take-off, killing all three stars and the pilot.
Holly's popularity increased after his death, and his influence continues to this day. Compilation albums also charted in both the U.S. and the UK, as late as the 70s. A Buddy Holly Memorial Society was also formed in the U.S. to commemorate the singer. In 1978, the film The Buddy Holly Story, starring actor Gary Busey as Holly, premiered. The following year, a six-record boxed set called The Complete Buddy Holly was released in the UK (it was issued in the U.S. two years later).
In 1990, Buddy, a musical play that had previously been staged in London, opened on Broadway in New York. Buddy Holly's legacy lives on, not only with tributes such as these, but in the dozens of cover versions of his songs that have been recorded over the years. Holly was an initial inductee into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1986.