Buddy Holly was one of the early pioneers in the rock music industry thanks to his distinctive and influential style. He was already well versed in several music styles by age 16 and already a seasoned performer. He had popular hits such as Peggy Sue and That’ll be the Day and was a rising star before his tragic death in 1959 at age 22.
Buddy was born Charles Hardin Holley on the 7th of September 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. He was the youngest child of four in his family and received the nickname Buddy as his mother felt his given name was too big for such a small boy.
Even at an early age, Holly had a knack for musical instruments, learning to play the piano and fiddle while he was still young. His brother would teach him the basics of the guitar, and he showed off these skills on a home video when he was 13, as he performed My Two Timin Woman.
Holly’s parents supported his musical aspiration throughout school, and after high school, Holly would form a band that played western country songs on the Lubbock radio station. He frequently opened for national acts in his hometown, and a turning point in his career was his opening set for Elvis Presley in 1955.
After hearing them perform at a skating rink, a record company scout managed to sign Holly. By 1956, Holly and his band began recording demos and singles in Nashville under the name Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes before being changed to The Crickets.
Holly wrote and recorded their breakthrough hit, That’ll be the Day with the Crickets, in 1957, a song written about a line uttered by John Wayne in The Searchers. Over the next two years, Holly and the Crickets charted seven times in the Top 40 Singles list, and That’ll be the Day topped the U.S chart precisely 500 days before Holly’s passing.
Holly would separate from The Crickets in 1958 and move to Greenwich Village in New York City. He had found himself with some financial problems resulting from the band’s break-up, which forced him to accept an offer to tour with the Winter Dance Party in 1959.
Holly would book a private plane to take him from a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, to the tour’s next stop in Moorhead, Minnesota, as he was tired of traveling in sub freezing conditions on buses that tended to break down. He was joined on his doomed flight by fellow performers Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The flight went down minutes after leaving the ground, killing all on board. Holly was just 22 years old when he passed away.
Holly had recently married Maria Elena Santiago, a receptionist he proposed to on their first date, and tied the knot less than two months later. Maria did not attend the funeral due to recently suffering from a miscarriage. To this day, Maria still owns the rights to Holly’s image and name.
Unreleased recordings of Holly’s music were released throughout the 1960s after his passing. While he only had a professional career of over two years, he has gone down in history as one of his generation’s most outstanding young performers. He was even an influence to Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, with the latter being in the crowd at one of Holly’s last gigs.