Success was short for Buddy Holly but the music legend left a lasting impression.
Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley in 1936 in Lubbock, Texas grew up being called Buddy by his family. His older brothers taught him to play several instruments at a young age and he won a talent contest singing at age 5. He started performing with a friend from school at age 16 and they became a local hit after performing on Lubbock radio station KDAV, which is now called “the Buddy Holly station.”
In 1955 Holly saw Elvis perform and started to incorporate a rockabilly style into his music. Later that year Holly, along with Bob Montgomery and Larry Welborn, opened for Elvis in Lubbock and attracted the attention of a Nashville talent scout. He was signed to Decca Records in February of 1956 and on the contract his name was misspelled Holly, but he kept the spelling for his professional career. He formed his own band, called The Crickets. They released two singles that didn’t attract any attention and in 1957 Decca told Holly that they would not renew his contract. Holly hired a manager and began recording new songs. Later that year he signed contracts with two subsidiaries of Decca, both with The Crickets and as a solo artist, putting him in a unique position of having two recording contracts.
Over the next several years Holly recorded a number of hits, including “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day,” and rose to fame. Between August of 1957 and August of 1958 Buddy Holly and The Crickets released seven Top 40 singles. Holly married Maria Elena Santiago in 1958, having proposed to her after just one date. As he became more interested in the New York music scene his bandmates just wanted to return home to Texas. The band split up in late 1958. Later Holly learned that his manager had been taking the band’s royalties and due to financial difficulties he reluctantly went back out touring. He accepted an offer for a spot on the Winter Dance Party tour in January of 1959 and put together a new band that he called The Crickets. Early in the morning on February 3 the plane that Holly had chartered to take him and fellow performers Richie Valens and the Big Bopper to the next performance in Moorhead, Minnesota crashed and all the passengers died.
Despite a successful career that only spanned a few years, Buddy Holly was a major influence on rock and roll music. He was an innovator and the first to employ studio techniques such as double tracking and pioneered the now standard rock band line-up of two guitars, drums and bass. He had even started experimenting with orchestration just before his death, as evidenced in two recordings, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” and “Raining in My Heart.” Many modern musicians cite Buddy Holly as one of their influences and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him number 13 on their 2004 list The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.