Even if they don’t say it, I know what people are usually thinking when they find out I can (easily) recite facts and anecdotes from Buddy Holly’s life; that my iPod is filled with his entire discography, even the hard-to-find and undubbed recordings.
“And you’re how old?”
For a 22-year-old, I’m not supposed to have a firm grasp on this. It’s actually the flip, I should have a firm grasp on the “now” music — the first time I heard a Lady Gaga song (Paparazzi) was because an a cappella group that I like was performing it as part of their set. It was months later when I heard the original and put two and two together.
But I’m pretty sure, for the music alone, I would have been ridiculously happy growing up in the 1950s. I’ve actually been pretty lucky; in the past five years, I’ve been able to see five shows that use Holly’s music — I saw Buddy twice, though I missed it in Calgary, I saw it once in Edmonton and once in Seattle (being the only niece on my dad’s side has its perks when it comes to getting spoiled by the aunts and uncles), I’ve seen two original dinner theatre shows about Buddy Holly and one tribute concert.
I always say, everyone else gets to see their favourite musician in concert, I have to settle for musicals and tribute concerts. Luckily, they’re pretty good. A friend and I went to one of the dinner theatre shows last night and I was grinning so hard throughout the entire thing, my face hurt.
Broken down and looked at from a pure musical perspective, Holly’s music is incredibly simple — though, as Keith Richards points out, that’s part of the charm, any schoolboy aspiring to be a rock and roller could play it too — Holly’s early, and arguably most well-known stuff, is only three or four (common) guitar chords. And, as Holly’s mother was once quoted as saying, his lyrics were nursery rhymes.
There’s no doubt he was talented though, and pushed the musical envelope. If you want to know more about that, watch The Real Buddy Holly Story, which is different from The Buddy Holly Story, or do some Googling. One of my favourite quotes is from Jerry Allison, Buddy’s best friend and drummer for the Crickets, as saying, “When someone like Paul McCartney says, ‘Without the Crickets, there would be no Beatles,’ I say, ‘Excuse me? I’d like to hear that again!'” In fact, the Beatles name in itself is a tribute to the Crickets.
I took an American history class in university, and my term paper could be on any American historical event, as long as it fell between 1865 and the present. I chose to look at the rise of rockabilly, specifically the influence that Elvis and Holly had on the creation of rock and roll.
Clearly, I have a bias towards Holly. I even joked that if I could write the paper without bashing Elvis too much, I should automatically get an A. Writing the paper though, was a lot of fun. I already had a lot of knowledge about Holly, I just had to go fill in the blanks about Elvis and some background information about rock and roll in general. Ironically, I was taking a jazz history class at the same time, and have a great quote from Count Basie as saying that the parents in the ’50s who were opposing rock and roll were the same kids in the ’30s defying their parents and crowding around the bandstand to listen to jazz music.
Like I said, it was a lot of fun to write the paper. I don’t mind Elvis as much as it sometimes comes across that I do, though I don’t think he’s necessarily the rightful King of rock and roll. Both men did things for the music in their own way.
One of the interesting things about the recreation of Holly’s music during a play, however, is that even though he only toured with a three- to five-piece band, the re-creations always have him in front of a full big-band orchestra. My theory about this is it’s the only way that the artistic directors can get us to understand exactly how big his music was. Because when a big-band orchestra stops playing suddenly, to indicate Holly’s death on Feb. 3, 1959, you notice. And the hole created probably isn’t the same effect as if a five-piece band were to stop playing.
It makes me ridiculously happy when I hear Holly’s music being played today. As one of the actors said during the play last night “This music will live forever!”
Because #yegprov has spoiled me a bit, here’s a quick Storify of some of the tweets I did quickly during intermission.