Buddy Holly The Father of Rock ‘N Roll
By Bob Scarborough
Each generation influences the next, in music, art, prose and poetry, ideals and morals. Our very lives have been formed, quite literally, by the music we listen to.
In the 1950s, the crucible in which rock and roll would emerge was forming from swing music, gospel, country and rhythm and blues. Kids born in depression-era America were searching creative outlets, possibly to escape the realities of the time, encouraged by family, or enamored by the star status of the performers who came to town.
Buddy Holly, born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas, on September 7, 1936, was one such lad who would quickly rise in the ranks to become an influence in his own right for the generation of musicians who would follow him.
Musicians Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Christian, and Billie Holiday would top the charts of popular music in the 1940s. In Memphis, another young boy was following a path similar to Holly. By the mid-fifties, Elvis would shake the world with his radical performances and innovative moves and forever change Holly.
After his first appearance on a local television station in 1952, Buddy formed a band with high school friend Bob Montgomery. Buddy and Bob appeared on local radio station KDAV and at school events throughout the early to middle 1950s, then in 1955 the path became clear. Holly and bassist Larry Welborn were asked to appear on a show with Bill Haley and his Comets. Afterward, Marty Robbins’ manager Eddie Crandall told the owner of KDAV that he was interested in Holly as a solo performer. Demos were sent to Decca records
and Buddy Holly found himself with a recording contract to make music. And music he made.
During the short time we had Buddy Holly’s direct influence, he moved from Decca records with a producer’s heavy hand in his sound to complete control, writing, producing and recording his own music. His sound reflected a combination of country, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, going in and a new vision of quick chord changes and progressions that would become the standard for his students, who became rock and roll icons in the 1960s. Those icons – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Dylan, Clapton, Springsteen and Townsend – will say in various ways that they began to play only after Buddy Holly showed them how.
Sixteen months was all we had to see him perform on stage with his band, the Crickets, from September 1957 to February 1959, but in that time he perfected a blueprint that is followed even to this day. Young musicians probably would not even realize where those cool sounds they play came from, either directly or through the works of those who followed. Suffice it to say that Buddy Holly is in the genes of rock music. “Listen to any new release,” says Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, whose first killer riff was on the 1964 cover of Not Fade Away. “Buddy will be in it somewhere. His stuff just works.”
We all know the end of the story. On a cold night in February 1959, Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper boarded an airplane to take them from Iowa to North Dakota, avoiding a winter’s cold bus trip to the next stop on their tour … and the music died. As we look back on his short-lived stardom, we realize that we have a rock music icon untainted by scandal or hard times, like a picture taken at a significant world-changing event, his music is captured forever, being performed unencumbered by the rigors and realities of the rest of a life and career that never came.
Bob Scarborough is an DJ with WEGO/WTOB Oldies Radio, 980 a.m. Visit them at www.wtob1380.com or like them on Facebook at WEGO 980.
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