5 things you might not know about Buddy Holly

When Buddy Holly met a tragic end at just 22 years of age, he had already produced an impressive catalogue that would become a template for musicians to follow. Today, nearly 60 years since his death, we can still feel his presence, and there is no question that without Buddy Holly and the Crickets, popular music as we know it would be a very different beast. To honour this rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, here are some Buddy Holly facts that might surprise you.

He thought about being a Beetle

For some reason, during the 1950s, it was common for bands to name themselves after insects. So, before Holly and his band became the Crickets, they tossed around the idea of becoming the Beetles. Ironically, years later, The Quarrymen, who were fans of Holly, changed their name to The Beetles, which became The Beatles, as a tribute. I wonder what The Fab Four would have called themselves if there had been a Buddy Holly and the Beetles? The Crickets, maybe?

He had a unique playing style

Holly was capable of playing Chuck Berry-style lead guitar. However, as anyone who is familiar with his playing knows, he preferred to play rhythmic, chord-based solos — Peggy Sue is a fine example. When playing rhythm, he employed sweep picking, using downward strokes of the first three strings and then an upstroke on the fourth. This unique strumming style is what gave the Crickets their driving sound.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets performing Peggy Sue.

“I’m not trying to stump anybody … it’s the beauty of the language that I’m interested in”— Buddy Holly.

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He had just one number-one

Buddy Holly recorded many hit songs — heck,  there is Rave on, Peggy Sue, Everyday, Oh boy, It’s so easy, Words of love …. I was surprised, though, to discover that his only number-one song in the United States was That’ll be the day. What does that tell you about the true value of a number-one hit?

John Mellencamp performing Rave On

He discovered Waylon

When I think of Waylon Jennings, I hear country music. So, you may be surprised to learn that it was Buddy Holly who gave Jennings his big break. Yes, Holly, who aspired to be a record producer, produced two songs for Jennings: Jole Blon and When Sin Stops (Love Begins). Later on, Holly hired Jennings to play electric bass in his band, along with Tommy Allsup (guitar) and Carl Bunch (drums).

He was an innovator

Well, this shouldn’t surprise you. However, let me explain how Buddy Holly innovated:

  • The Crickets were one of the first bands that didn’t hire session musicians—they could actually play.
  • Holly wrote most of his songs
  • Holly was also one of the first rock ‘n’ rollers to use overdubbing when other bands were recording to a single track.

When you think about it, The Beatles were just four Buddy Hollys, or should that be Crickets?

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Andrew Healey

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Andrew is an Auckland-based writer and musician.

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