It was over fifty years ago– February 3, 1959, that the chartered plane carrying singers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper, fell out of the sky and rock ‘n’ roll was forever changed. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death, Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll.” His works and innovations were copied by his contemporaries and later musicians, notably The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and exerted a profound influence on popular music. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Holly #13 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Buddy Holly wrote his own material; used the recording studio for double-tracking and other advanced techniques; popularized the two guitars, bass, and drums lineup; and recorded a catalogue of songs that continue to be covered: “Not Fade Away,” “Rave On,” “That’ll Be the Day,” and others. His playful, mock-ingenuous singing, with slides between falsetto and regular voice and a trademark “hiccup,” has been a major influence on Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and numerous imitators.
Waylon Jennings (left) playing bass literally dodged a bullet….
Two of the band members who were travelling with Buddy on that fateful tour went on to make huge contributions to country music. One of them was Waylon Jennings (above), who was filling-in on bass. He was also originally scheduled on the plane, headed from Clear Lake, Iowa, to Moorhead, Minn.– but he gave up his seat to the Big Bopper, who was ill and wanted to find a doctor in Moorhead the next morning. Waylon, of course, went on to land in the Country Music Hall of Fame. The other band member to leave an impact on country was Tommy Allsup. Like Waylon, Tommy gave up a seat on that plane — to “La Bamba” singer Ritchie Valens.
Waylon Jenning’s last comment to Buddy Holly was “Hope your darn ole plane crashes.” Ouch, man. I’m sure ol’ Waylon wishes he could take that one back. Holly was a good friend, and Waylon’s mentor– teaching him guitar licks, collaborating on songs, and producing Jennings’ first single, “Jole Blon.” Waylon recalls– “Mainly what I learned from Buddy was an attitude. He loved music, and he taught me that it shouldn’t have any barriers to it.”