Corby's Orbit

Corby's Orbit
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Letter From My Friend Art Young About His Hero Buddy Holly


As impossible as I find it to forget or forgive him for his musical horrors “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, I happily give a respectful doff of the cap to Sir Paul for inaugurating the annual Buddy Holly Week in England in 1976, to celebrate Buddy’s fortieth birth date. Certainly a visible sign and symbol of love, appreciation and reverence truly deserved.

Sadly, far too many have forgotten (or never knew) the profound impact the music of Charles Hardin Holly had on so, so many musicians who followed the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll  creators. Born on this day in 1936, his influence and legacy was most certainly an animating factor and force propelling untold numbers of aspiring English musicians. John and Paul, for example, renamed their emerging Liverpool band after Buddy’s group The Crickets. Is it any wonder then that both claimed Buddy as their main musical influence? And two young guys from Manchester, Allan Clark and Graham Nash went even further in their admiration for the young man from Lubbock, Texas when they named their group -- The Hollies. Truthfully, one would be hard pressed to think of a first-tier British Invasion group not immensely influenced by the unique songs, style and musicianship of Buddy Holly. Why even the heavily blues oriented Rolling Stones were not immune from his musical power and prowess. Mick saw Buddy play live in London and was particularly taken by his performance of “Not Fade Away”. And Keith freely admits Buddy was, and is, a major influence on him, so much so he modeled his playing style on Buddy’s when the Stones recorded their 1964 hit version of “Not Fade Away”. Succinctly summing up his influence on English rock ‘n’ rollers, Keith simply said, “He’s in everybody.”

It’s also a grave error to assume this influence, which electrified so many hustling musicians, was just confined to his sound and lyric. So not so, it was also Buddy’s image that captured their attention. A case in point, guitar god Eric Clapton claims the first time he saw Buddy playing his fabled electric Fender that, “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven… it was like seeing an instrument from outer space and I said to myself: ‘That’s the future – that’s what I want.’”

And one wonders how many aspiring musicians were like 13-year old Reginald Kenneth Dwight (Elton John) who began wearing heavy black horned-rimmed glasses to imitate Buddy – even when they didn’t actually need spectacles?

Yes, tributes galore, but maybe none so loving as this: the last non-Beatles written song the Fab Four ever released was Buddy’s “Words of Love”; it appeared on their 1964 Beatles For Sale album (1965 for Capital’s rip-offBeatles VI in Canada and the U.S.).

On a personal note, I have long argued against Don McLean’s “American Pie” assertion that the music died one early cold and snowy February morning in 1959 in a farmer’s field outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Though Buddy has been long gone, his music lives on. It touches listeners and animates musicians to this day. Jumping across the pond for a moment, Springsteen claims he plays Buddy’s songs every night before he goes on stage. “It keeps me honest,” he says.

I really wish I had seen Buddy Holly live. Even though I missed that experience his artistry has been a major and glorious part of my ongoing musical journey. In gratitude, and to do my part to help keep the spirit alive, I send along the above link to one of my favorite Buddy tunes. “Maybe Baby” wasn’t one of his greatest hits, but I’ve long loved it. I recall, on many, many occasions, using its enticing lyrics and lithesome melody to serenade a lovely but reluctant girl who sat in front of me in eleventh grade Study Hall.

So, to her and to you I say: Happy Buddy Holly Day!

Enjoy the music. May it help you to always Rave On.


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