This is taken from my book, Baby That Is Rock And Roll. Please send any comments or additions to Spencer Leigh.
When an IRA bomb exploded in London on 20th February 1996, pictures of the destroyed bus were on the news bulletins and in the papers. The only thing that hadn’t been damaged on the bus was the advert for the stage musical, “Buddy”. No-one commented on this because it would have been appalling taste, but a headline could have been “Buddy Holly survives”.
HOLLY HOLY – THE TRIBUTES
THREE STARS (Tommy Dee) – EDDIE COCHRAN (Liberty 1959)
The day the music died the San Bernardino DJ, Tommy Dee, wrote a tribute to the three stars. He recorded his narration with Carol Kay and the Teen-Aires and it made the US Top 20. A cover version, also American, by Ruby Wright and Dick Pike was a hit in the UK. Eddie Cochran recorded “Three Stars” two days after the crash. It was to be issued as a charity single, but such things were unheard of and Liberty’s accountants blocked the release.
The track wasn’t issued until it appeared in the UK in 1966. It’s mawkish, but Cochran’s husky, tearful delivery (compiled from eight takes) makes it work. Cochran was almost part of that Winter Dance Party and he became fearful of flying, having premonitions of his own death. He agreed to appear in the UK because, once he’d arrived, he would be travelling by road and rail. Eddie Cochran died in a car-crash in England in April 1960.
TRIBUTE TO BUDDY HOLLY (Geoff Goddard) – MIKE BERRY (HMV 1961)
British producer Joe Meek was besotted by the occult and by Buddy Holly, so he held a séance to obtain Buddy’s approval for this song by his main writer, Geoff Goddard. If Holly had been available, he might have improved it. “Tribute To Buddy Holly” was a UK Top 30 hit and Berry remains popular with rock’n’roll revival shows around the country. You can book him to perform a whole tribute set to Buddy Holly and he’s as good as they come. The producer, Joe Meek, shot himself on the anniversary of Holly’s death in 1967 and the events may be related.
BUDDY’S SONG (Ella Holley) – BOBBY VEE (Liberty 1963)
“Buddy’s Song” is an upbeat tribute to Holly’s music, cheerfully weaving ten of his titles into the lyric and mostly taking its melody from “Peggy Sue Got Married”. “Buddy’s Song” was put together by Buddy’s mother, Ella.
AMERICAN PIE (Don McLean) – DON McLEAN (United Artists 1971)
Why was an American folkie lamenting the death of rock’n’roll? Don McLean became the spokesman for a generation by describing 3rd February 1959 as the day the music died. In order to retain its mystery, McLean has never discussed the song at any length. This is fortunate for the many university students who have written theses on the subject.
THE REAL BUDDY HOLLY STORY (Sonny Curtis) – SONNY CURTIS (Elektra 1979)
Sonny wrote this after seeing the film, “The Buddy Holly Story”.
OLD FRIEND (Waylon Jennings) – WAYLON JENNINGS (RCA 1976)
Waylon played bass on Holly’s final tour, relinquishing his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper. Jennings named his son, Buddy, after Holly and he recalled their time together in “Old Friend”. He described how the media misrepresented Holly – and this is 20 years before Ellis Amburn’s biography.
I NAMED MY LITTLE GIRL HOLLY (Lee Jackson) – BUDDY KNOX (Rockstar 1980)
Buddy Knox’s success with Norman Petty prompted Buddy Holly to go to Clovis, New Mexico. Their music shares the same roots but Knox, although a fine performer, wasn’t as prolific and lacked Holly’s charisma. He recorded this charming song in a studio close to the Buddy Holly statue in Lubbock, and a UK cover by Mike Berry did moderately well.
BUDDY HOLLY AND THE CRICKETS (William J.Bush, Robert S.Cooke) – LARRY HOLLEY (Cloud Nine 1980)
“Buddy Holly and the Crickets,
You know I bought those tickets,
Just to hear that rockabilly beat.”
So sings Buddy’s brother, Larry, on “Holly’s House”, a family album issued in 1980. Bit mean of Buddy really: why didn’t his brother get freebies? The album featured another brother, Travis, and Larry’s children, Sherry and Randy. Sherry released her own album, “Looking Through Buddy’s Eyes” (Cloud Nine 1992). Intriguing curios, but don’t expect Buddy’s talent.
BUDDY HOLLY NOT FADE AWAY (John Pickering) – THE PICKS (Magnum Force 1993, recorded 1982)
The Crickets were not a vocal group on their first productions with Norman Petty as he used the Picks (John Pickering, Bill Pickering and Bob Lapham) to sing harmonies behind Buddy. In 1984, with breathtaking arrogance, the Picks took some of Buddy Holly’s other recordings and added their own vocals.
The album, “The Original Voices Of The Crickets”, appeared in the UK in 1993 and the sleeve note claims that it “offers a unique chance to hear what might have been had not fate tragically intervened”, but fate has nothing to do with it. Holly didn’t want the Picks on “Reminiscing” or “Everyday” so why add their voices now? The 24th and final track is a dire tribute to Holly from the Picks called “Buddy Holly Not Fade Away”:
“And the soul that he is and the soul that he was
Never laid down ’neath the sod
Mama raised him in the church
And Buddy Holly is at home with God”
I FEEL LIKE BUDDY HOLLY (Mike Batt) – ALVIN STARDUST (1984 Chrysalis)
Why does Alvin Stardust feel like Buddy Holly? Does he feel like he’s gone down in a plane crash or does he feel upbeat and happy like so many of Holly’s hits? Neither actually – Alvin feels like Buddy Holly “Cause it’s raining in my heart.” All a bit tenuous – and if we’re being pedantic, Paul McCartney doesn’t sing, “I wish it was yesterday”. Songwriter Mike Batt (382): “Well, I may misquote the words, but I don’t misquote the thought. It’s a very personal song and everything on the record is true. It was a rainy Sunday morning, the planes were coming over and I wrote the song.”
A COUNTRY BOY (WHO ROLLED THE ROCK AWAY) – DAVID ALLAN COE (CBS 1986)
DAC’s “Three Stars”, only his three are Hank Williams, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. On this occasion Coe, who favoured a bludgeon to a rapier, missed the opportunity to add a fourth verse about Jesus also being a country boy who rolled the rock away.