Pete Johnson’s Blast From My Past: Buddy Holly – “The Best of Buddy Holly”

In the furtherance of truth, I have to admit that I am unsure whether the image I chose is the actual album cover of the first Buddy Holly ‘best of’ that I had bought when I was 14. If it is not, then it is pretty damn close. Buddy’s recorded career has been picked over and discarded and left around like display at a one day sale at Macy’s. I think he tends to be slightly overlooked these days for whatever reason. I personally think that is wrong. I see him as the single greatest catalyst for popular rock and roll music. You can go on and on about Elvis, Chuck, Little Richard, etc., but I think there is more Buddy, in the working foundation of rock and roll, than all the artists I mentioned combined. He is reality, mythology and martyrdom all wrapped up in one.

The real fact was Buddy was a self contained high level rock and roller that did it all. I loved that Buddy loved the music business as much as he did playing it. Elvis did not write. Chuck Berry could not get it all together like Buddy could. It was not Elvis that provided the next generation the tools to evolve rock and roll; it was Buddy Holly. His prime influence on the Beatles makes him the heavyweight champ in rock and roll history. The tragic way he died seems to overshadow the music today. While it is fascinating and worth exploring it is the music that needs to be rediscovered.

The songs are just so great. They are catchy, explosive bursts creativity – and youthful exuberance. They stand today as still sounding better than any top 40 radio show or act. The thing I love about Buddy is that he created the music to be done for an audience right in front of him. I cannot imagine the Crickets being too much different on a studio date, as they were in front of an audience. I am listening to tunes like “Rave On, Well”, “Alright”, “Peggy Sue”, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, “Crying Waiting, Hoping”, “Not Fade Away”, “True Love Ways”, “Crying in my Heart”, “Everyday”, and they all sound great. They are timeless. The production techniques and arranging Holly pioneered still are valid today. It is unbelievable to realize Buddy Holly was only 22 years old when he died. Twenty-two years old, and what he achieved was monumental.

I view the Buddy Holly story very much from the perspective Waylon Jennings talked so sparingly about. For those that may not know, Waylon played bass with Buddy and was a good friend, due to their both being boys from Texas. Waylon was the first artist Buddy chose to record after he became a record company owner. Waylon was supposed to be on the plane and had given up his seat to one of the other stars, to make them more comfortable. Waylon always said Buddy was an ‘upper’; someone who was fun to be around. He also said Buddy taught him the lesson of never compromising your own musical direction to get the approval of managers, studio and record executives. He did some sessions with the original Crickets later on, and it is fascinating to listen to. Waylon is his own artist and as a great artist he understands how to deliver a song. When he plays with the Crickets though, you also hear the familiarity and friendship in the music and you also hear a friend paying homage to a great artist and mentor, and the intent of the recordings are something that I am sure Buddy would have been profoundly moved by.

Waylon Jennings

I can keep on writing, but what is the point? Listen to some of these tracks. I will put on Waylon’s version of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”. I think it is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt performances he ever did. Then I will play some Buddy recordings just to show the range and artistry of the man himself. I think the majority of you reading will get done and say damn right! Buddy Holly was a genius and a flash of lightning that deserves to be heard today. Just go out and buy a good Buddy Holly “Best of”,  and thank me later. ;o)

Leave a Comment