“If anyone asks you what kind of music you play, tell him ‘pop.’ Don’t tell him ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ or they won’t even let you in the hotel.” — Buddy Holly

Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly, Grand Central Station, 1959

It’s Buddy Holly’s birthday today.

Buddy Holly on Arthur Murray Dance Party, December 29, 1957

Buddy Holly’s career was cut tragically short. Signed to Decca in 1956, he was killed in a plane crash in 1959. While he was with us, however, he managed to put out enough music to inspire generations (including the Beatles, whose band name is a nod to Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets). Still. He was only 23 years old. It seems inconceivable.

Favorite Buddy Holly songs off the top of my head?

“Love Me.” That guitar. That urgent and demanding young-man sexuality that was so much a part of the birth of rock ‘n roll. I love it when he roughs up his voice, too.

“Midnight Shift.”

“Holly Hop.”

“Think It Over.”

“Down the Line.” Hot.

“I’m Gonna Set My Foot Down,” (talk to me, big boy!).

“Ting-a-Ling”. I cannot imagine what it must have felt like to be 14, 15 years old and hear THIS coming out of the radio. I would have writhed with adolescent agony.

“Rave On.”

I don’t care how many times I’ve heard it. It still feels fresh, new. It’s impossible to over-play this one. There are songs I have over-listened to in the past and had to take a break. They lost their magic for me. There are certain songs, though, that NEVER lose their magic. This is one of those songs. I love how darkly BITTER it is too. Don’t knock bitterness as a creative force until you’ve tried it.

In 2019, I went to the “Play It Loud” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum, filled with incredible guitars, keyboards, drum sets, harmonicas, whatever, played by the legends of rock ‘n roll. Buddy Holly’s guitar was a magical and very emotional object to look at. There’s so much joy in it. Not just joy. Exuberance. Freedom.

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8 Responses to “If anyone asks you what kind of music you play, tell him ‘pop.’ Don’t tell him ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ or they won’t even let you in the hotel.” — Buddy Holly

  1. Chris says:

    I swear I thought that first picture was you and Mitchell in a goofy photobooth pic. (Loved Mitchell’s Joan Rivers tribute.)

    • sheila says:

      Chris – thanks! I miss those old photo booths. Clearly Mitchell and I took pics in them whenever we came across one.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Fiddlin Bill says:

    Buddy Holly also was a big influence on the Rolling Stones. One of their first British hits was Not Fade Away. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_Fade_Away_(song)

    • sheila says:

      Nice! Thank you for the reminder! I should look in Keith Richards’ memoir to see what he has to say – he was beautiful on all of the music that inspired him. Mystery Train!!

  3. Michael says:

    Great selection of songs! The Hollies were another British band who named themselves after Buddy. That early generation of British rockers revered Holly, moreso, I think, than musicians here in the US did.

    • sheila says:

      Michael – sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to this – listening to Brian May rave about Buddy Holly – in particular the guitar and that sound and how influential it was on him – was so moving to me.

      I love the image of that first wave of British musicians hearing these sounds and feeling set free by them.

      I am not familiar with the Hollies – I’ll check them out – thank you!

  4. Bill Wolfe says:

    The summer after our freshman year in college, my two best friends and I went to see a movie. When it turned out to be sold out, we wound up back at my house, trying to figure out something to do. Three bored 19-year-old boys have enough collective energy to lift off a Saturn rocket, so we needed SOME way to let at least some of it out. When I very hesitantly suggested we play music, both of my friends enthusiastically said yes. So I spent about five minutes showing my one friend how to play drums and then my other friend and I grabbed our guitars. The first two songs we played were “Oh Boy” and “Rave On.” We were playing in my bedroom and I was so excited, I jumped up and down on my bed hard enough that it broke. I figured that was a good introduction to playing rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve always felt a debt to Buddy for that, among many other things.

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