February 3rd, 1959. A small plane takes off around 1 o’clock in the morning. Light snow falls in the cold winter wind. A man standing by the control tower watches as the tail light disappears out of view. But the plane fails to reach its destination.
Then, everyone on board is killed instantly.
Among the fallen; 21-year-old pilot Roger Peterson, 17-year-old singer Ritchie Valens, 28-year-old singer J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and 22-year-old Buddy Holly. A young pilot and three budding superstars gone in an instant.
This devastating accident would come to be known as “The Day The Music Died”.
Although Buddy Holly’s career was brief, it was nothing short of impressive. He got his start in 1952, participating in a talent show on a local television station at the age of 16. Growing up in Lubbock, Texas, Holly’s early music was influenced by the country and bluegrass that was widely-accepted in the South.
But as he matured, he developed his own style that mixed these country roots with the blues and R&B.
By the time Holly started making a name for himself with his band, The Crickets, another star was emerging. Elvis Presley had four #1 albums by the end of 1957.
However, composers and lyricists with the record label penned most of Presley’s music. What made Holly unique was that he was both a talented musician and a brilliant songwriter.
Buddy Holly released three albums before his death. These albums contained a total of six top hits. Holly wrote five of them. He did this in just three years as a recording artist. He also had countless hits crack the charts after his death.
But just imagine the possibilities if he were around for another twenty or thirty years.
His influence had a major impact on many legendary artists. The Beatles named their band in homage to The Crickets. Paul McCartney purchased Holly’s song catalog and continues to cover his music in concerts.
Everyone from The Rolling Stones to Rush to the Grateful Dead have covered his songs. Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Elton John, and many others list Holly as a primary influence in their musical careers.
If Buddy Holly’s career had continued at the trajectory that it was on, we might be calling him the “King of Rock and Roll”.