Exactly 44-years-ago today (2.3), legendary 1950's rocker Buddy Holly died in a plane crash. The plane crashed into a snow-covered Iowa cornfield and claimed the lives of Holly and fellow rock'n'roll stars Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. To this day, Holly is regarded as Lubbock's most famous native son, and his music continues to inspire rock'n'roll artists around the globe.
His legacy is everlasting and his fame is immortal, even 44-years after his death. Buddy Holly died when he was just 22-years-old, but his 22-years of life were brilliant and eventful. Now, we reflect on the life of the young rock star who wore horn rimmed glasses, through the eyes of his friends, family and admirers in this week's edition of 'Whatever Happened to..?'
"Anytime if I'm talking before a group, I'll say I want you to think back seriously to when you were 22-years-old. What had you accomplished by that time? Because this young kid did everything he was gonna do by the time he was 22. And look at the legacy he left us, it's amazing," says Historian Bill Griggs.
As one Canadian Buddy Holly fan once said, 'If Elvis was 'the King' of rock'n'roll, Buddy was the Prime Minister.' Although he died 44-years ago, his fame today is still evident. Just look at Frank Ainsley and his wife who came clear across the country, all the way from North Carolina, just to be here in Lubbock for this year's anniversary of Buddy's tragic death. "It's the best sound there ever was. Buddy Holly was, to me, the most creative musician that ever lived," says Ainsley.
Buddy Holly Historian Bill Griggs says Holly was brilliantly talented. "Elvis Presley was 'the King', I'll even say that. But Buddy was the innovator. He wrote, performed, sang and played all his own songs. Even Elvis didn't do that. I'm happy that the music is still around. Music changes every 5 to 10 years. Another genre of music comes in. Yet, whenever there seems to be a lull in music, '50's rock'n'roll comes sneakin' back in," says Griggs.
Holly's legend began here in Lubbock. His musical career blossomed quickly after high school, and by 1955 the musician with an unmistakable look was well on his way to stardom. His horned rimmed glasses and his music were hits. Buddy was opening for Elvis and appearing with the Crickets on the Ed Sullivan Show regularly.
Musician Jack Neal was the first person to ever play with Buddy on the radio and says Buddy was a joker who used to love cruising in Jack's '48 Chevy. "He'd catch me not lookin' and he'd reach over and pull out the throttle and I'd slap at him and he'd just laugh," says Neal.
Today, Buddy's brothers Larry and Travis still live here in Lubbock. They say they're amazed at his fan base still today. They say their little brother was truly gifted. "For instance, if they had the United Spirit Arena and Buddy was living now, they'd have to have four or five shows to satisfy everybody who would want to see it. I don't believe if the lights had gone out he'd have stopped the show," says Travis Holley, making reference to Britney Spears canceling last summer's Lubbock show after two songs because of a power failure.
By 1959 Buddy was one of the most appealing American pop icons on the scene. But on February 3rd, 1959 his eventful life ended tragically on a snowy and freezing night in Iowa. "February 3rd is the day we lost Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper and pilot Roger Peterson. But unlike Don McLean's 'American Pie', where he said 'the day the music died', I prefer to say it was 'the day the music cried', because we all wouldn't be here today if the music had died in '59. And their legacies have gone on, the music has gone on," says Griggs.