While reminiscing about the early British music scene, Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards claimed: "By '58 it was either Elvis or Buddy Holly. It was split into two camps. The Elvis fans were heavy leather boys and the Buddy Holly ones somehow looked like Buddy Holly." True, Buddy Holly did not look like a Rock n' Roll star with his skinny frame and horn-rimmed glasses. He also lacked the high-octane stage presence of an Elvis, Little Richard or Jerry Lee. But looks can be deceiving. All Holly did, over his twenty-two months of fame, was write and record classic Rock n' Roll that was clearly the next evolutionary step and influenced Rock's next generation and beyond. His legacy includes "Rave On," "That'll Be The Day," "Not Fade Away," "It's So Easy," "Maybe Baby," "Oh Boy" and "Peggy Sue." There's an unbridled joy and infectious enthusiasm in Holly's recordings.
Starting out as a Country performer in his native Lubbock, Texas, Holly attended an early Presley performance and decided that was the way to go. He put together a group that went through a couple of name changes before becoming the Crickets. Soon it was Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Then it was Buddy Holly solo (with backing group).
Holly was working on some new ideas when he left for a winter tour with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Touring by bus was a bone-grinding experience. Any romance the open road might have held was killed in the first one hundred miles. The twenty-four-stop tour hit its eleventh date in Clear Water, Iowa. The bus broke down. Holly, Valens and future Country star Waylon Jennings, who was playing bass in Holly's band, decide to charter a plane to the next gig. At the last minute the Big Bopper got Jennings' seat. Flying in bad weather the plane crashed just after take off. The pilot and passengers were killed. Ironically, one of Holly's last recordings was entitled "It Doesn't Matter Any More." It was released as a single shortly after his death.
Meanwhile in England two Rock n' Rollers were trying to name their group. So enamored with Holly's band the Crickets they were searching around for another insect name. Finally, they come upon Beetles. Then, according to John Lennon, a man appeared on a flaming pie and suggested changing the second "e" to an 'a" creating a double meaning emphasizing the beat. And the rest is history. Also, the '60s British group The Hollies took their name directly from the source.
Holly's music constantly re-appears. Outside of The Beatles, his songs are among the most covered. Linda Ronstadt practically launched her career with Holly songs. Interestingly, Paul McCartney's MPL Communications bought the rights to Holly's songs.
Who knows how Buddy Holly would be regarded today if the plane hadn't crashed? He was certainly moving in new directions at the time of his death. Would he have become even a greater force in Rock or an MOR hack? But this much is known: in less than two years Holly established himself as one of Rock 'n' Roll's true innovators. There are several "Greatest Hits packages to choose from. "The Buddy Holly Collection," "Greatest Hits" and "Buddy Holly-From The Original Master Tapes" presents the essential Holly.