New Frontier Publications and author, Jeffrey K. Smith, are proud to announce the publication of: "LISTEN TO ME: The Brief Life and Enduring Legacy of Buddy Holly".
DATE OF PUBLICATION: June 8, 2017
Nearly six decades have passed since a small plane crashed in a snow-covered field in north-central Iowa, killing three popular rock and roll entertainers, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson, as well as their charter pilot, Roger Peterson. That tragic day, February 3, 1959, later immortalized in singer and song-writer Don McClean’s unforgettable ballad, American Pie, is often remembered as “the day the music died.”
Many music historians credit the origin of rock and roll to Bill Haley, a native of Chester, Pennsylvania. In 1954, Haley and his band, the “Comets,” recorded "Rock Around the Clock", which was featured on the movie soundtrack for "The Blackboard Jungle." The controversial film centered on the lives of teachers working in an inner-city, racially mixed high school. "Rock Around the Clock" was such a success that it remained Number One on Billboard’s pop music hit chart for an incredible 22 weeks (it was also the first rock and roll record to top the Billboard chart), and catapulted Bill Haley and the Comets to stardom. In like fashion, many of those same historians regard the sudden, unexpected death of Buddy Holly as the beginning of the end for the first generation of rock and roll music.
While Elvis Presley is widely acknowledged as the “king of rock and roll,” unlike Buddy Holly, he was neither an accomplished musician nor a prolific song-writer. In a professional career lasting just 18 months, Holly, either as a solo artist or in concert with his band, the “Crickets,” recorded 10 singles that ranked among Billboard’s Top 100 popular music songs (seven made the Top 40, three were in the Top 10, and one, "That’ll Be the Day," reached Number One). Holly and the Crickets also cracked the American rhythm and blues chart on 11 occasions (four made the Top 100, four were in the Top 40 and three made it into the Top Three)—a significant accomplishment for white performers of that generation.
Of perhaps greater significance, 27 records cut by Buddy Holly or the Crickets were among the Top 100 most popular songs in the United Kingdom (25 made the Top 40, nine were in the Top 10, and two climbed all the way to Number One). The distinction between singles released under the name of Buddy Holly and those credited to the Crickets is merely a legal formality, which will be later explained in greater detail. Regardless of the name of the artist or the record labels, Holly is always the lead vocalist, and in most cases, the lead guitarist. Holly’s singles’ discography, both in the U.S. and U.K. is located at the end of this book.
Holly’s influence on British music is indisputable, and his tour of the United Kingdom in 1958 profoundly shaped the careers of future rock and roll stars, like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and Elton John. It can be argued that the so-called “British Invasion” of the early 1960s might never have occurred, or at least would have been delayed, absent Buddy Holly’s prior American Invasion. It is not mere coincidence that the first record cut by John Lennon’s pre-Beatle’s band, the Quarrymen, was Holly’s "That’ll Be the Day." In addition, the Rolling Stones’ first American hit was the cover of a Holly song, "Not Fade Away."
In less than two years, Holly not only demonstrated considerable gifts as a performer, but also was a prolific song-writer and budding record producer. Insisting upon creative control in the studio, Holly demonstrated remarkable facility with now-primitive recording technology available in the late 1950s. He soon mastered the techniques of overdubbing, echoing, and double-tracking. During stage performances, the Crickets’ original music line-up, featuring a lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bass player, and percussionist, became the standard model for subsequent rock and roll bands. Holly was also one of the first rock and roll artists to use the famed Fender Stratocaster guitar to produce the genre’s now-familiar driving beat.
Holly was willing to employ instruments not considered part of mainstream rock and roll, such as the celesta and the organ. For the discerning listener, there are hidden gems in Holly’s tunes; drummer J.I. Allison tapping the knees of his blue jeans as the sole means of percussion in "Everyday," pounding an empty cardboard box instead of his drum set in "Not Fade Away," and playing rhythmic paradiddles in "Peggy Sue." Near the end of his short life, Holly pushed the rock and roll envelope, performing with a symphony orchestra. The aptly named “string session” produced unforgettable songs, including "It Doesn’t Matter Anymore" and "True Love Ways."
Buddy Holly’s voice is unique and easily-recognizable, with alternating falsettos, distinctive hiccups, and mesmerizing stutters. Who else could expand the pronunciation of the name “Sue” or the word “well” into six unforgettable syllables? Holly’s songs include driving rock and roll, like "That’ll Be the Day," "Oh Boy," "Peggy Sue", "Not Fade Away," and "Rave On," as well as gentler, romantic tunes, including "Maybe Baby," "Wishing," and "Everyday." Some of his songs, for example "Well All Right," are simple in construct, using only a rhythm guitar, bass, and the repetitive tapping of a lone cymbal as instrumentation.
Holly’s popular, yet easy-to-learn melodies, inspired a legion of followers, including John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, and Bob Dylan. In 1986, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Holly as Number 13 among its “100 Greatest Artists.” That same year, he became a charter member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Fame.
Lacking the flamboyance of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis or the sexy, movie star charisma of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly was akin to the boy-next-door. Nonetheless, Holly proved that a rock and roller wearing eyeglasses could generate a sound that made teenage girls swoon and inspired boys to hit the dance floor with their sweethearts. While Holly’s bespectacled face never graced the covers of teen magazines or appeared on the big screen, his music will last forever.
Buddy Holly’s musical career occurred at a time when many religious fundamentalists condemned rock and roll as crude, immoral, and even Satanic. Segregationists and racists crudely characterized rock as “Nigger Music.” These narrow-minded, misguided views were held by many citizens in Holly’s hometown. Not until years after his death did Lubbock, Texas finally begin to acknowledge and appreciate the musical genius of its most famous offspring.
The circumstances leading up to Holly’s untimely death are both sad and bitter. Believing that a significant portion of his song-writing royalties were being sequestered by his secretive, likely unscrupulous manager, producer, and early benefactor, Norman Petty, Holly was in dire financial straits, and felt it necessary to join the ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour in early 1959, which culminated in his premature death.
What would the future have been like for Buddy Holly? He had plans to construct a studio to record promising young artists. He also wanted to establish his own record label and publishing company. Holly would have likely continued pressing the envelope of rock and roll and eventually explored alternative musical genres. These are among the great “what ifs” in musical history.
"Listen To Me: The Brief Life and Enduring Legacy of Buddy Holly" is a compelling story about a talented, innovative, and ambitious pioneer of rock and roll music.
AVAILABILITY: Paperback (June 10, 2017) and Kindle (June 17, 2017)
OTHER BOOKS BY JEFFREY K. SMITH:
Two Down, Two to Go
A Phantom Killer
Non-fiction Bringing History Alive Series:
Rendezvous in Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy (1st and 2nd editions)
The Fighting Little Judge: The Life and Times of George C. Wallace
Fire in the Sky: The Story of the Atomic Bomb
Bad Blood: Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, and the Tumultuous 1960s (1st and 2nd editions)
Dixiecrat: The Life and Times of Strom Thurmond
The Loyalist: The Life and Times of Andrew Johnson
The Eagle Has Landed: The Story of Apollo 11
The Presidential Assassins: John Wilkes Booth, Charles Julius Guiteau, Leon Frank Czolgosz, and Lee Harvey Oswald
The War against Crime: J. Edgar versus the John Dillinger Gang
The Wizard of the Saddle: Nathan Bedford Forrest
You Were Right and We Were Wrong: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.
Grover Cleveland: The Last Conservative Democratic President
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jeffrey K. Smith is a physician and writer. A native of Enterprise, Alabama, he earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Alabama. After completing his residency at the William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute, Dr. Smith entered private practice in upstate South Carolina. The author resides in Greer, South Carolina, with his wife, Anne. They are the proud parents of two sons, Andy and Ben.
"LISTEN TO ME: The Brief Life and Enduring Legacy of Buddy Holly" represents the author’s 13th non-fiction book in his "Bringing History Alive Series." These books are crafted to read like fast-paced novels, proving that fact is often stranger and more compelling than fiction.
To learn more about Smith’s books and order copies, please visit his website: www.newfrontierpublications.net. The author can also be reached by email concerning availability for book signings and speaking engagements by email (Newfrontierpublications@gmail.com).