Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959), known as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter who was a central figure of mid-1950s rock and roll. Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas, to a musical family during the Great Depression; he learned to play guitar and to sing alongside his siblings. His style was influenced by country music and rhythm and blues acts, and he performed in Lubbock with his friends from high school. He made his first appearance on local television in 1952, and the following year he formed the group "Buddy and Bob" with his friend Bob Montgomery. In 1955, after opening for Elvis Presley, Holly decided to pursue a career in music. He opened for Presley three times that year; his band's style shifted from country & western to entirely rock and roll. In October that year, when he opened for Bill Haley & His Comets, Holly was spotted by Nashville scout Eddie Crandall, who helped him gain a contract with Decca Records.
Holly's recording sessions were produced by Owen Bradley. Holly was unhappy with Bradley's restrictions and the results of their work, and went to producer Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico. Attracted by the success of the records produced by Petty, Holly traveled with his band to the studio where, among other songs, they recorded a demo of "That'll Be the Day". Petty became the band's manager and he sent the demo to Brunswick Records, who were impressed. The label released the song without re-recording it. Because Holly's name was still linked to Decca, Brunswick credited the single to "The Crickets", which became the name of Holly's band.
In September 1957, as the band toured, "That'll Be the Day" topped the US "Best Sellers in Stores" chart and the UK Singles Chart. Its success was followed in October by the release of "Peggy Sue", which reached number three in "Best Sellers in Stores" chart, number three on the rhythm and blues chart and number six on the UK Singles Chart. In November, the album Chirping Crickets was released; it reached number five on the UK Albums Chart. By January 1958, Holly had appeared twice on The Ed Sullivan Show. Following his last performance, he embarked on a tour of Australia, which was followed in February by a tour of the UK.
During a visit to New York City, Holly met Maria Elena Santiago; the pair married and Holly moved to the city. The New York scene further interested Holly in record-producing and songwriting. At the same time, Holly and the Crickets started becoming unhappy with their manager. Petty's royalties were frozen by promoter Manny Greenfield, and Petty could not pay his royalties to Holly, who blamed his manager. Holly fired Petty in December 1958; the Crickets kept Petty as manager and Holly left the band.
In need of money, Holly assembled a new band consisting of future country music icon Waylon Jennings (bass) and Tommy Allsup (guitar), and embarked on a tour of the Midwestern U.S. After a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly chartered an airplane to travel to his next show in Moorhead, Minnesota. Soon after takeoff, the plane crashed, killing Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and the pilot.
During his short career, Holly wrote, recorded and produced his own material. He is often regarded as the act that defined the traditional rock-and-roll lineup of two guitars, bass and drums. Holly was a major influence on later popular music artists and bands, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elton John. He was among the first acts to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and later ranked by Rolling Stone at number thirteen on its list of "100 Greatest Artists".
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