"Charles Hardin Holley," known by his legion of fans an admirers as Buddy Holly, was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll. Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death in an airplane crash, Holly is described by many as single most influential creative force in early rock and roll. For example, Holly set the model for the standard rock and roll band: two guitars, bass, and drums.
Holly's music was sophisticated for its day, including the use of unusual instruments for rock and roll, such as the celesta, which can be heard on "Everyday". Holly was an influential lead and rhythm guitarist, notably on songs such as "Peggy Sue" and "Not Fade Away." While he could produce memorable boy-loves-girl songs at will, other songs featured more sophisticated lyrics and more complex harmonies and melodies uncommon for rock & roll. He was also one of the first in the genre to write, produce, and perform his own songs.
Holly managed to bridge the racial divide that marked music in America. Along with Elvis and others, Holly made rock and roll, with its roots in rockabilly country music and blues inspired rhythm and blues music, more popular among a broad white audience. From listening to their recordings, one had difficulty determining if the Crickets were white or black singers. Holly indeed sometimes played with black musicians Little Richard and Chuck Berry.
His works and innovations inspired and influenced contemporary and later musicians, notably The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Don McLean, and Bob Dylan, and exerted a profound influence on popular music. Holly was amongst the first group of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Holly #13 among "The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time".[4
In 1959, Holly was offered a spot in the Winter Dance Party, a three-week tour across the Midwest opening on January 23, 1959, with other notable performers such as Dion and the Belmonts, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. He assembled a backing band consisting of Tommy Allsup (guitar), Waylon Jennings (bass) and Carl Bunch (drums) and billed as The Crickets.
The tour turned out to be a miserable ordeal for the performers, who were subjected to long overnight travel in a bus plagued with a faulty heating system in freezing temperatures. The bus also broke down several times between stops. Following a performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, on February 2, 1959, Holly chartered a small airplane to take him to the next stop on the tour. He, Valens, Richardson and the pilot were killed en route to Moorhead, Minnesota, when their plane crashed soon after taking off from nearby Mason City in the early morning hours of February 3.
Bandmate Waylon Jennings gave up his seat on the plane, causing Holly to jokingly tell Jennings, "I hope your ol' bus freezes up!" Jennings shot back facetiously, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes!" It was a statement that would haunt Jennings for decades. Dion has said he skipped the flight because he couldn't afford the $39 it would cost him.
Don McLean referred to it as "The Day the Music Died" in his song "American Pie."