BUDDY HOLLY

Buddy Holly
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BUDDY HOLLY



Written by James Read
29 Friday 29th January 2010

Buddy Holly is documented in a new photography exhibition at Proud Galleries, which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the first rockstar death in history. Buddy's style is almost as lasting as his music. With his thick gelled curls and horn-rimmed glasses, he is ripe for inspiring hordes of young hipsters riding the quiff of rock-a-billy revivalism. You can probably even get Peggy Sue frames at Top Shop.

Such is the interest in his legendary specs, that one optometrist fan even wrote to Buddy's eye doctor enquiring as to the star's prescription and history (Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology). It turns out he was nearly an early contact lens patient, but the primitive solution-filled aids were too incovenient and so he instead got the heavy black frames that remain so recognisable.


© Bill Francis

An early pioneer for creative control, he fought for the rights to write and produce his own records against heavy opposition - Decca banned him from recording the songs he'd done with them for five years, despite not publishing them themselves. Not that this impacted him to hard, since during the peak of his output he released forty songs in 18 months.


© Bill Francis
And yet he achieved this fame before his 23rd birthday, having died on 3 February 1959 when the small aircraft flying him to the next leg of his tour crashed. Alongside him in the plane were co-rockstars Ritchie Valens (who immortalised taco restaurant stalwart La Bamba) and J.P. Richardson, leading Don McLean to dub the incident 'The Day the Music Died' (remember, from that song of his which Madonna butchered?).


© Bill Francis

The incident (like most rock star deaths) is surrounded by ephemeral coincidences and what-ifs; the tour bus heating breakdown (giving the drummer frostbite); the last minute show booking to fill an open date; the guitarist Tommy Allsup missing out on flying due to a lost coin toss. But perhaps - probably - he wouldn't have been as well-remembered and influential as he was if he hadn't lived fast and died young.

 

Buddy Holly: The Making of an American Legend is running at Proud Galleries until 26 April. Go to www.proud.co.uk for more info.

  Except where otherwise noted, contents of this article are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported Licence

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