Buddy Holly: 50 Years After The Music Died

 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)closemore
(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Fifty years after his death at 22, rock 'n' roll founding father Buddy Holly is still cool. On Feb. 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, along with J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens, died in a plane crash while touring the Midwest. Holly would have been 72 by now — and probably still rocking and rolling. Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Elvis Costello have all paid tribute to Holly as a major influence.

But the music itself wasn't his only contribution. Holly was among the first artists to use the studio as an instrument: He spent days crafting songs and experimenting with techniques that were still new in the recording business.

 (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It worked. Buddy Holly and the Crickets shot to the top of the charts just months after the band was formed in 1957. Elvis Presley had the sex appeal, but it was Holly's boy-next-door charm punctuated with horn-rimmed glasses and bow ties, as well as his Southern drawl, that fans adored. Paul McCartney, who in 1976 bought the rights to the entire Holly catalog, remembers seeing him perform on a Sunday night in 1958 at the London Palladium. The Beatles were huge fans. John Lennon wore his horn-rimmed glasses "proudly," McCartney says — after seeing Holly's trademark black frames.

Copyright NPR 2016.

+Join the discussion

Support the news

Next Up

Where to now?

More NPR or Explore Audio.