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Archive for the tag “Buddy Holly”

The original Brown Eyed Man

On 16th April 1956 Chuck Berry sat in a studio in Chicago and recorded “Brown Eyed Handsome Man”. It was released in September the same year and reached #5 on the Billboard R’n’B singles.

The song was produced by brothers, Leonard and Phil Chess and backing was provided by Johnnie Johnson on piano, L. C. Davis on tenor saxophone, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on drums.

There have been many different ideas of the basis of the lyrics but a quote from Berry in his Autobiography gives a lot of insight.

“’Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ came to mind when I was touring California for the first time. After leaving St Louis with six feet of snow lying in sub-freezing temperatures, I found green grass and clear blue skies with eighty-degree breezes loitering along the evening sunset.

What I didn’t see, at least in the areas I was booked in, was too many blue eyes. The auditoriums were predominantly filled with Hispanics and ‘us’. But then I did see unbelievable harmony between the mix, which got the idea of the song started. I saw, through the length of the tour, quite a few situations concerning the life of Mexican people. For example, a Caucasian officer was picking up a fairly handsome male loiterer near the auditorium when some woman came up shouting at the policeman to let him go. He promptly did so, laughingly saluting the feminine rescuer. The verse in the song as situated a bit differently but was derived from that incident. The verse about Venus de Milo (believe it or not) came from thoughts out of a book I had come across Venus In Furs and the last verse from a fictional condition always appreciated in a baseball game.”

In 1963 Buddy Holly posthumously had a top-five hit with the song in the UK

Look here for the origin of more of Berry’s’ songs from his autobiography.

Happy 76th Birthday Buddy Holly

76 years ago today, a pioneer of the music that would become known as rock and roll, was born. Charles Hardin Holley was born (Sept 7, 1936) and raised in the town of Lubbock in Texas.  Buddy was a nickname adorned by his mother who believed ‘Charles’ was too grown up for a young boy and ‘Holly’ came from the misspelling of his surname on his first contract as Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes in 1956.
He began performing from a young age, learning to play numerous instruments such as the piano and guitar from his older brothers. Originally playing country music he was inspired to try rock after attending an Elvis concert in 1955.
In 1958 holly proposed on his first date with receptionist Maria Elena Santiago, they were married just two months later. However tragedy stuck just 7 months later when a plane carrying Buddy Holly along with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and JP ‘Big Bopper’ Richardson crashed minutes after leaving the aiport in Clear Lake Iowa. All three rising musicians died on impact as well as the pilot. The day of the crash, 3rd Feb 1959 is often referred to as ‘The Day the Music Died’.

In the short 22 years of his life he created a music legacy that shaped rock and Roll into what it is today. He popularized Rock music with its rockabilly and rhythm and blues roots, to a broader white audience, bridging the racial divide.  Holly recorded with music icons such as Chuck Berry as they shared a similar style and tone. People were sometimes unable to determine whether it was a white or black singer on the record. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the first ever white act to play the Apollo Theatre because the booking agent assumed they were black because they played “colored music”.

Holly is often cited as a key influence to rock and roll icons such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The later even attended Holly’s final concert just two days before his demise and shared this experience in his acceptance of his 1998 Grammy for Album of the year.
“I just want to say that when I was sixteen or seventeen years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory and I was three feet away from him…and he LOOKED at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was—I don’t know how or why—but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in  some kind of way.”

The Crickets (Holly’s band that the Beatles later got the inspiration for their own name) pioneered what became the standard rock lineup.Two guitars, bass, and drums. Holly was well known for his glasses and it is reported that a young Elton John began wearing glasses to imitate his idol, Holly, and later his eyes became so accustomed to them that he was then forced to get a subscription.
Don McLeans ‘American Pie’, although not confirmed, is believed to be suggesting that the crash in which Buddy Holly died was when rock and roll started to go down hill. It even uses a paraphrased version of the Holly hit ‘That’ll be the Day’ in the line ‘This’ll be the day that I die’.

We may never really know how far Holly’s influence spread but imagine what would have possible if we had those 53 extra years. It could have been extraordinary.

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