I’ve been a Buddy Holly fan since college. Back then, I was really digging a lot of classic 50’s rock ‘n roll/rock-a-billy acts like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, and of course Elvis Presley, but Buddy Holly was by far my favorite. Songs like “Maybe Baby,” “Not Fade Away,” “Crying, Waiting, Hoping,” and “Think It Over” were in my playlist at a time when Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam were in vogue. And so, during a recent vacation, when I finally had a chance to visit the Buddy Holly museum in Lubbock, I wasn’t about to pass it up.
Now, everybody who’s caught Gary Busey in “The Buddy Holly Story,” knows the basics of his life: Charles Harden Holley (a kid from West Texas with a knack for writing and performing catchy tunes in the new musical-form of rock ‘n roll) is discovered, experiences perhaps the most significant and prolific meteoric rise of any musical act in pop history, then tragically dies at the age of 22, less than three years after making good, leaving an indelible impression on following legendary musicians like Bob Dylan and The Beatles. So great was Buddy’s influence, it’s impossible to imagine what popular music would’ve been like without him. However, some of the lesser known details of Buddy’s life are just as interesting as the ones most people are familiar with, such as the fact that Buddy Holly was thoroughly Texan. While many know that Buddy was from Texas, that’s usually as far as it goes. More often Buddy’s connected with his era or his musical idiom than with anything else. The setting of his humble origins didn’t really seem that important… except it was to Buddy! Buddy wasn’t just from Texas… he was a Texan!
At the museum, one of those lesser-known details they revealed had to do with his break-up with The Crickets. His band-mates, exhausted from the touring grind, wanted to go back to Texas and they were under the mistaken impression that Buddy wanted to settle in New York where the recording industry was. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Buddy’s ambition wasn’t to become a fixture of the New York recording industry, but to bring the recording industry to Texas, only planning to stay in the Big Apple long enough to learn what he needed to know about the business. Supporting this, on display in one of the wings of the museum are the architectural drawings he commissioned for his home/recording studio in Lubbock. Sadly, he never got the chance to realize this dream.
A fellow traveler on the ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour, Dionne of Dionne and the Belmonts, confirmed the detail about the recording studio in an interview he did back in 2009. Dionne had been a friend of Buddy’s and his wife Maria Elena. On the tour bus, Buddy talked to him about how he wanted to get back together with The Crickets, saying that Buddy showed him the mentioned building plans. Dionne also spoke to just how important Buddy’s Texas heritage was to him and his support for Texas’ right to leave the Union.
[Buddy Holly] loved being a Texan! He’d talk about… Samuel Houston. He’d talk about the treaty that Texas signed, that they could pull out of the Union anytime they’d want, they could pull out of the States, anytime they wanted! He was like, “Yo!” You know? A TEXAN… like proud people!
As iconic and important as Buddy Holly was and still is, it’s nice to know that he never lost sight of who he was as a Texan. Hopefully, all Texans can even today look to his example, recognizing the unique privilege it is to be a citizen of Texas, and how it is equally important to protect that heritage, independent of an encroaching homogeneous American culture. We have our own history, heroes, and creed, and we need to hold onto that so that Texas identity will be preserved… not fade away.