Paul Williams once said, “Buddy Holly could have been a country singer, or pop crooner, could have and probably would have fitted his talent to whatever music was happening when he came along. It happened to be rock ’n’ roll. But it only fully became rock ’n’ roll the day Buddy Holly started singing it.” In the late fifties, Buddy Holly earned his place as one of rock ’n’ roll’s founding fathers.
Both Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley were born in the deep south and raised in poverty. They both had early exposure to country music and rhythm and blues, which fueled their creative spirits. While Buddy had the look of the boy next door, Elvis exuded sexiness. Buddy was a talented guitarist and songwriter, while Elvis relied on his powerful voice and energetic stage presence.
Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Buddy Holly was born on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. Interestingly, the definitive biographies of both legends were published a year apart, with Peter Guralnick’s “Last Train to Memphis” in 1994 and Ellis Amburn’s “Buddy Holly: A Biography” in 1995.
Family Backgrounds and Musical Influences
Both Buddy and Elvis grew up without strong father figures, making them reliant on their mothers. However, Buddy had the advantage of having a trusted sibling, his eldest brother Larry, who became his confidant throughout his life. Buddy’s brother Travis taught him how to play the guitar, while Elvis received a guitar for his eleventh birthday and honed his skills with help from his uncle and church pastor.
Buddy idolized Hank Williams, Sr., until he heard Fats Domino sing on the radio, which opened his eyes to a new world of music. Elvis also had a similar epiphany in Memphis. Buddy started his professional music career at 15, playing with Jack Neal in a country and western act. Meanwhile, Elvis had already recorded his first acetate at the Memphis Recording Service by the time Buddy started performing on the radio.
Buddy the Tortoise and Elvis the Hare
As rock ’n’ roll gained popularity, Buddy and Jack began incorporating it into their performances at various events. Elvis, on the other hand, had already released several singles and had been touring for over a year by the time Buddy graduated from high school. It was during this time that Elvis made repeated visits to Lubbock, transforming the local music scene and inspiring Buddy and his circle of musicians to embrace rock ’n’ roll.
Although Buddy and Elvis had a friendly relationship, they never met again after 1955. Elvis had a lasting impact on Buddy, as he encouraged young people to think for themselves and pursue their dreams. In fact, some audience members even preferred Buddy over Elvis during one of their shows.
Buddy Holly Knew Elvis “Quite Well”
While the extent of Buddy’s personal relationship with Elvis is unclear, Buddy did once claim to have known Elvis “quite well” during his Australian tour in 1958. Regardless, Buddy considered Elvis his idol, even making a leather guitar case that matched the one Elvis used for his own guitar. Buddy closely followed Elvis’s music and even recorded a cover of an Elvis song from the “Jailhouse Rock” soundtrack.
Record Labels and Musical Styles
When it came to their musical careers, Buddy and Elvis had different experiences with record labels. Elvis signed with RCA and had the freedom to explore rock ’n’ roll, while Buddy’s label, Decca, attempted to fit him into the existing country music mold. As a result, Buddy’s early releases failed to gain traction, and Decca ultimately declined to renew his contract. In contrast, Elvis’s career skyrocketed with hits like “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Buddy Holly’s Career Takes Off
Despite the setbacks, Buddy Holly’s career took off in 1957 when he recorded “That’ll Be the Day” at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico. The song became a national hit and solidified Buddy’s place as a rock ’n’ roll star. He continued to release successful singles like “Peggy Sue” and “Oh Boy” and became a top recording artist for Decca.
Buddy toured extensively as part of various rock ’n’ roll package tours, sharing the stage with other music stars of the time. He even performed overseas, something Elvis expressed a desire to do but never got the chance. Buddy’s success and popularity continued to grow, but unfortunately, cracks began to appear in his career and in the rock ’n’ roll industry as a whole.
The Legacy of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley
Despite the challenges, Buddy Holly’s contributions to rock ’n’ roll cannot be overstated. His untimely death at the age of 22 in a plane crash cut short a promising career, but his impact on the genre will forever be remembered. His songs, like “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue,” are considered timeless classics.
Today, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley are revered as pioneers of rock ’n’ roll. Their images have even graced U.S. Postal stamps, and their songs have been recognized on prestigious lists like Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Although Buddy’s birthplace in Lubbock no longer exists, there is the Buddy Holly Center, which features artifacts and memorabilia from his life and career.
In conclusion, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley may have had different paths and styles, but their contributions to rock ’n’ roll shaped the music industry forever. Both of these icons left an indelible mark on the world, and their legacies continue to inspire new generations of musicians and fans alike.
For more information about Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, please visit All about Elvis.