The Day the Music Died by Dr. Larry Burriss


By Dr. Larry Burriss

Buddy Holly

Feb. 3, 1959, 60 years ago this week, has been described as “The Day the Music Died,” the day rock singer Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Although his recording career lasted only a year and a half, Holly has been called “the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll.” Most notably, his influence on the Beatles and the Rolling Stones paved the way for the British invasion, and led to innovative new techniques in lyrics, instrumentation and musical production.

Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Holly and his band, the Crickets, had played a concert in Clear Lake on February 2, and had just taken off for Fargo, North Dakota, when the plane crashed. Also killed were Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known as “The Big Bopper.” Two members of the band that did not make the flight were Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings, who had given up his seat to the Big Bopper, who was suffering from the flu.
And what connections can we find between Holly and other recording stars? Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney watched his television appearances in London, and later credited Holly with being their primary influence, and said their band’s name was chosen partly as homage to Holly’s Crickets.

George Harrison and Keith Richards attended at least one of his concerts, and Bob Dylan was present at the January 31st, 1959, show two nights before Holly’s death.
The most famous tribute is probably Don McLean’s 1971 ballad, “American Pie,” which is laced with dozens of cryptic references to rock-n-roll bands and news events from the days surrounding the crash.
Holly was the first rock ‘n’ roller both talented and strong enough to take artistic control of his music. He wrote his own songs, arranged them, and directed his backup band. He experimented with studio technology, achieving effects with echo, double-tracking and overdubbing on primitive tape recorders. But perhaps best of all, although sadly dying so young, his millions of fans will never be disillusioned.