Happy Birthday, Buddy Holly

If legendary Lubbock-born musician Buddy Holly were alive today, he would have turned 79 earlier this month.

Although Holly died tragically at age 22 in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, residents of his hometown continue to celebrate the rockstar’s birthday.

Every year on Sept. 7, the Buddy Holly Center at 1801 Crickets Ave. offers free admission to “Buddy’s Birthday Bash,” with refreshments and live music. Locals pay their respects at Holly’s grave in the City of Lubbock Cemetery, and rock ‘n’ roll afficionados reflect on his short life.


Experience the Lubbock Holly knew via The Hub@TTU’s storymap! 

Bill Dean, executive vice president and CEO of the Texas Tech Alumni Association and associate professor in Texas Tech’s College of Media & Communication, attended Lubbock High School with the legendary musician.

“He was really a little bit on the shy side but very nice,” Dean recalled. “We’d have parties, you know, where he would be, and he would play a lot, sing, you know, and kind of entertain us. I remember several like that.”

An avenue in Lubbock is named after the renowned musician Buddy Holly. (Allison Terry/The Hub@TTU)

Because Holly was a year ahead of him, Dean said he was better friends with Holly’s high school sweetheart, Echo McGuire.

Andy Wilkinson, an artist in residence at the Texas Tech Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, said he continues to be inspired by Holly as well as many other artists from the area.

“I wouldn’t say he means everything, but he means a lot,” the local folk musician said of Holly’s influence.

Other musical stars, such as Mac Davis, Natalie Maines, Joe Ely, Waylon Jennings and Terry Allen, have also come from West Texas Wilkinson said, but theyHolly included—cannot be married together under a vague genre of “the Lubbock sound.” 

Still, this does not mean there is no common ground in the way West Texas musicians have approached music.

“Heartbeat” cover by the Dustin Garrett Band (Dustin Garrett, Jose Barcenas, Tony Garcia and Jason Fellers)

“It’s where various cultural elements come together in one place, and from that variety of things comes a new something,” Wilkinson said. “And that’s what Buddy Holly did, and he did it well. He combined gospel music that he heard as a child with country western music he heard on the radio, with the new thing of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Dean, who enjoys Holly’s music, alluded to the social tensions this style of music created in the 1950s.

“This was rock ‘n’ roll,” Dean said. “Not all of the parents approved of it, certainly certain religions did not approve of it, but I think most of us kids just loved it.”

A glass case at Tom S. Lubbock High School displays Buddy Holly memorabilia from the star’s life. (Allison Terry/The Hub@TTU)

Wilkinson said Holly’s music still sounds original today.

“It was always upbeat,” he said. “It was always refreshing. It was fresh. That’s one of the great things about Buddy Holly, is that he could make a song and deliver it in a way that you believed he was singing that song right to you.”

Since his death, Holly’s legacy has inspired many well-known artists throughout the United States and internationally. Holly’s hometown may have been a little slow to embrace the musician, Dean said, but this has now changed.

“I think the city, definitely with the Buddy Holly Center, has given him his due as far as a talented musician who made a difference in music,” he said.

About Allison Terry

Allison Terry is an electronic media and communications major from Lubbock, Texas. She hopes to work in the media industry after graduation.

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