“Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (Buddy Holly Reading Spree, Book 1)

Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly by Philip Norman

This is the first Buddy Holly biography I read, and I found it to be quite addictive. I very much liked the brief descriptions the author provides of each of the hit songs, which inspired me to listen to them with “new ears.” I’m particularly clueless about things like percussion arrangements, so I learned things from this book.

And through a quote from Buddy’s older brother Larry Holley, Philip Norman reveals the wonderful charisma of the skinny boy from Lubbock. At a local “battle of the bands,” Larry saw Buddy take the stage:

“There’d been a lot of real good-looking singers up on that stage and when it was Buddy’s turn to come on, all these kids started laughing at him and yellin’ out things at him, like ‘Ol’ Turkeyneck.’ I was starting to get real aggravated about it all. But Buddy came from the side to the center in one movement without seeming to move his feet at all, and hit his guitar, and that whole crowd went hog-wild.” (pp. 63-64)

I’m convinced that a huge part of Buddy Holly’s appeal is the mismatch between his spectacled, rather geeky, appearance and the groundbreaking rock music he created. It’s a classic underdog success story, and who doesn’t love that?

Also, since the author is British, he provides an interesting perspective, particularly since Buddy Holly’s music initially was hotter in England than in America. One thing I didn’t adore: While, from everything I’ve read, I don’t think Norman Petty (Buddy Holly & the Crickets’ manager) was fair in his dealings with the band, I think it’s a bit snarky for the author to refer to Petty as “Clovis Man” (after the discovery near Clovis, NM, of artifacts created by people in prehistoric times). A small quibble in a fine book about Buddy Holly that gives a good overview of his life.

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