“Oh Boy!” (Buddy Holly Reading Spree, Book 3)

Buddy Holly: A Biography by Ellis Amburn The Buddy Holly reading spree rages on. And today we have the book I liked best of the bunch. Here are the reasons why…

This book covers Buddy’s life in a way that feels comprehensive and satisfying. There are plenty of details about his teen years, background information about the recording of most of the songs, good coverage of the various tours, and interesting aspects of Buddy’s relationships with his family, friends, fellow musicians, and fans. The coverage of the Winter Dance Party tour is excellent, also. And the book’s got endnotes (love it!) and a good index.

The author interviewed hundreds of people, and it shows. In the Acknowledgments, he particularly thanks Maria Elena Holly (Buddy’s wife), Larry Holley (his older brother), Sonny Curtis (of the later Crickets), and Niki Sullivan (of the early Crickets) for their willingness to be interviewed in-depth. Here Buddy emerges as a real human being who felt conflicted about the disconnect between his religious upbringing and rock ’n’ roll, loved waterskiing, and had already begun to expand his career, at the young age of 22, to include producing records for artists he discovered and encouraged.

Buddy proposed to Maria Elena on their first date, and he meant it. He was a young man in a hurry. (He reminds me in this way of JFK, who also seemed to have that same sense that time is fleeting.) Ironically, in part, it was this hurriedness (combined with the dreadful bus trip that was the Winter Dance Party) that led him to charter the plane in which he died. Doggone it all. Author Amburn truly makes a Midwestern winter sound like an ice-cold-freezing version of hell itself, and a person really cannot blame those young men for wishing to flee from their umpteenth bus (they kept breaking down) of the trip, and to get their laundry done before the next show. Since reading this book, I have been haunted by guitarist Tommy Allsup’s words to the others on the bus when he delivered the news of the crash (which they heard only upon their arrival in Moorhead): “Boys, they didn’t make it.”

Oddly, it was while reading this book that I felt like Buddy Holly had never died (even though this event takes place on page 259 of a 422-page book). Thus is the author’s skill at making him a real person, and at revealing Buddy Holly’s influence on later generations of musicians.