When Buddy came to London
Exactly 60 years ago today, the world lost an early rock and roll icon: Buddy Holly.
During his short life, Buddy- who was born in Lubbock, Texas in 1936- made a huge impact on music and left a legacy which would go on to inspire and influence countless future stars.
In March 1958 Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets (who were made up of Niki Sullivan, Jerry Allison and Joe Mauldin) embarked upon a UK tour.
The very first show they played was on the 1st of that month and took place at the former Trocadero Cinema which was located on the New Kent Road, Elephant and Castle.
The image below shows Buddy backstage during rehearsals at this now long-lost venue.
Whilst in London, Buddy and The Crickets stayed at the Cumberland Hotel near Marble Arch.
Apparently Jerry and Joe were so impressed with the service at the Cumberland that they tipped the shoeshine boy £5- a very considerable sum at the time.
Just over a decade later, The Cumberland would accommodate another American music legend: Jimi Hendrix.
On the 2nd March 1958 Buddy Holly and The Crickets travelled north of the Thames to play at the Kilburn Gaumont State.
Situated on Kilburn High Road, the building is now home to the Ruach City Church.
On the same day, the band headed into the West End to appear in a live television broadcast of ‘Live at the London Palladium’. Their set included ‘That’ll Be The Day’, ‘Oh Boy’ and ‘Peggy Sue’.
To hear audio from that performance- along with still images- please click below:
The picture below was taken during the Palladium performance by photographer, Harry Hammond.
Thirty years later, the same image was used on posters advertising ‘The Buddy Holly Story’; a long running stage musical which opened in London in 1989.
The 1958 UK tour was compared by a then very young Des O’Conner with whom Buddy became friends.
When Buddy said he needed an acoustic guitar for the tour bus, the pair headed to Denmark Street– aka ‘Tin Pan Alley’- where, according to Des O’Conner, the young Texan tried out “about 17 guitars”.
Buddy also visited the Whiskey A Go-Go club on Soho’s Wardour Street where the image below was snapped:
After their first stint in London, Buddy Holly and The Crickets headed on to many other towns and cities including Southampton, Sheffield, Newcastle, Nottingham and Birmingham.
On the 12th March they returned to the capital for three shows at the Croydon Davis, the East Ham Granada and the Woolwich Granada.
After further concerts across the country, Buddy Holly and The Crickets returned to London on the 25th of March for their final UK concert at the Hammersmith Gaumont (now the Hammersmith Apollo).
Less than a year after his visit to Britain, Buddy Holly was back in the USA taking part in the Winter Dance Party Tour.
On the 2nd February 1959 he played at Clear Lake, Iowa.
Shortly after the gig, in the early hours of the 3rd February, Buddy crammed into a ‘Beechcraft Bonanza’ light aircraft alongside Jiles Perry Richardson Jr- aka the ‘Big Bopper’ – and the teenage sensation, Ritchie Valens.
The trio had chartered the aircraft after experiencing poor weather conditions and problems with the tour buses and saw it as their best chance of getting to their next destination- Moorhead, Minnesota– as quickly as possible.
The aircraft took off in light snow at 12.55am but quickly encountered difficulties and plummeted to the ground just after 1am.
All on board died instantly.
Buddy Holly was 22 years old. The Big Bopper was 28 and Ritchie Valens was just 17.
Please click on the clips below to hear these three musicians in their prime….
The Big Bopper: Chantilly Lace (broadcast autumn 1958)
Ritchie Valens: La Bamba (released October 1958)
Buddy Holly: It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (released January 1959)
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