At Staples, The Day The Music Died

On February 3, 1959, Charlie Taylor was a Staples High School sophomore (and a budding songwriter).

Exactly 60 years later, he remembers that day with stunning clarity. Charlie writes:

That Tuesday morning dawned bright, sunny and very cold in Westport. I was 15 years old, standing outside the cafeteria in the smoking area, chatting with friends.

Buddy Holly

Someone ran up and told us they heard a news flash about a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed when their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed in a cornfield a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City.

We were speechless.

I think I felt a kindred spirit with Buddy. We were both Texas natives.

The mood at Staples was muted for the rest of the week. We all followed the news broadcasts about the crash, and Buddy’s sad funeral in Lubbock. It was, as Don McLean later sang, truly The Day the Music Died.

Suddenly, we realized we were mortal. Buddy Holly was 22 years old — and Ritchie Valens, just 17.

Charlie Taylor, in the 1959 Staples yearbook.

We collected their records. We danced and made out to their songs.

Music was important to us. Bo Diddley played a number of dance shows in Westport, at venues like the YMCA. My ’61 classmate Mike Borchetta booked him, when Mike was still at Staples.

When I moved from rural Kentucky to Westport, I was washed in the blood of rockabilly and blues from Nashville and Memphis.

Then I got bathed in doo wop on WINS and WABC. My rockabilly roots collided with my new Westport friends’ jazz, folk an doo wop sensibilities.

At Staples we had the CanTeen every Friday or Saturday night. Sturdy and the Stereos, Dick Grass and the Hoppers, Barry Tashian and Mike Friedman’s Schemers, and bands Bobby Lindsey fronted were our weekly entertainment.

When those bands played songs like “Please Dear” or “Mr. John Law,” a dancing, sweaty fever seized us teens. We fogged up the windows of the cafeteria!

Sixty years later, I have to wonder what songs Buddy Holly would have written had he lived.

As fate (or luck) would have it, I met and was mentored by Buddy’s manager, Hi Pockets Duncan, in San Angelo, Texas in 1968. Hi Pockets played a recording of mine on his radio station, then told me to go to Los Angeles to develop my craft.

I moved to LA on August 15, 1970 — driving my black 1959 Chevy.

I still think about that day at Staples, exactly 60 years ago today.

Charlie Taylor has spent the last 3 decades in Tennessee. He’s recorded with, written with and for, jammed with and learned from the likes of Gram Parsons, Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, Barbara Mandrell, Rick Nelson and Barry Tashian. 

Four years ago he wrote and recorded this tribute to Buddy Holly. He uploaded it to YouTube on February 3, 2015.

23 responses to “At Staples, The Day The Music Died

  1. Nice tribute Charlie Taylor ❤️…Rest In Peace Buddy Holly !

  2. Charles Taylor

    Thanks Dan!!!

  3. Nice, Charlie – a lovely if sad remembrance. I remember that day as clearly as if it was yesterday, and the sadness and sense of loss we all felt then and for a long time thereafter. (Charlie is one of those who has committed a lot of his life to trying to keep the music alive.)

  4. I remember Charlie and his twin sister Ann leading songfests at Camp Mahackeno when I was a Papoose (no DNA test to prove it but you’ll just have to trust me)

  5. Lucy C. Weberling

    I still am in contact with Charlie- he’s a really good songwriter and a dear friend.

  6. Lucy C. Weberling

    Charlie is a really good songwriter and a good friend. He keeps those times alive for us musically

  7. I second John K; this is a well-written tribute.

    And it’s interesting too in that Jimi and Janis died within a couple of weeks of each other our senior year at Staples—and Brian Jones died a year before—and I don’t recall those deaths having anywhere near the same kind of impact. Maybe kids had become almost inured to this after the assassinations of the 1960s.

    I didn’t realize until a little while back—when I saw a documentary about Buddy—that he had moved to NYC and was living in the Village at the time of his plane crash. Just imagine if Buddy had crossed paths with Dylan and they had worked together in some manner.

  8. I’ve heard a lot of tributes to the great Buddy Holly – this is among the best of them. If you’re listening, Charlie, thank you!

  9. Sheila Reardon

    You never cease to amaze me Charlie Taylor!! Your Buddy Holly tribute is wonderful…. and I do remember that day at Staples. Loved your song, too.
    Always keep the music going Charlie!! xo Sheila

  10. Of the three performers that were in that plane crash, the least known was J. P. Richardson who called himself The Big Bopper. Apparently he made few recordings. Fifteen years later I had a Big Bopper record and took it to Festoon’s, a used record shop in New Haven where I often traded rock records for jazz. The two fellows who ran Festoons were so happy to get a Big Bopper record that I could just about have anything I wanted in the store. Does anyone know the Big Bopper’s music these days? I know Richie Valens’ La Bamba is still good to hear.

  11. Charles Taylor

    Dear Dan
    Thanks for putting this story up on 06880! 60 years ago and still a fresh wound for some of us!