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