Hard Rock International When the plane carrying Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper…
- Posted on Mar 16th 2013 1:45PM by Steve McLean
A $5,000 yearly scholarship at the University of North Texas in Denton will enable a promising music student to follow in Holly's footsteps, while the "Learning the Game" prize will be awarded each year at the South by Southwest Music Festival to "the preeminent unsigned band or artist at SXSW who best reflects those qualities that set Buddy apart, including songwriting, performance and production."
"I would stand naked on a fire ant giving away snow cones for Maria Elena," said Monte Warden, guitarist and lead singer for The Wagoneers.
And after sitting down with this still-vivacious woman (she got up and danced and sang back-up with other invited musicians for a party-ending version of "Not Fade Away") for 15 minutes, I realized why he felt that way.
Maria Elena lives in Dallas and visits Austin, which she calls "a wonderful, exciting place," occasionally. She also sees her late husband's surviving siblings in his birthplace of Lubbock, where a museum has been established in his honour, but has never visited his gravesite there.
"I don't feel that he's there and I don't even want to see it," Maria Elena told Spinner. "Even when he died, I didn't go. I don't think he's down there. His spirit is somewhere else."
Maria Elena now spends much of her time replying to letters from fans of her husband and making personal appearances to talk about the man who was among the first group of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, including at theatrical openings of the musical Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story. She praised the Broadway and touring productions as well as the 1978 film about the two of them that earned Gary Busey an Academy Award nomination.
"Gary Busey was absolutely fantastic in The Buddy Holly Story," said Maria Elena. "He was lip-synching, but he did all of the singing himself."
Buddy wrote "True Love Ways" for Maria Elena, so it remains special to her. But when asked if she has another favourite, she said: "I love every song that Buddy wrote because no two songs are alike."
Buddy recorded his early hits in a Clovis, Texas recording studio owned by Norman Petty, who also managed the artist until late 1958. But the couple then moved into a New York City apartment and were receiving financial help from Maria Elena's aunt because she said her husband wasn't receiving all of the royalties he should have from Petty.
This made Buddy feel uncomfortable, so he decided to embark on a short tour to earn some money of his own. The tour tragically ended on Feb. 3, 1959 when Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson were killed when their small chartered plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Mason City, Iowa.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't keep him home and that's when this terrible thing happened," recalled Maria Elena. "I would have gone with him, but I was pregnant and not feeling well.
"Buddy said that he was just going to be gone for two weeks and would be back before I knew it. I still think that I should have been there, because everywhere he went, I was there with him. Then I heard the terrible news through the television and from there I don't remember anything. As far as I was concerned, he was still here. Even now, I keep asking, 'Why him?' He was an asset to society and would have been able to help other young musicians like he wanted."
Fifty-four years later, The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation has started that work.
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