Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Buddy is a joyous celebration of the everlasting music and influence of Buddy Holly. The show covers the all too short burst of musical energy and vision from of one of the great pioneers of Rock n Roll. Buddy Holly was unique for his period (late 1950s). In an era of manufactured music idols told exactly how to look and what to sing and record (sound familiar to some modern day stars?) Buddy Holly broke the mould. Buddy knew exactly how he wanted to look, what he wanted to play, wrote his own songs and was heavily involved in the studio production of his records. Buddy Holly put down the musical and professional footprint that bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would follow and expand on in later years. Growing up in Lubbock, Texas near the Mexican border, Buddy Holly was steeped in country music but decided that he wanted to play the new rock n roll sounds that he was hearing from other early pioneers such as Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Buddy Holly was one of the few early music pioneers who merged some of the raw white country and bluegrass sounds he was hearing with the black R & B sounds that were coming to a wider audience. Rock n Roll had a white and black musical heritage and this show reminds us of that.
This,however, is a musical show and not a documentary of the life and times of Buddy Holly, and from the writing point of a long time Buddy Holly fan I have to remember that this is a review of the show and not an article on Buddy Holly himself. The show runs through an all too short life, but concentrates on the music that will keep Buddy Holly alive for generations to come. Buddy is played by talented singer and musician Glen Joseph.
The wonderful scene where Buddy Holly and the Crickets riding high on their recent chart success are booked into The Harlem Apollo is a joy to watch. The band were booked assuming them to be a coloured R & B band. The triumph of the band at that show was a major crossover point for a then divided musical audience in the USA. This scene features a great performance of "Shout" by Lydia Fraser and Miguel Angel. The closing scenes of Buddy's performance in the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa were full of energy and had the audience clapping and singing along, but were tinged with a feeling of sadness, knowing that this turned out to be his final performance.
When Buddy Holly, Big Bopper, Richie Valens and pilot Roger Peterson crashed in their light aircraft in 1959, a large part of early Rock n Roll died too. One of the greatest losses has to be, given that Buddy Holly left us so much wonderful music in such a short period of time, how much more music was still inside him to come out and surprise the world with?
The show is a wonderful re-creation of the all too brief musical explosion of the first wave of rock n roll, featuring hits such as "Peggy Sue", "Oh Boy", "Everyday", and many more. If you get a chance to get a ticket, be sure to catch the show.
Review by Tom King