Go to Homepage   Ellis Amburn: Buddy Holly -- A Biography


Crescent Blues Book ViewsSt. Martin's Press (Paperback), ISBN 0312145578
Colorful and beautifully realized, Ellis Amburn's "Buddy Holly: A Biography" focuses on Holly's peak creative years while also turning a searching eye on Holly's lackadaisical management and his hometown's indifference.

Book: Ellis Amburn, Buddy Holly a biographyThe Buddy Holly who married his very white high school sweetheart in the backdrop of the mountainous Alpine Valley region of Lubbock, Texas, in the film "The Buddy Holly Story never appears. The Buddy Holly who finally overcame his virulent racism during a jam session with a bluegrass musician Holly considered to be far beneath him as a musician ("How can he and I have the same ideas?") remains compellingly potent. Holly's music derived much of its energy and innovation from the well-documented conflicts it created nationally and within his hometown.

Throughout, Buddy Holly and the variations on the Crickets come across as artistes with music but dismissive of business. The book's exploration of Holly's interracial marriage to Maria Elena underscores how this relationship might have kept him free to create while also being fiscally responsible. In other words, he and his band could have kept on creating without a single worry -- the true goal of all artists.

The book shines a big broad light on everyone Holly influenced. Without Holly and Elvis we have no Beatles or Creedence Clearwater Revival, no Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye, which leaves us nothing -- we're all stuck with Kenny G. But a good biography reveals deeper and undiscovered truths. Holly's music helped him overcome his racism. He felt twinges in the rhythms of Little Richard and Chuck Berry, and this book paints a detailed portrait of the rock and soul package tours that breached the South of the 1950s. (When the time machine gets invented, I call dibs times 10,000 on one package tour that featured Buddy Holly and James Brown.) Tragically, Holly didn't live long enough to overcome the siphoning whims of an irresponsible management.

Book: Ellis Amburn, Elizabeth TaylorThe chapters following Holly's death take pains to not simply grieve the loss of the person and what he might have became, but at the loss of his physical legacy. Holly died intestate, so all his worldly possessions floated through several management hands for decades. In 1991, all of what might have become a Lubbock-based Buddy Holly Museum went on the auction block. Holly's hometown never loved him. His family's reaction to his accomplishments ranged from indifference to far too belated recognition, compounded by an erroneous film bio that garnered a great deal of publicity at the expense of the truth.

Amburn's biography, however, rings with painful truth in all details. For those who weep at the lack of completion in significant, U.S.-based re-releases of Holly's music, this book will provide you with the most comprehensive break-down as to why. Thank you, Ellis Amburn, for your honesty in recounting the life and details of Buddy Holly, including his own unwitting culpability.

Michael Pacholski

Click here to reach Michael Pacholski's review of Buddy Holly: From the Original Master Tapes.

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