Elvis and Buddy

"If there was a single influence that indelibly shaped Buddy Holly's life and music, it was Elvis Presley. By the time Elvis first barnstormed through Lubbock in early 1955, Buddy and Bob (along with Larry Welborn) were starring on their own Buddy & Bob Show on Lubbock's KDAV radio Sunday Party. They were also opening shows for the big country acts at the Fair Park Coliseum and local clubs.

Buddy Holly's personal record of Elvis' "That's Alright , Mama"

"The boys were familiar with Presley's early Sun Records That's Alright Mama and Good Rockin' Tonight, as well as black rhythm and blues picked up from powerful late night radio stations in Memphis and Shreveport. But seeing "The Hillbilly Cat"in person at Fair Park Coliseum and the Cotton Club was something else. 'Presley just blew Buddy away,' recalls Sonny Curtis. "None of us had ever seen anything like Elvis, the way he could get the girls jumping up and down, and that definitely impressed Holly. But it was the music that really turned Buddy around. He loved Presley's rhythm --it wasn't country and it wasn't blues --it was somewhere in the middle and it suited just fine. After seeing Elvis, Buddy had only one way to go." Buddy himself would later tell Billboard columnist Ren Grevatt that "Without Elvis Presley none of us would have made it." Rock 'n roll had taken hold of Buddy Holly -- and vice versa."

Buddy Holly's glasses on display at the Buddy Holly Center, Lubbock, Texas

Elvis truly admired Buddy Holly and vice versa. The contribution to music history by these two rock and roll heroes and legends. What is more, both Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly were greatly influenced by each other's music, and each brought his own style of country and rock to the music fold. Following are some excerpts from reported accounts of that meeting in Lubbock, Texas, when Holly was the opening act for a young, touring Elvis. Elvis was promoting his first Sun record, "That's Allright Mama." Shortly after, Holly would be signed to a five-year recording contract with Decca records.

"...Holly was already growing famous by this time; he had recorded several records, been on the Ed Sullivan Show and had toured in the United States and abroad. He and Montgomery had opened for Elvis Presley's show in Lubbock. Following the show, Holly took Echo McGuire, his girl at the time, backstage to meet Presley. When Elvis asked if he could kiss her, she turned him down. 'I wasn't that kind of girl,' she explained.

(Excerpt from an interview with Echo McGuire Griffith, school sweetheart and first steady girlfriend of Buddy Holly, entitled "ENMU Grad Dated Buddy Holly (Turned Down Kiss from Elvis)Date: 9/27/2007 Reporter: Erin Griffith," for the Eastern New Mexico University Alumna Assoc.)

"...While working around Lubbock with his next partner Bob Montgomery (Neal had married in 1954), Holly introduced himself to Presley at Lubbock's Cotton Club in early 1955. He came away dazed that the king was so approachable and soft-spoken, a real country boy yet onstage the king was pure 'greased lightning.'. The "Buddy and Bob" act opened for Elvis the next morning at a Pontiac dealership and "when the next KDAV Sunday Party rolled around," wrote Goldrosen and Beecher, "Buddy was singing Elvis's songs. The next time Presley came through town, Holly and Montgomery met him outside Lubbock and gave him the tour: Elvis and Buddy, just two hicks cruising town..." Taken from an excerpt of "Buddy Holly-Learning the Game," by Tim Riley, Oct. 2006.

On his way to Nashville to record, Buddy made a stop at Sun Records hoping to find Elvis there. The secretary, Marian, advised Buddy that Elvis was away filming the show "Louisiana Hayride." Buddy, who did some beautiful leather 'tooling,' had made a leather wallet for Elvis as a gift of their friendship. He then gave the wallet to Marian and asked her to give it to Elvis when he came back. According to Elvis, he received the wallet, which had a beautiful floral design, and while he was grateful, he gave it to Marian, it's first admirer, to keep.

Buddy Holly died tragically in a plane crash on 3 February 1959, along with the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and Richie Valens.

Elvis was in the army when news of Holly's death was announced. Like the rest of the nation, Elvis felt deeply saddened by the news and understood that rock and roll had lost a great friend and three budding inspirations. Elvis had Col. Parker send beautiful floral wreaths to the four separate funerals. To the right is the very spray sent by Elvis and the Colonel as it appeared at the wake of J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper. Elvis had similar wreaths sent to Buddy Holly and Richie Valens and to the funeral of the pilot, Roger Peterson, he had sent yellow roses. The loss of these young musician's lives to a plane crash, and the loss of Patsy Cline, who Elvis also knew, played a strong factor in Elvis' fear of flying. Flying had always made him wary, and not until he bought his own jets and had his own personal pilot, did he feel the more comfortable traveling across the skies.

Elvis once said,"Looking back over the last 20 years, I guess the guy I've admired most in rock and roll is Buddy Holly."


Elvis and Buddy Holly meet for the first time!


Back to top