More Buddy Holly Fingerprints: Not Fade Away Never Seems To Fade

“I’m wanna tell you how it’s gonna be…”

It’s been called “the day the music died.” Born Charles Hardin Holley, we knew him as Buddy Holly. By age 22 he was making music history. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the hottest thing in rock ’n’ roll. Unfortunately, prodded by a financial pinch, he put together a new show and went on an ill-advised, mid-winter road tour across the Northland that ended in an Iowa cornfield.

One of the songs he wrote and was performing on that tour became the Rolling Stones’ first U.S. single as well as the opening track on their first U.S. album. As a result, I’d always associated this song with the Stones. If I had never moved to Duluth two decades later I doubt that I’d have ever gotten this deep into the Buddy Holly story, for it was here in the Duluth Armory on that cold winter night that his look pierced a 17-year-old kid in the audience named Robert Zimmerman. It was just a spark, but the fire it ignited still burns.

Just this week I learned that at one time The Beatles played 40 different Buddy Holly songs, which seems unbelievable. Though many of us know a few of his hits, Holly was prolific beyond what most folks realize.

In a letter to Waylon Jennings, who was supposed to have been on the plane that took Buddy Holly’s life, John Lennon stated how powerful Buddy Holly was as an innovator. When Buddy Holly and his Crickets came to England, no one had heard sounds like that. Ever. In this letter he told Waylon that the name Beatles came from the Crickets. “We were insects,” he wrote. Lennon also noted that Buddy Holly showed that it was O.K. to wear glasses. “Think about it. I was Buddy Holly.”

At the end of this month the Armory Arts and Music Center in Duluth will be celebrating the 60th anniversary tribute to the Winter Dance Party that took place here at the Historic Duluth Armory in 1959, featuring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and a host of others. Details are below at the end of this post.

Thinking about that Tribute to Buddy Holly concert (link also below) soon got me thinking about “Not Fade Away,” which was originally recorded in May 1957 and released as the B-side of the hit single “Oh, Boy!”

In 1964, the Rolling Stones’ cover of “Not Fade Away,” with a strong Bo Diddley beat, was a major hit in Britain. It became the A-side of the band’s first US single. It also went on to become the opening track on the U.S. version of their first album here, dubbed England’s Newest Hit Makers. SO, for the fun of it and without further adieu, here are links to six YouTube videos by various artists performing “Not Fade Away.” Make time to enjoy them. I certainly enjoyed assembling them for you.


A Buddy Holly recording of Not Fade Away.


The Rolling Stones on Mike Douglas in 1964. This is a “must watch” because you can see early on the entire future of the Stones in their interplay with Mike Douglas.


Bob Dylan 40 years later with Bruce Springsteen guitarists Nils Lofgren and Steve Van Zandt in Zurich. Dylan has performed Not Fade Away more than 130 ties in his own concerts, an ongoing tribute to a man who inspired a generation of future musicians.


The Grateful Dead first performed it in 1968 at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968 and played it over 600 times in concert.


Let’s not leave out Bo Diddly’s R&B rendition.


I tried to find a Jimi Hendrix version, if such things existed, and came across Noel Redding’s version here. Redding and Mitch Mitchell backed Hendrix on bass and drums as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It made me sad to see that this video, which was posted four years ago, had less than 350 views.

Listen to all six and you start to realize how special Buddy Holly was. His musical spark set off a firestorm. Conditions were right, of course. The emerging technology, combined with freewheeling imaginations, set a generation in motion.

Related Links

John Lennon’s Letter to Waylon Jennings
Facebook page for the Armory-sponsored Tribute to the Music of Buddy Holly

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Originally published at on January 6, 2019.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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