Other Players

Buddy Holly


Man he truly rocks, I was given a CD set with a bunch of songs on it. Where is a good place for TABS or a good songboock to order? Rob


E-A-B or A-D-E or maybe C-F-G-Am

There's your Buddy Holly/rockabilly tabs! :nice:

To be serious, Holly kicks ass and I don't know of any great tab books for him. Once you get the hang of rockabilly fingerpicking and chord structure, his songs are a breeze (as are everyone from the era's).


What my learned colleague is pointing out ... is that most of Buddy's tunes were based on the obvious major three chord changes ... pick the notes in those chords and you will find the melody/lead...

Does that help?

Edit - I hope I'm not being patronizing here ... I'm not sure what your skill level is or how good of an ear you have ... When I started I couldn't even tune my guitar but, with perseverance and practice, I have developed a very good ear.

Send me an email, if you want ... I think, I can give you some good advice.


When I was a kid and I learned that cool bass string walk down a run after the bridge on "It's So Easy" I felt like I was 12 feet tall.


Here are three vey good books to start with. I have them myself and have learn a lot from them.

Buddy Holly Recorded versions (guitar) ISBN: 0793508045

Another one I have with lots of song, but there is no tabs in it, just chords. Anyway a great book with lots of pictures and info too. ISBN: 0881885576

And the last one, a play along book with CD and tabs. ISBN: 0634019678

They are all easy to find on the net. Good luck! /Andreas


I love Buddy Holly and he is my favorite songwriter. The guy wrote so many classic songs in such a short period of time. A big part of his genius is the simplicity of the songs. His rhythm playing is actually quite good and his leads (he didn't do all of the leads, especially on early recordings) are pretty sharp too. Buddy Holly proved that you don't have to be pyrotechnic or fancy to write/play great songs.

Chief, I tried to "vote you up" but it wouldn't let me. Only flyboys and grunts get respect at this site - as a squid you're t.s.o.l. ;-) :grin: I can't make out the insignia you use as an avatar - where are you stationed and what is your rating? - AJ (ex-squid)


things about buddy holly you might find interesting i have posted below EARLY DAYS Buddy could play a variety of string instruments, and in his time with Bob Montgomery is seen in photos playing a banjo as well as guitar. Also, some of the demos from the early days, such as "I’ll Just Pretend" show that Buddy was also adept at playing the mandolin. In an interview for Paul McCartney’s The Real Buddy Holly Story, Buddy’s brother Travis says that initially when Buddy showed interest in the guitar, he was given a steel guitar by his parents and took lessons for a short while before informing his parents he wanted the kind of guitar "that Travis has got," which was a standard acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, information as to the brand and whereabouts of all these instruments are something I did not come across in my research on this topic Any information is appreciated by those in the know.

ACOUSTIC GUITARS Probably the most popular acoustic guitar that Buddy owned was the Gibson J-45 that he hand-crafted his own leather cover for as decoration. This cover included his name on the face, the songs on from his first Decca single-- "Blue Days, Black Nights" and "Love Me" on opposing sides of the top of the body by the neck, as well as having TEXAS spelled out along the bottom portion of the guitar in white lettering. Though many of Buddy’s idols who were country performers had similar covers on their guitars, Buddy’s style most resembles that of Elvis Presley’s. Still, of all the artists with such decorative covers, Buddy is probably the only artist to design and make his own. While the Decca sessions used a studio rhythm guitarist, usually Grady Martin, the early rockabilly demos Buddy did in Clovis, as well as the early Coral/Brunswick releases ("Everyday," "Send Me Some Lovin," "It’s Too Late") are played on this Gibson J-45. Around the same time, there were early publicity shots of Buddy playing a blonde Gibson J200, but this is most likely the one that belonged to Bob Montgomery according to William J. Bush’s article on Buddy for Guitar Player in June 1982.

By the end of 1957/early 1958, Buddy Holly bought a Guild Navarre from Manny’s in New York City. The Navarre is similar in shape and style to the Gibson J200. This guitar also sounds very similar to that of the Gibson jumbo; so much so that it becomes difficult to tell the difference on record, though by the beginning of February 1958 when the Crickets recorded "Well All Right" Buddy is said to be playing the Guild Navarre. As was mentioned earlier, Buddy was familiar with the Gibson J200 [a.k.a. Gibson "Jumbo"]. His friend Bob Montgomery had one during Buddy’s days in Lubbock. Buddy’s good friends the Everly Brothers played a twin pair of these exclusively, as well as having their own signature model made by Gibson in the early 60’s. At some point in 1958 Buddy bought his own sunburst Gibson J200, which appears in photos such as Dick Cole’s from the Summer Dance Party when Buddy was playing it backstage at Electric Park in Waterloo, IA. It was one of these two jumbo acoustics, the Navarre or the Gibson that Buddy used on his remaining recording sessions in Clovis. The Gibson J200 was also used in New York at the end of 1958/early 1959 on the apartment tapes.

FENDER STRATOCASTER The first documented electric guitar Buddy Holly owned was a Gibson Les Paul with a gold top. Though Buddy might have had a more inexpensive model electric guitar prior to the Les Paul, Buddy probably used this guitar when he and Bob Montgomery were performing on the radio and around Lubbock in order to give them a more electric country sound, not to mention to compliment the R&B numbers they were throwing into their set by 1955. There is only one photo I can recall of Buddy actually playing the Les Paul, which has probably led to the skepticism by some of Buddy actually owning it, but Jerry Allison recalls that when he first met and played with Buddy Holly that Buddy was indeed playing a Les Paul gold top.

Whatever reason there was behind Buddy not liking the Les Paul, it was traded in for what became the guitar most identifiable with Buddy Holly, the Fender Stratocaster. When Buddy signed to Decca, he asked his brother Larry for $1,000 in order to step up his stage attire, and his musical equipment. Larry recalls in John Goldrosen’s biography "$600 went for the guitar alone." It was an expensive guitar in those days, and very futuristic-looking. As to why Buddy chose this over the equally-popular Fender Telecaster is anyone’s guess. It could have had to do with its additional pickup or simply that in 1955, the Stratocaster was about the newest thing in popular guitar design. Either way, something about the guitar turned Buddy on to it, as this was model electric guitar Buddy used exclusively for his records and live dates. That said, it should be pointed out that the Fender Stratocaster Buddy’s brother helped him buy was not the same one he had with him when he died on tour. In fact, Buddy managed to go through at least four to five Stratocasters from when he bought his first in 1955 to his death in 1959. Here is a look at each of the Stratocasters that Buddy owned. Note how quickly some managed to disappear:

Stratocaster #1 This was a 1954-5 Stratocaster that Buddy bought via money borrowed from his brother Larry just prior to his recording with Decca records. It can be seen in various early shots of Buddy performing around Lubbock when he was still performing with Bob Montgomery, as well in pictures performing with Sonny Curtis, straight through the first Biggest Show of Stars tour in September 1957.

Stratocaster #2 This guitar was a replacement to the first Stratocaster that Buddy owned for close to two years. The first Strat was stolen on the 80-day tour the Crickets did in the fall of 1957, "Biggest Show of Stars." Bus driver Tommy Tompkins said in an interview with Reminiscing magazine in 1986 that "Buddy came up to me and said, ‘Gee Tom, I don’t know what to do’. He told me his electric guitar was stolen. This was about two or three in the afternoon and we had a show that evening. So I suggested that he go to Detroit… he went into Detroit and was back with a new guitar in time for the show." This is the guitar he had with him on his surviving television performances on Ed Sullivan, as well as the Arthur Murray performance. This is also the guitar Buddy had with him on his trip to Britain. You can see the visible signs of wear this guitar got in the few short months that Buddy owned it by the time he took it with him for his tour of Britain, as the cover to the middle and neck pickups have cracked off on the bottom.

Stratocaster #3 & 4 These Strats followed one another in rapid succession during the middle of Alan Freed’s Big Beat tour in the spring 1958. According to Bill Griggs’ Buddy Holly: Day By Day series, evidence that Strat #2 was stolen on April 9 comes from the surviving itinerary sheet from the tour, which has the word "stolen" penciled by this date. That Strat was then stolen less than a week later on April 15 in St. Louis. Evidence of a new Strat is visible is in the photo by Dick Cole from the Crickets show in Waterloo, IA on April 22, where you can clearly see that Buddy has yet to remove the chrome bridge cover from the guitar, as you see has been done in most of the other photos of him playing a Strat. (SIDENOTE: For guitarists not in the know, its interesting to note that early on, Fender must have considered the bridge of their guitars a cosmetic error, as they had chrome-plated bridge covers over top of them. Fender apparently quit putting them on their guitars once enough players complained to the company about how much harder it was to replace strings with this cover on, not to mention the people at Fender noticed everyone taking the covers off!)

Buddy's classic sunburst Strat that is on display at Lubbock's Buddy Holly Center has the serial number # 028228.

Stratocaster #5 According to an interview with Guitar Player magazine, Tommy Allsup, who by 1958 played on most of Buddy’s remaining studio sessions in Clovis, said that he had a friend at Fender who got Buddy and Tommy an endorsement with the company and Fender sent them "two new Stratocasters and two Twin Amps." Given that Tommy did not start working with Holly in the studio until May 1958-after the Alan Freed tour - it seems as though this would make a fifth Stratocaster for Buddy Holly. Where this guitar would have come into play is a little hazy. Also mentioned in the Guitar Player article, according to Henry Goldrich of Manny’s music shop in New York, Buddy bought a pair of white Stratocasters during one of his many visits to the store. As to why he would have bought a pair of white Strats, and if he did, exactly what happened to them is unknown.

STAGE & PERFORMANCE AMPS The first documented guitar amplifier that Buddy owned, though he had to have others before, was a Fender Pro Amp. It had a 15" speaker in it, and is probably the amplifier Larry Holley mentions that Buddy bought at the same time as his first Fender Stratocaster in 1955. This amp is seen in quite a few early performance photos from around Lubbock and is probably seen best in the early Crickets pictures taken at June Clark’s house. It was used in Clovis on most all of the recording sessions, and was still in Clovis at the time of Norman Petty’s death.

Once Buddy started the larger package shows, he bought a Fender Bassman. 4 10" [4-10 inch speakers]. At 50 watts, it was a powerful amp for that time. It was designed initially for electric bass, but it didn’t take long for guitarists to fancy it. This amp could handle the size of the venues the Crickets were playing by this time, not to mention being capable of overpowering the enthusiastic crowds that greeted them at their live performances. Particular amps seemed to have been used on specific tours. As to which is only discernable by photographs. On the Summer Dance Party tour Buddy is seen in photos playing the Fender Pro again. This was probably due to the smaller venues that were found on this particular tour. Tommy Allsup said in his 1982 interview for Guitar Player that when he met Buddy that Buddy was using ‘…a Bassman amp, it had one 15" speaker.’ Since the Summer Dance Party would have been the first time Tommy Allsup and Buddy Holly did any roadwork together, it would make sense that Tommy is referring to this amp. Still, it was Tommy’s encounter seeing Buddy’s small stage amp in use that prompted him contact his friend at Fender, as mentioned earlier, to get an endorsement with the company which brought about two new Stratocasters and two new Twin [2 10"] amps. From photos, it appears as though Buddy and Tommy brought these Fender Twin amps with them on the Winter Dance Party, as can be observed in photos. It is worth noting that sometimes onstage during the Winter Dance Party, a Fender Bassman 4 10" can be seen in photos, but is probably the one being used by Waylon Jennings, who was playing an electric bass on the tour.

MISCELLANEOUS AMPS Buddy played exclusively live and on record through the aforementioned Fender amps, but he did own others according to Henry Goldrich from Manny’s. He recalls Buddy buying a Gibson Stereo GA series amp and a Magnatone Custom 280 amp from his shop. The Magnatone would have been one of the few amps when Buddy was still alive that was commercially available with a built-in vibrato. Vibrato is the effect used to larger extent on Bo Diddley records, but also is prevalent on records by guitar instrumentalists such as Duane Eddy and Link Wray. Buddy did make recordings with this amp. One of the slow takes of "Slippin’ & Slidin’" as well as an instrumental track he did in his apartment, more commonly known as "Buddy’s Guitar" were played through the Magnatone Custom 280.

STRINGS & TUBES As far as strings and guitar picks, Buddy played with a medium pick and thick strings probably not as much out of choice, but rather they were the only things available at the time. Custom gauged strings through string companies didn’t come along for a few years after Buddy’s death. According to Jerry Allison, "If we were on the road and Buddy needed strings, we’d usually pop into a drugstore and buy Black Diamonds, flat-wound or acoustic, that’s all the choice there was." For a better reference to gauges there is a photo in issue #15 of Bill Griggs’ Rockin’ 50’s magazine of an envelope for one of Buddy’s strings. On it, Fender has it labeled it at the factory as ".026" to which Buddy has written by it "3rd." Still, he also crossed that gauge out and written "fatter" over it. My guess is he just stuck another string in an old envelope and wrote "fatter" on it as reminder it didn’t contain the string that was labeled on the envelope, as I can’t imagine a third string being much thicker than ".026," but it still gives an idea to the gauge string he was using if ".026" is his third string. (Side note: Interesting for guitarists to know at this time third strings were still wound.)

As far as tubes in amplifiers were concerned, in the 1950’s transistor circuitry was still virtually unheard of, so tubes were everywhere. They could be bought at hardware stores, drug stores, appliance stores, etc. So as to which brand Buddy used outside the ones that were stocked in the amplifiers by Fender is anyone’s guess. (Side note: In the picture from Green Bay on the Winter Dance Party taken by Larry Matti of Ritchie Valens playing drums, a discarded tube can be seen lying on the stage floor at the foot of one of the amps. Also check out the primitive way the musicians have their gear plugged into the bandstand!)

OTHER MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS Though not played by Buddy, the following instruments were used in conjunction with Buddy in concert, or on his records:

Celeste: This instrument made its first appearance believe it or not in Tchaicovsky's 19th Century ballet "The Nutcracker". Its debut was such a secret that the composer had it brought to the performance hall draped in a cover and carefully guarded to keep its identity hidden. However Buddy didn’t use it for ballet, he used it for the unique sound heard on "Everyday."

Percussion: Buddy Holly’s recordings were nothing if not inventive, specifically in the use of percussive effects. On "Everyday," Buddy has Jerry Allison simply slap his knees in basic rhythm for the song’s backbeat. The use of a cardboard box was something used readily by Norman Petty in his studio ever since Buddy Knox used one in place of a snare drum on his hit "Party Doll." The Crickets were no exception to the rule, using it on such songs as "Not Fade Away," "I’m Gonna Love You Too," "(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care," and "Take Your Time." In the song "Well All Right," Allison just plays his ride cymbal, alternately choking it and letting it ring out. "Peggy Sue," though appearing to be played on several tom-toms and done that way live, was only played on one tom in the studio while Norman Petty changed the equalization and echo patterns on the drum’s microphone.

Bass: According to my talking with George Atwood who played bass for a few Buddy Holly sessions in Clovis, Buddy only used upright bass on his records. Joe B. Mauldin corroborates this in an interview where he states: "Buddy didn’t seem to mind that I wanted to use an electric [bass] on the road, but he definitely didn’t want to use it in the studio. He was tickled over the sound we were getting with the standup, and wanted to keep it that way." Still, Joe B. did use the electric bass occasionally onstage, primarily on the Summer Dance Party tour. This may have had something to do with the smaller venues with questionable P.A. equipment and limited microphones, which might have proved problematic in miking an upright bass. The electric bass guaranteed an audible bass at every venue. This was also probably the reason that Waylon Jennings used the electric bass on the Winter Dance Party, but in addition Waylon was new to the bass, only having first played one a couple weeks prior to starting the tour. Starting out on an upright bass probably would have been more overwhelming to someone unfamiliar with the instrument, not to mention the electric bass’ convenience in travel. For the gear-heads, Waylon’s bass on the Winter Dance Party was a Fender Precision [P-bass] with a telecaster design and he played through a Fender Bassman 4 10" amp. Joe Mauldin on his Summer Dance Party probably played through the same type of amp with a Stratocaster model Precision bass.

VOCALS: Vocals on tours usually consisted of one mic in the center of the stage. After all, this wasn’t that long after dance band vocalists were all the rage. In many shots of Buddy, you can see the infamous Shure 55 microphone, like the one seen in Dick Cole’s picture of Buddy at the Hippodrome Auditorium in Waterloo, IA. Microphones and mic stands, as you can tell by photos, varied from place to place. Buddy didn’t travel with his own P.A. system or microphones. It should be noted how primitive the P.A. systems of the time were. In the side-view shots of the stage taken at the Crystal Ballroom in Rhinelander, WI on the Summer Dance Party Tour, not only are the speakers simply propped up on wooden folding chairs, but the wires to the speakers are no thicker than cheap stereo speaker wire used today. Given the power of Fender’s amps by the late 50’s, coupled with the primitive late 40’s-early 50’s P.A. systems found in most venues, I’m sure the sound must have been sub-par as far as vocals were concerned in performances. Granted, not all the time, but definitely for clubs not prepared for rock & roll. Editorials at the time concur. Following the Winter Dance Party’s performance in Milwaukee, Milwaukee Sentinel writer Joe Botsford wrote in 1959 of Buddy’s performance "His voice was scarcely audible over the raucous guitars". Also, all live vocals were dry. P.A. systems mimicked their full names-public address systems. They had no tape delay, no reverb or any other effects. They were simply used for public announcements by the emcees and designed more specifically for singers to be heard in front of a big band.

In the studio in Clovis, Buddy sang through a Telefunken vocal mic. The delay heard on early recordings was some sort of tape delay-possibly Binson or Echoplex-- before Norman Petty built a live echo chamber in the upstairs of a neighboring building on studio property that he had the Holley family line with tile. There were speakers in this room with microphones in front of them, which could be controlled from the studio if echo was desired. During the recording of "I’m Gonna Love You Too" the echo chamber had a cricket hiding someplace in it, hence the cricket that can be heard at the end of the recording.


Thabks for the replies folks, I have been a Buddy Hooly fan for years, but for some reason kinda let it slip by the wayside until I got these CDs! 57 Chet, no worrie and not patronozing at all. I am a mid to experienced player just learning some hybrid picking and more rock a billy stuff. AJ I am an AEC(AW) Aircraft Electrician's Mate, but these days I am the Leading Chief Petty Officer for VRC 30 Detachment 3, that is our patch that I have for an Avitar. And everybody hates squids until they need close air support and the Blue Suiters don't have the legs to get there. You can park a carrier pretty darned close to things in most of the world! Rob


g6120 - as a lifelong Buddy Holly fan thanks for all that information. RLJ


Just before Buddy Holly's tragic death, I was fitted for my first pair of glasses. You got it. Black horn rimmed. Just like Buddy's. Lots of things I don't understand. I wish Buddy was still with us doing concerts and recording.



Love Buddy Holly. Totally unique.

I've said this before but; he's the only singer who can make me feel totally brokenhearted & wonderfully happy to be alive - all at the same time.

Absolute genius.


Great info, g6120! I totally dig Buddy Holly on a multitude of levels. (And I liked the references to the venues in Waterloo, IA, as that's the city where I was born and raised.)


Is g6120 done yet?

I Kid! Actually very insightful.

bigalthethird said: E-A-B or A-D-E or maybe C-F-G-Am



I remember, when I was a kid, my dad telling me the tragic story about Buddy, while playing an 8-track of his. That's the first time I specifically remember hearing Peggy Sue...and knowing who it was...and I specifically remember thinking that was the coolest thing I had ever heard.

Many years later I realized that, in that simple but manic rhythmic solo in Peggy Sue...Buddy was banging out power chords with intent to kill. Watch him bang that Strat during their television performance of "Oh Boy," and you suddenly "get it." I saw him step back from that mike, look back at the band, cock that machinegun and get to it.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing and I came out of the chair to hit rewind. That's when I realized what he was really doing on "Peggy Sue."

And lest anyone make the mistake of thinking Buddy was hamstrung by three chord simpicity because that's all he could do...take a look at "What to Do," found on his personal open-reel tape recorder in his New York apartment after his death. He wasn't through with it, but it's there, and it's beautiful.

You know, it's interesting to listen to his interviews in '57 or '58 and hearing him asked if he thinks this Rock 'n Roll thing is spent up, like people say, or whether it will hang around a while longer. I recall him saying he thought it would be around at least a few months longer, though he was looking forward to playing something "a little quieter."

He was doing just that in New York.


This is the celeste, taken in Norman Petty's studio,

When you play the melody to Everyday, in that room, now that is goosebump time.


There was a TV special about Buddy hosted by Paul McCartney and Sonny Curtis (well, sort of hosted, they were prominent in the hour). I think it was in 1988. I think I remember Vi Petty actually playing "Everyday" on it. Maybe I dreamed it... I've got it on VHS here somewhere. His brothers showed his J45 in a living room shot. That was before Gary Busey got it.


I remember seeing the show, though I don't recall if Vi was on it.

I remember the first time I watched the McCartney documentary and she sat at that celeste and went to town. The hair stood up.

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