If I could borrow Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine for a day, I’d be tempted to set the dial to October 15, 1955 – 55 years ago today – and head for Lubbock, Texas. On that day, a young headliner named Elvis Presley played shows in two clubs in the Lubbock area – Fair Park Coliseum and the Cotton Club – with soon-to-be legend Buddy Holly as his opening act.
Holly, who had recently graduated from Lubbock High School, was a regular at the Cotton Club, where he was often let in free by the owner’s daughter. The club was unique at the time in that it was a West Texas roadhouse that was “blind to race, color, or musical genre.” This cross-pollination of styles greatly influenced Holly. One of the acts he saw the previous April was Presley, who had created a following in the South from the Louisiana Hay Ride radio program. On seeing the future “King,” Holly immediately changed his musical style from Country-based to the new genre of Rock and Roll.
A few months later, nineteen-year-old Holly and his partner Bob Montgomery, performing under the name “Buddy and Bob,” opened for Presley (Johnny Cash was another of the opening acts). It was thrilling for Holly to be on stage with his idol, and the excitement would only compound when he caught the eye of a talent scout that night from Decca Records and ended up in Nashville a few months later cutting his first demos. (Incidentally, Decca would misspell Buddy’s last name, dropping the “e” from Holley. Buddy would perform under the new spelling for the rest of his too-short career.)
The Fair Park Coliseum still exists, but the original Cotton Club closed down several years ago. It had a wall that all of the performers who played there signed, but some moron later painted over it when it was converted into an adult book store. It has since been reopened as a performing hall.
It was recently announced that Holly will finally be given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 7, 2011. The date would have been Holly’s 75th birthday, and comes over 52 years after his death in a small plane crash, along with early rockers Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.
Holly and Presley were two of the original ten performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. With his Walk of Fame tribute, he will once again share the stage with Presley, who already has a star at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.