Influential Albums – 3) The Complete Buddy Holly

To celebrate the upcoming publication of my short story, “The Record Collector,” I’m finally doing the “post an influential album each day for 10 days” thing that several friends challenged me to do.


This was the first box set I ever owned, because Buddy Holly was the first performer that made me feel like I needed to hear everything he ever did.* I bought this with money from a job running the cash register at the local fast-food drive through. I was supposed to use the funds for car insurance and gas, but every now and then would save up to make a purchase like this.

Buddy Holly–his everyman persona, his songwriting craft, his use of rhythm guitar to build melody–mattered more to me than any other performer, even though he belonged to an earlier generation. My closest friend in 1st grade, Chip McLeod, had a father who’d seen Buddy play in Iowa, who belonged to the Holly Memorial Society, so we grew up listening to him.

As the late Kansas City KCUR radio personality Bill Shapiro noted in his CD Rock and Roll Library, Buddy Holly’s tragic early death made it possible for his entire output to be collected and packaged for mourning fans. A lot of those mourning fans went out and formed bands. With Holly as a role model, they valued songwriting, studio innovation, energetic simplicity, and–more than anything–artistic growth.

That’s what Buddy stood for and stands for to me.

*Note: The collection in question doesn’t have everything, though I believed the linear notes that called it “complete” for a long time. There were six cassettes in the version I bought in the late 1980s, but they’ve uncovered more recordings since then.


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