Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every Wednesday.
In the early days of Rock n Roll, it was common to for artists to do covers of other artists songs. Usually, cover songs are not as good as the original recording.
However in this case, we’re not talking about usual, we’re talking about phenomenal; we’re talking about Buddy Holly.
Buddy Holly covered several songs in his short lifetime. Let’s have a look at some of them:
This song was written and recorded by Bo Diddley, which makes sense, because that’s the title. “Bo Diddley” is a classic that never really goes out of style, but did you know that Buddy Holly covered it too?
“Bo Diddley” was one of Buddy’s earliest recordings made at Petty Studios in 1956. In addition to the vocals, he provided the guitar, with fellow Cricket-To-Be Jerry Allison on the drums.
Buddy’s version of “Bo Diddley” was not released until after his death. It was included on the 1963 LP “Reminiscing” and later became a single release.
“Blue Suede Shoes”
Carl Perkins (also known as “The King of Rockabilly”) wrote this song in 1955. It has been recorded by many artists including the original by Perkins himself and most famously, by Elvis Presley.
Like many of Buddy Holly’s covers, his version of “Blue Suede Shoes” was not released until after his death. In this case, May, 1964.
“You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)”
Another song that Elvis made popular, this song was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was performed by Elvis in the 1957 movie Jailhouse Rock.
The most famous (and undoubtedly the best) cover of this song was by Buddy Holly, which reached number 12 on the British Singles Chart in 1961.
The energy-infused “Ready Teddy” is a Rock n Roll standard written by John Marascalco and Robert Blackwell. It was first made popular by Little Richard in 1956.
Elvis Presley’s version of the song also became wildly popular when Presley performed it on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in September of 1956.
Buddy Holly’s version is perhaps lesser known, but not lesser in quality. His energy is unleashed in his vocals, with the growls and rebel yells that Elvis couldn’t provide. And, unlike Elvis’s version which is softened by a honkytonk piano, Buddy’s version with The Crickets includes a raucous guitar riff that lets the listener know that this is Rock n Roll- and on NO uncertain terms. It was recorded in 1957 with Niki Sullivan on rhythm guitar with Joe B. Mauldin on bass and Jerry Allison on drums.
“Slippin’ and Slidin’”
Another Little Richard hit, the writing of this song was credited to Little Richard, Edwin Bocage, Al Collins, and James Smith. It was originally the A-side of the 1956 record “Long Tall Sally”.
There are variations of Buddy Holly’s version, but one was included on the album “Reminiscing” and on “John Lennon’s Jukebox”, two compilation LPs that came out in the 1960’s after Buddy’s untimely demise.
In Buddy’s version, the tempo is slowed down to the point of making the song into a mellow tune that differs incredibly from Little Richard’s original.
“Valley of Tears”
“Valley of Tears” was written and originally performed by Fats Domino in 1957. Fats’s original version reached number 8 on the US Pop Chart.
Buddy’s version varies greatly, giving the song a smoothness and a pleasant, almost angelic melody that Fats’s original lacks. This was yet another posthumous hit for Buddy Holly when it reached number 12 on the US Pop Chart in 1961.
Another original Fats Domino hit, (written by Dave Bartholomew), “Blue Monday” was first recorded by Smiley Lewis in 1954. However, Fats’s 1957 version was a far larger success.
Buddy Holly was one of the first to cover “Blue Monday” after the success of the Fats Domino version. The fact that Buddy’s version even exists came as a surprise to me. I was familiar with his beautiful version of Fats’s “Valley of Tears”, but I kept thinking that it would have been nice if Buddy had done “Blue Monday” too. I assumed it was just more of my “what might have been” musings . Well, you can imagine my excitement when out of the blue, (no pun intended), a fellow fan tweeted a link to this cover one day. I couldn’t believe it! It was there all along.
“Love Is Strange”
This classic song was originally released as a duet by the duo Mickey and Sylvia in November of 1956. Written by Bo Diddley, this song is known for it’s twangy guitar riff and the flirtatious bit of dialog between the singers.
“Love Is Strange” was also covered by Buddy Holly, but his version was not released until 1969, ten years after his death. Buddy’s mother, Ella Holley, said that hearing it was like her son was playing from Heaven.
“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man”
This song is another one of Chuck Berry’s famous hits which he wrote and released in September of 1956.
Buddy Holly’s cover version reached number 3 on the UK charts in 1963. It was also included on the LP “Reminiscing”.
But most interesting, perhaps, is that “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” is said to be the last song that Buddy Holly ever performed. It was the final song in the set he and his band played on the night of February 2, 1959, at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA. He died shortly after, in a plane crash, on the morning of February 3rd.
These popular songs recorded by Buddy Holly are not only fantastic examples of his signature style and impressive creativity; they are also true gems. They’re the precious imprints of a young talent taken from the world far before his time. Each is a treasure that will forever be cherished and listened to again and again for years to come.
Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island or by clicking the 88.1 FM link on wcwp.org, via the TuneIn app. or the WCWP app on your iPhone or Android device. You can also follow us on Twitter. and on the Facebook groups for the show and WCWP.
Join us for the Greatest Hits and Forgotten Favorites on . . .
…Where Oldies Come Alive!