Buddy Holly’s last songs before the fateful “day the music died”

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On January 22, 1959, Buddy Holly was about to embark on a fateful tour. I needed the money. A few months before, he had married (although secretly) a young Puerto Rican woman and the couple was expecting her first child. They had barely been installed in three months an apartment in New York, in Greenwich Village. And it was there where the Texan He composed and recorded his last songs. Just him and his acoustic guitar. Was his last legacy before the “day the music died.”

Maria Elena Santiago had only been working as a receptionist at Peermusic’s New York offices for five days when Buddy Holly and The Crickets walked through the door. That morning in June 1958 occurred “a magical moment for both of us. We fell in love immediately. It was love at first sight”the Puerto Rican confessed in an interview with Rick Thorne published on the Theater Royal Windsor website (coinciding with the West End premiere of ‘The Buddy Holly Story’. “I didn’t even know who he was, I had never seen a photograph of him.” That That same morning, he asked her on a date, they met for dinner and at the restaurant… Five hours after meeting, “he asked me the question, ‘Will you marry me?’”

The Winter Dance Party poster / MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Dail

On August 15, 1958The couple married in a private ceremony in Buddy’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas. The young Charles Hardin Holley (the singer’s real name) went against the advice of his manager, Norman Petty, who disapproved of the wedding and asked her to keep it a secret to avoid the anger of her female fans.. Indeed, the link it was not made public. María Elena accompanied Holly on tours and to hide that she was his wifewas presented as ‘secretary of The Crickets’. He was in charge of the laundry, making sure the equipment was ready, or collecting the proceeds from the concerts.

In October 1958, Buddy and Elena rented a two-bedroom apartment in a newly built building in Greenwich Village. The singer had decided to settle permanently in New York where you could find more opportunities. In their new neighborhood, the young couple frequented cafes and places where they listened to jazz or poetry readings. Many mornings, Buddy would take his guitar and go with María Elena to Washington Square Park. He always wore his dark glasses, so as not to be recognized, and played with the young musicians, in addition to giving them some advice.

Buddy Holly in 1958

Buddy Holly in 1958 / Michael Ochs Archives

In December 1958broke up with his manager and his band, who didn’t want to leave Lubbock. Before, he bought him the Ampex home recorder to also famous producer, Norman Petty. He installed her in the living room of his apartment and There he recorded the new songs he wrote. Just him with his acoustic guitar. That same month, in a letter to his parents, he commented that of all the songs he had composed, ‘Peggy Sue got married’ was her favorite. Her new creation referenced the 1957 hit ‘Peggy Sue’. It is one of the first sequels of the rock era.

Between December 1958 and January 22, 1959Buddy Holly recorded his last compositions. With the new band he had put together, He was part of the Winter Dance Party Tour lineup with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, which began on the 23rd in Milwaukee, (Wisconsin). 24 concerts in 24 days… and a planned tour without any logic. This time, María Elena did not accompany him. As she herself said in The Rockabilly Kings Rag: “I didn’t go because I was a month and a half pregnant and I wasn’t feeling well. He told me, ‘We need the money. I have to do this tour”. And he continued, “It was a terrible tour. But Now I know that if I had gone, he wouldn’t have taken that plane.. In that case she may not have lost the baby. I lost it anyway”.

The Winter Dance Party poster

The Winter Dance Party poster / MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Dail

As is already known, The tour was interrupted on a fateful February 3, 1959, ‘the day music died’, as Don McLean sang in ‘American Pie’. A plane that crashed shortly after takeoff killed Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, pilot Roger Peterson and Buddy Holly. After his death, at the age of 22, a tape with 14 songs was found in his Greenwich Village apartment.. The last recordings of the Texan artist. His latest compositions. ‘Crying, waiting, hoping’, ‘That’s what they say’, ‘What to do’, ‘Learning the game’ or ‘Peggy Sue got married’. Two producers, Jack Hansen and Norman Petty, worked on them, added tracks, completed them and were published posthumously.

Nicolas Cage and Kathleen Turner

Nicolas Cage and Kathleen Turner / Sunset Boulevard

However, The original demo of ‘Peggy Sue got married’, the one that Buddy recorded in his apartment (only his voice and acoustic guitar) is the one that Francis Ford Coppola used for the soundtrack of his film of the same namewhich starred Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage in 1986.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.