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Sneak preview of the PBS Buddy Holly 75th Birthday Special: Eyewitness report

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by Richard Stevens

On September 7, 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend the taping of the Buddy Holly tribute show for PBS at the Music Box in Hollywood.   I was invited by a friend of mine who was involved in the production.  September 7th would have been Buddy’s 75th birthday.  What a birthday tribute – in the morning, a star unveiled in front of Capitol Records on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and that evening, a concert nearby celebrating Holly’s life and music.

Prior to the concert, I knew a few of the artists who would perform, but I was also wondering if Paul McCartney would be there, knowing his great adoration for Buddy Holly.  Unfortunately, McCartney was not at this event.

A 7:00 p.m. reception and 8:00 show were scheduled, but there was a late start due to a few delays and audio issues.  Peter Asher and Chris Isaak co-hosted the show.  Asher produced the Listen to Me: Buddy Holly CD, and several of the artists featured on the CD, also released on the 7th, performed at the concert.

The concert began with opening remarks by Asher and Isaak, then Stevie Nicks got the music off to a rocking start with an amazing backing band and her performance of “Not Fade Away.”

Lyle Lovett was up next, doing “Well All Right” and accompanied by James Burton, followed with “Looking for Someone To Love.” Shawn Colvin performed “Learning the Game” followed by Patrick Stump (Fallout Boys) doing “Every Day” and “Oh Boy!”

The audience was treated to a video featuring Keith Richard and Chris Isaak who performed a soulful “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.”  Ringo Starr also appeared in a video, offering his tribute to Buddy Holly.  Michelle Branch followed Ringo with “Words Of Love” with Graham Nash performing as one of her backing vocalists.

Graham Nash was introduced, talked a bit, and then performed a great version of “Raining In My Heart.”  Peter Asher joined Graham for “Take Your Time.”  Next up was Boz Scaggs doing “Maybe Baby,” and “Rave On”, joined by Nash and Asher. This was the first artist that had to perform his song twice due to some problems.

Raul Malo (The Mavericks) performed a fantastic version of “Listen To Me” and then Chris Isaak was joined by Michelle Branch to play “Heartbeat.”  Gabe Sapotra and Victoria Asher (Peter Asher’s daughter from the band Cobra Starship) performed “Peggy Sue”.  Gabe invited Patrick Stubb over to sing “Think It Over.” This was the only other song that had to be performed twice.

Peter Asher told a story about a writer/performer meeting with Buddy Holly to offer him a song he wrote specifically for Buddy.  I had no idea who he was talking about, but then Paul Anka stepped out of the wings to perform the song he wrote for Holly, “Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”  This was a complete surprise and great addition to the talented musical line-up.

Seeing Paul Anka perform this song was the most impressive part of the show for me, and something I will never forget. He was also very funny talking about having to leave the stage to shoot Peter Asher’s introduction again.

Then Stevie Nicks graced the stage again, adding her unique sound to the classic “It’s So Easy.”

As the show came to a close, Peter Asher shared a poignant story of how Buddy Holly met Maria Elena Santiago, asked her to lunch, and proposed to her later that evening at dinner. It was a very sweet story.

Raul Malo dedicated the song “True Love Waits” (which Holly wrote especially for his wife) to Maria Elena, who was seated at a front-row table with Phil Everly.  It was a touching tribute to both Buddy Holly, and to the love he shared with his soul mate.

After a few closing words by Peter Asher, all of the night’s performers returned to the stage for an encore of “That’ll Be the Day.”  I think Buddy Holly was smiling…

The show was recorded for a PBS special to air in December and will hopefully be released on DVD. I would recommend not only Buddy Holly fans, but Beatles fans as well to watch this show. The Beatles were heavily influenced by Holly. In fact, “That’ll Be The Day” is the first song The Beatles ever recorded.

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Richard Stevens owns an extensive music collection and is a music consultant for several local disc jockeys. He has a vast knowledge of rock and pop music from the ’60s to today, both American and British.

Editor’s Note: The Listen to Me: Buddy Holly CD, produced by Peter Asher, features Ringo Starr singing “Think It Over”.  Another tribute CD, Rave On Buddy Holly, features Paul McCartney singing “It’s So Easy.”

A new collection of Buddy Holly’s greatest hits was released earlier this year called Buddy Holly Icon.

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2 thoughts on “Sneak preview of the PBS Buddy Holly 75th Birthday Special: Eyewitness report

  1. Pingback: Sneak preview of PBS Buddy Holly … – Daytrippin' Beatles Magazine « Liverpool Hotels

  2. you can now see a preview from the PBS special of this concert on YouTube