Today (February 3rd) is the anniversary of the plane crash that killed musicians J.P “The Big Bopper” Richardson, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly, as well as their pilot, Roger Peterson. Their deaths came as a massive shock, and the tragedy later became known as “The Day the Music Died,” referencing a lyric from Don McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie.” However, the crash didn’t just take the lives of three talented musicians. It took the lives of a father who worked as a DJ and had just started writing his own songs, a beloved 17-year-old son who helped to usher in the Chicano rock movement, and a young rock and roll pioneer who not only paved the way for other rock musicians, but helped to pave the way for other stars who needed glasses.
In honor of Buddy Holly’s amazing legacy, today I will be sharing some fun facts about Buddy Holly and his trademark glasses, as well as how he helped to make glasses popular for other musicians and celebrities.
Quick recap- who is Buddy Holly?
Buddy Holly (real name Charles Hardin Holley) was an American musician and singer-songwriter from Lubbock, Texas, who was born on September 7th, 1936. He received the nickname “Buddy” from his family, and the name stuck. All of his family members except for one brother had an interest in music, and Buddy’s first group called “Buddy and Bob” played a mix of country, blues, and R&B genres. This all changed after they saw Elvis Presley perform in Lubbock, and Buddy switched to playing rock and roll. He received a record deal in 1956 from Decca Records, though they had spelled his last name wrong. From that point on, he was referred to as Buddy Holly.
Buddy Holly went on to release one album as the lead singer of the band “The Crickets” and two solo albums called “Buddy Holly” and “That’ll Be The Day.” All of these albums attained great success, and involved extensive touring- their UK tour featured 50 shows in 25 days. He also was part of the Winter Dance Party tour, which would be his final tour as he died in a plane crash trying to get to the next show.
Buddy Holly song recommendations
In case you haven’t heard any Buddy Holly songs before, here are my top Buddy Holly song recommendations, all of which can be found on streaming music services:
- That’ll Be The Day
- Rave On
- Words of Love
- It’s So Easy
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What was Buddy Holly’s vision?
Buddy Holly had very poor eyesight. He was reported to have 20/800 eyesight before correction, which would qualify him as legally blind. He hated wearing his glasses in his early days of performing, as he believed that they took away from his image as a rock and roll star. He felt that wearing glasses would impact him in a negative way, as he didn’t think people would take him seriously and there were no other musicians out there who were wearing glasses at the time.
Did Buddy Holly wear contacts?
Buddy’s original idea was to wear contact lenses, which could only be worn for an hour at a time. They caused major discomfort, and didn’t even correct his vision much. He considered wearing glasses after he realized he couldn’t see his audience.
The turning point though was after Buddy dropped his guitar pick at a show. He realized he couldn’t even see the stage floor, and had to crawl around on stage looking for it. Even then, he still couldn’t find the guitar pick, and he decided that it was time to go find a cool pair of glasses that he could wear.
Buddy Holly Glasses
After the incident, Buddy Holly went to his optometrist asking for him to find a discreet pair of glasses he could wear on stage, but the optometrist thought that Buddy should wear something much more bold and fit for a performer, so they went looking for a unique frame that was bold and distinctive, yet paired well with Buddy’s aesthetic and heavy glasses prescription. The perfect frames were found on a trip in Mexico City, and two frames were brought back to see what Buddy would think of them.
After he realized he could see the people around him, he took the glasses and never performed without them again, though it is unknown if these glasses fully corrected his eyesight. People saw him as an incredibly talented musician who wrote and arranged all of his own music instead of as a person who had low or poor vision or who had trouble finding small objects on stage.
Buddy Holly became one of the first celebrities to be seen in public while wearing glasses, and was also the first rock musician to wear them while performing onstage. Everyone wanted to have “Buddy Holly glasses,” though his optometrist never ordered those exact frames for anyone else, as he felt it was Buddy’s signature branding.
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The Buddy Holly Glasses Effect
Even though he died so long ago, Buddy Holly’s legacy continues even to this day, beyond his musical influence. Instead of being criticized for wearing them, his glasses became known as his signature look. They also became one of the most recognizable items in rock and roll history, and were presumed to be lost forever after the plane crash, though were found in 1980. Performers such as John Lennon and Elton John wore their glasses on stage because of him, and many others followed. Glasses became a fun fashion statement, not something to make fun of.
As a classic rock fan with low vision, I related deeply to Buddy Holly’s story about being in denial about needing something that would help someone see, as well as wondering what people would think of me if I started wearing heavier glasses (or in my case, using a blindness cane or other assistive technology). However, instead of hiding his vision loss or pretending that he had 20/20 vision, Buddy Holly’s glasses became an extension of himself and allowed him to do the things he loved more easily, and probably even helped him with doing tasks independently that he had never been able to do before.
If there is anyone else out there who is experiencing anxiety about needing glasses or another mobility aid, I highly recommend reading about Buddy Holly’s glasses, and the awesome musician behind the glasses as well. After all, Buddy Holly’s glasses never stopped him from being a musician or achieving his goals- they are the reason he was able to become an internationally known musician whose influence has continued even to this day.
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