Today is the 49th anniversary of the day the music died, when a plane crashed in a snow storm killing Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, and the pilot. As band member Sonny Curtis later put it, "That'll be the day" came way too soon." Waylon Jennings wasn't on the plane because he "lost" a coin toss, reminding us all that we never really know when news is good or bad. I was a high school junior in 1959, and, of course, I liked Buddy, but those were the days of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and so forth. Elvis was king.
Many years later my appreciation of Buddy grew when I was in London and went to the play, Buddy, which had been running for years. I wouldn't have thought a play in London could capture the austerity of a small radio station in Lubbock, Texas, but it did. But, more than that, when the play ended, the reserved British were dancing in the aisles of the theater. Buddy ballooned in my estimation that night.
Some time later I was going to Lubbock to make a speech, and I asked someone to drive me by the cemetery that contained Buddy's grave. I had my picture made there, leaving guitar picks as was the custom, and later included that picture in my President's Letter in the Dallas Fed's annual report, alongside a picture of me at Adam Smith's grave in Edinburgh, Scotland. I thought those two heroes gave me balance.
Gary Bussey played Buddy wonderfully in a pretty good movie. My favorite scene was when Buddy and the Crickets went to New York to sign a recording contract. The host offered champagne for the occasion when Buddy said, "Make mine a coke," and one of the others said, "Make mine a Dr. Pepper." They were Texans all right. While I liked the movie a lot, it apparently contained some flaws that mattered to some people, like mountains in the background of Lubbock. To set the record straight, Paul McCartney produced and hosted The Real Buddy Holly Story, a documentary that included great footage and much reminiscing by Buddy's former band members, music producers and others.
You probably already know that the Beatles took their name from the Crickets, but there were more connections than that. Buddy had the first solid guitar they had seen with a gear shift on the side. He was one of the first performers to write and perform his songs; up until then you had your song writers and your singers. This inspired the Beatles to write songs as well as perform, according to McCartney. Buddy was also one of the first performers to wear his glasses while performing — black horn rims, no less. His example is reported to have given John Lennon the courage to do the same. There was more, but you get the point.
(Don't worry, I'll get to Greenspan later.)
National Public Radio thought it odd that a Reserve Bank President would put his picture at Buddy Holly's grave in his annual report letter. So, near the end of an interview about the economy, the host brought up the subject and asked if it was true that I had made a pilgrimage to Buddy Holly's grave. I told him it was true. He then asked me what Buddy Holly had contributed to the economy. I told him that Buddy's Rave On would have made a great anthem for the booming New Economy. That was a taping rather than a live interview. It ran two days later when, using the marvelous ability NPR has with sound and sound effects, as the interview drew to a close, Rave On, started up softly then reached full crescendo as the program ended. That was, without doubt, my finest hour. I had brought Buddy Holly back to radio.
As you might imagine, Alan Greenspan showed some curiosity about the Buddy Holly thing and, in particular, the annual report picture at Buddy's and Adam Smith's grave. So, taking the offensive, I proposed that the Chairman and I co-author an essay about Buddy Holly and Adam Smith, the father of Rock and Roll and the father of Economics. The Chairman graciously declined my offer on the grounds that his taste in music was more like Adam Smith's taste than mine, i.e. J.S. Bach. I wrote back and told him I'd heard of old J.S., but I thought Buddy had more hits.