22nd Buddy Holly Week

Wednesday, September 10, 1997
Buddy Holly
Timeline More from year 1997
Restaurant "Si Senor", Soho, London

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From Eight Arms To Hold You – The Solo Beatles Compendium, Chip Madinger and Mark Easter:

Due to the death of Princess Diana on August 31st, no substantial Buddy Holly Week activities occurred in 1997, though a luncheon party on September 10th at Si Senor in London featured a performance by Scaffold’s Roger McGough, reciting his “A Poem For Buddy”.

From Club Sandwich N°83, Autumn 1997:

Cometh September, cometh Buddy Holly Week. This wonderful annual fixture, sponsored by MPL, celebrated its 22nd event just a few weeks back. The man from Lubbock himself only lived to the age of 22.

In a book published to tie-in with the 1997 happening Paul McCartney acclaims, “Years ago we inaugurated Buddy Holly Week as a doff of the cap to the memory of the great man and his great music. Over the years this has become the platform for many wonderful and wacky ways of marking that memory. We’ve had competitions for singalikes and lookalikes, we’ve had a paint a Buddy painting and contests to write a song in his style. And now we’ve done poetry inspired by Buddy. Good holly, it’s Holly.

So it was – A Poem For Buddy was the title of Buddy Holly Week 1997. Back in the spring, MPL sent out notices to colleges and literary societies inviting budding poets to contribute a piece, maximum 40 lines, celebrating the musician’s life or work. An advertisement was also placed in the music magazine Beat Goes On, and DJ Chris Tarrant whipped up further interest by mentioning the competition in his Capital Radio show. The result was some 500 poems cascading into MPL’s office.

The task of reading all 500 fell to a hardy trio of lyricist Sir Tim Rice, Chris Meade of The Poetry Society, and poet Roger McGough, a member of the Scaffold once upon a long ago. The panel of three had twin duties to discharge – picking the best 50 poems from the 500, and then further whittling these down to a best three. As it happened, the best three turned out to be a best four, with two poets sharing third place. All four were brought to London at MPL’s expense to attend a party on 10 September, held in a Mexican restaurant in the heart of Soho. As mein host, Paul climbed the stage to make a moving speech of welcome, recalling the day, back in February 1959, when the news of Buddy Holly’s death reached a windswept playground at the Liverpool Institute school and touched the hearts of those who revered his music.

The four winners were then called to the stage, to receive individually-engraved plaques and pocket substantial cheques guaranteed to bring a smile to even the most dour bank manager. They also read out their pieces of poetry. Grace Hughes, in joint third place, delighted the audience with her Radio-CHHL, cleverly written in the style of a weather forecast for the fateful day of 3 February 1959. Anne Rouse, also third, read Expected Him In A Limousine, painting a fine picture of Buddy’s Texan roots. Second place Mike Turner delivered his Last Bus To Lubbock about a Texas diner waitress named Peggy Sue. Finally, the winner, a Welsh-American with a Liverpudlian-like surname, Amy Wack, stepped forward to take her prizes and read out The Crickets, subtly balancing the image of seeing Sonny, Jerry and Joe B, the members of that esteemed band, in concert recent times, with the memory of Holly performing with them on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

All four poets performed without apparent nerves and their fine work was warmly received and appreciated by all. In addition to their prizes, each can also lay claim to being published, because the adjudged best 50 poems have been collated in a new book issued the same day, A Poem For Buddy, edited by The Poetry Society, with an introduction by Roger McGough and a foreword from Paul McCartney. “I’ve often thought that ‘Buddy’ was a good moniker for Charles Hardin Holley,” Paul writes. “Buddy, it conjures up images of a pal, of a friend. Which is apt, because his music has always been a friend to me. His songs can buck you up when you’re feeling low, or even better your mood when you’re feeling great. So congratulations to all those poets who were sufficiently inspired by the man to have their work selected here for this anthology, and my thanks to all of the many others who made the effort to send in their stanzas. It makes a great read.”

The prizewinners were followed on stage by Roger McGough who had agreed to read a selection of his own wonderful work. Accompanied by the guitarist Andy Roberts, Roger delighted the assembled throng with 16 superb pieces, brimming with wit (as in For Want Of A Better Title and Posh), delightful wordplay (In Case Of Fire Break Glass), 1990s reality (The Five Car Family) and sadness (The Railings, Forty Love and The Trouble With Snowmen). They’re a goodly talented bunch, those Liverpudlians. The event was rounded off by a ten-piece mariachi band cramming themselves onto the small stage and running through a selection of Buddy Holly songs in Spanish and English, ‘Listen To Me, ‘True Love Ways’, ‘Heartbeat’ and more.

And so Buddy Holly Week 1997 concluded, having proven, once again, a fitting tribute to an inspirational figure. The world needs inspirational figures, and as Paul McCartney pointed out in his welcoming address, in the light of more recent tragic events, it’s a good thing to reach out for music and poetry to remember our heroes and heroines.

A Poem For Buddy can be ordered in bookstores (quote ISBN 1 900152 35 5) or is available post-free to UK purchasers (cost £6.95, cheques payable to ‘Stride’) from Stride Publications, 11 Sylvan Road, Exeter, Devon EX4 6EW.

From Club Sandwich N°83, Autumn 1997

Last updated on February 10, 2024

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