Jam Ensures Holly's Memory Won't Fade Away

Posted: September 08, 1990

NEW YORK — "We don't know the words," Paul McCartney said with a grin as he took the stage this week at the Buddy Holly party at the Lone Star Roadhouse. Out in the audience, you thought, "He doesn't have to. He owns them."

Then sure enough, Paul and his pals - Dave Edmunds, Joe Ely, Ricky Van Shelton, Paul Hipp, Garry Tallent, Joe B. Mauldin, Jerry Allison, Steve Forbert and more - spent the next 25 minutes turning Holly's "Oh Boy" and ''Rave On" and Little Richard's "Lucille" upside down and inside out. The words weren't exactly forgotten. It was more like they were transposed, reversed, repeated and generally relocated.

And no, it didn't matter. The melodies endured, everybody knows the songs, and McCartney looked as happy on stage Tuesday as he sounds on his Russian album, which is mighty happy indeed.

He bopped around, dropped his jacket and hey, who else sings both Buddy Holly and Little Richard? A splendid time was guaranteed for all.

Yes, McCartney owns the Holly catalogue. And yes, this annual party was moved to the Lone Star from London for the first time in its 14 years largely to promote the Broadway musical "Buddy," which opens Nov. 4. So yeah, OK, maybe Paul can write Tuesday night's party off as a business expense. Even the Mexican vegetarian buffet. But he was also singing this stuff before he owned it, and when the show's cast played their best number - a slightly more urgent countrified version of "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" - Paul looked a lot more like fan than investor.

As for the rest of the party, Van Shelton's version of "True Love Ways" was a high point, and so were Tommy Allsup's clean guitar breaks on tunes like ''Not Fade Away."

Allsup, remember, lost the coin flip to Ritchie Valens for the last seat on the plane that crashed on Feb. 3, 1959, killing Ritchie, Holly and The Big Bopper.

Garry Tallent even got to sing (a duet of "Love's Made a Fool of You"). Not bad.

At one point during the all-hands-on-deck finale, Paul said, "I wish Buddy was here" and someone in the crowd called back, "He is." Paul nodded. ''I'll buy that."

Paul also played the droll MC, and after "Rave On," he intoned, "Here's another well-known Buddy Holly tune: 'Lucille.' " At the end of "Oh Boy," after every verse had been recycled in every combination, Paul remarked, ''This song has no beginning and no ending. We could go on all night."

One of the historic footnotes was the rare appearance of surviving original Crickets Mauldin and Allison and Holly's widow, Maria Elena Santiago. The Crickets feel she has downplayed their role in Holly's life and music, notably in the movie "The Buddy Holly Story," and Allison did not speak when he passed her Tuesday. Mauldin offered a handshake.

McCartney, let us guess, is a sort of mediator.

As for the larger musical questions, fans have always debated what Holly's music would have become had he lived, and hearing his tunes with a Broadway gloss is interesting from that perspective. What was the most fun, though, was Paul and Joe and Ricky.

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