Buddy Holly was a vastly influential rock guitarist, but his songs are so beautifully simple that Buddy Holly ukulele songs are very do-able and soun fantastic.

The Budy Holly ukulele sound derives from a fast double-strum that almost automatically makes you sound like the master himself once you get it down.

Music author and historian, Gary McKechnie joins us to talk about what makes Buddy Holly so important. Danno teaches the famous double-strum solo from the song Peggy Sue.

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Hi, Ben!



There we go. Hi, everybody, welcome to Ukulele Practice Time with Danno, practice time with Danno. Here's the ukulele. Here's the Danno. Practice time is wherever you may find it. The whole point of ukulele practice time is for me to share the joy, the love, the happiness, the excitement of the ukulele. Here I am practicing doing something anyway, so why not send it out to the Internet so you can be part of the experience?

I am delighted to see so many folks have tuned in already. And I want to remind you and request of you to please share the link to today's very special episode. It's like an ABC after school special. This is a very special episode of Ukulele Practice Time because my good pal, music historian and rock and roll enthusiast Gary McKechnie is here.

Peggy Sue

And I'm going to bring him on in just a minute to talk about today's topic, which is Buddy Holly. Let's see, Peggy Sue.

So we're going to talk a little bit about the sound that double strum, that's going to be our technical aspect today. But in just a minute, I'm going to bring Gary on to talk about Buddy Holly in general, why a song like that is important to rock and roll enthusiasts and. That was my long way of saying, please share the link out with your ukulele friends so they can come over and take advantage of all the great wealth of knowledge that's coming up.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Super Guest Week on… Play it on…. I can't remember the name of my own program on ukulele practice time. It's super guest week and Monday, one of our long standing favorite guests is Gary McKechnie.

He's going to come on,if I can ask Ben, my producer, to push the right button and bring on special guest star Gary McKechnie. Are you there?

Not that button, Max. Yes, I'm here. Gary, look at you and your exotic background. Are you at a Japanese restaurant?

I'm in Tokyo now.

Oh, congratulations. I'm glad you got out before lockdown Kept you in your secret undisclosed headquarters at twelve thirty nine Mt. Vernon, Orlando, Florida.

Yes, yes. You know, my my hideout.

But you've been here a couple of times on ukulele practice time. In fact, I think I can call you friend of the show, Gary McKechnie.

Oh, thank you.

And we've talked about Beatles. We've talked about Elvis. And today the topic is Buddy Holly. So I like to tie in the discussion with the song that we're working on. And the song that we're working on is Peggy Sue. So would you do us the honor from your first tell us how you happened to be an expert on the topic of Buddy Holly and then we can talk about his importance in his song.

Sure, I could go on for hours and hours about Buddy, so just stop me and I'll try to I'll try to make it brief. Come on, buddy.

I think you're great pals. I know that you never know if you've met almost every celebrity in the world that you never met Buddy Holly.

Did you know I never met Buddy Holly. But, unlike when I talk about the Beatles or Roy Orbison or Elvis Buddy seems like he would have been your pal. He he just had that that sort of vibe that he put out that in. Plus, he was so young when he passed away, he was only twenty two that he seemed like a contemporary. I'm sorry.

Yeah. So when he was making all his hit records, if he died at 22, he must have started when he was about 15. Is that right?

Well he I'll back up just a little bit. He was born in nineteen thirty six in Lubbock, Texas, and the way I got into him was in nineteen seventy eight. The Buddy Holly story came out with Gary Busey, and even though it was sort of a fantasy portrayal of Buddy's life, it was enough to get me hooked and start digging into Buddy. And he started playing music when he was like four or five years old. You can hear like old wire recordings of him when he's 12 or 13 singing mean woman blues or something like that. And he was always music and was singing mean woman blues. Yeah. And it's really cool when you listen to this stuff, you know, that he's putting out his brother bought him a guitar, he learned the guitar, he learned mandolin, he learned harmonica. He he could play any instrument you gave to him. His brother laid tile in buddy would work for him, helping him lay tile. And after work they would stop like at a bar. And if there was a band playing in this honky tonk in West Texas, Buddy would ask if he could play in these these guys would think, you know, use this kid.

But then Buddy would, if they'd hand buddy a guitar and he would just show everybody what he could do. So he was he was performing on the at the hidey ho drive in. They would do like a Sunday afternoon or Sunday afternoon show with the Heidi Ho drive in and Lubbock. And that would go out on the Radio Khedive and he and his pal Bob Montgomery buddy and Bob Weston and Bob, they were getting known around Lubbock for their country and Western songs. But then everything started to change around 1955 because this guy came through town and Buddy and Bob went to see him and they thought it was it was young Elvis Presley. Twenty year old Elvis Presley playing and Buddy went to see him. And then the second time he came through town, Buddy got to open the show for Elvis and that's.

What year are we talking about, Gary?

This is nineteen fifty five. So. Right.

So I'm going to and we have people here from all generations and I'm curious if anybody was around back in 1955, like my father in law, for example, remembers seeing Roy Orbison in Texas.

But it's weird to think that these songs and I'll ask you to list off some of Buddy Holly's big hits, but become just so commonplace and so much of our our vocabulary, it's hard to imagine that there was a time before rock music even existed. So when Elvis was coming through, they didn't call it rock music yet, did they?

Well, it was I mean, that was that was the slang term for sex, rock and roll. And so it was being adapted and applied by Alan Freed to this new type of music, which basically was taking rhythm and blues and country music and hillbilly music and fuzing it all together. Be a Chuck Berry and Elvis into this thing called rock and roll.

That's amazing. Can you can you what I requested and give us a quick list of some of Buddy Holly's biggest songs?

Carolyn just chimed in and says she was old enough. She remembers when he died. But I also I know we have other people here who may not even know any of the songs or may not know that they know any of this.

Songs of Buddy Holly

Well, that'll be the day.

You know, an interesting story. And I could like I said, I could go on for hours. He and his pal Jerry Allison were watching a John Wayne movie called The Searchers. And, you know, at some point they started thinking about, hey, maybe we could write our own songs. And John Wayne has a line in The Searchers. Every time somebody says something to him that doesn't jibe with what he wants to do, he goes, that'll be the day. And so when Buddy asked Jerry, you said, hey, should we write our own songs? And Jerry goes, That'll be the day. And Buddy goes, Hey, there we go.

Not Fade Away

and not not fade away. I'm going to tell you how it's going to be that Bo Diddley beat. I mean, you're going to get the Rolling Stones. That's their first. Their first major hit was not fade away every day.

Every day it's getting closer. And when you listen to that, Jerry Allison, the drummer, was instrumental, not no pun intended in that, because you hear that slapping sound that we're trying to think, what percussion are we going to use? He just used he rolled up his legs and started slapping his knees. That's that's that's a percussion on every day. Wishing wishing that every day, wishing that I could steal your heart away. Peggy Sue, what we're going to be talking about.

Yeah. Peggy Sue. Pretty pretty. Pretty pretty. Yeah. So in he died so young. Were those songs hits in his day or was he.

Well posthumously it's you know it's, it's really that's why I love Buddy Holly so much. Is his first hit came out in May of nineteen fifty seven and that was, that'll be the day. And his, his producer Norman Petty was trying to steal a lot of the credit for it, but putting his name on it as if he wrote it. I wrote with Buddy Holly and Gary Allison and that comes out and Buddy is not getting any royalties from it. In the summer of nineteen fifty seven, he's still working with his brother Larry, laying tile. I mean, he's got this major hit in the US and in Great Britain. It goes to Great Britain.

But you know and he's on the Ed Sullivan Show but he's laying tile to make ends meet. But then I mean within from May nineteen fifty seven to February 2nd. Nineteen fifty nine. That's just eighteen, nineteen months. His whole body of work was within that time.

And it's incredible the number of songs that he wrote, the number of now standards with the standards. Yeah. In the nineteen seventies they put out this thing Buddy Holly lives and it's, it's an album of twenty songs and everybody knows every one of those songs and he did that in eighteen months. It's, it's impossible. It's hard to believe the Beatle when you think of all the people that have go on to write his songs. Absolutely. It's the Beatles. You mentioned it. Buddy Holly, Paul McCartney, Buddy Holly's catalog today when the Beatles came to America. And they go in the Ed Sullivan Theater for rehearsal, John Lennon looks around and he asked one of the stagehands and he goes, Is this where Buddy Holly played? That's how important Buddy Holly was. And Buddy Holly, unlike Elvis, it was he he came up with the initial lineup, the now standard lineup of two guitars, a bass and drums that the Beatles in every four four group for man group would later use. He wrote his own music. He he came up with the melodies, of course, for his music. He started producing his own records toward the end. He also was the first guy to add strings to rock and roll song like not not words of love, but just, you know, why my true love was true love ways. So you're hearing these things. And again, he's he's twenty two years old and he's doing it all of this. And after he passed away, the Hollies, I mean, you've heard the group, The Hollies named after Buddy Holly. And then, you know, I never put that together. Yeah. He never really faded away because in the seventies, Linda Ronstadt comes out with. With her versions of Buddy Holly songs to.

Linda Ronstadt's versions

Remember those Linda Ronstadt version, she did.

Oh boy, didn't she?

I think it was that'll be the day, but yeah, that'll be the day. God, I can't I'm sorry I'm blanking right now. But he also Don McLean also did Buddy Holly songs and the Buddy Holly story came out. And then the Buddy Holly story, the the the stage show musical came out. So John Fogerty of CCR, Creedence Clearwater Revival, he he loved Buddy Holly. He was keeping him alive. So it's like every generation, the way they discover the Beatles, they discovered Buddy Holly and you just can't stand up to Gary.

Do you know anything about this question for Maureen? Was Peggy Sue not liked by the church?

Oh, you know, that came out. There's a good scene in the Buddy Holly story with Gary Busey, where he does rock around with Holly being at a roller skating rink. And when he goes to church the next day, the pastor is telling everybody how evil rock and roll is. I don't think Peggy Sue thought that sort of flack. But I will tell you, before it was called Peggy Sue, and I wish I could give you a definitive answer on that. Before it was called Peggy Sue, it was called Cindy Lou. And Buddy had written Cindy Lou, Cindy Lou, pretty, pretty, pretty sweet Cindy Lou. But then Jerry Allicin, his drummer who helped write Not Fade Away. He was dating and later married Peggy Sue Guerin. And somebody said, hey, I'll just call it Peggy Sue.

And you think he's said floating around, who gets credit for that song?

Yeah. Yeah. And Peggy Sue, she just about a year ago.

That's great. I thought you were going to tell us that Dr. Seuss had already claimed Cindy Lou.

Gary meets Waylon Jennings from Buddy's band

Oh, that's right. That's right. But I got to give it a quick thing, Danno. And I know you've only got a few minutes left in the show because I've taken up so much time when I was a skipper on the jungle cruise and I might have told you the story earlier. Waylon Jennings was on my my jungle cruise boat, Jessi Colter and his band, and this is 1983.

So I take him around the jungle cruise and they had a great time fortunately. And when I got back to the dock, I asked Waylon Jennings if he could stay for a moment. And he was a big, gruff guy. I mean he had a black vest on, a black shirt, greasy black beard, greasy hair and a black hat. And I said and he everybody else got off the boat and he's standing next to me. And I said, Mr. Jennings, I said, I know you were friend, a buddy buddies. And you played bass for him at his last concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. And then Buddy had taught Waylon Jennings was a deejay and he taught Waylon Jennings how to play guitar and bass. And he played bass at the last concert. And I said, what was he like in in an instant? His demeanor just changed from sort of like a gruff looking guy to a just a very melancholic guy. And he put his head down and he goes he goes, Buddy was a sweet boy. He was a very, very sweet young man. And, you know, what else can you say about this? This beautiful kid passed away. And for Waylon Jennings, twenty five years later to talk to some kid work in the jungle cruise, he still knows Buddy Holly.

And it was it was really nice. And we shook hands and I said, I wish I wish I had known Buddy. And, you know, it was just a nice moment, man.

One hand-shake away

I have to tell the the folks tuning in that my pal Gary is the best celebrity meeter I've ever known in my life. So we can have Gary on to talk about just about any well-known person in the world of the last few years. And Gary would have either a direct connection or an indirect connection like that one.

So you are one step away from Buddy Holly, but, yeah, one handshake away from Buddy Holly. So when you shake my hand, your two handshakes away.

So if somebody wants to shake your hands, do you have a self promoting website or anything where folks can find you?

Oh, I do. It's just my name. If you see how to spell my name, just put a dot com at the end of it. And I do a talk about the Beatles and they're called Beatles Incorporated and how they learn business lessons that you can apply today. And I talk about some other stuff. I talk about motorcycle touring and shifting gears in your life, in your career. But it's Danno has pointed out music is just a passion. And when you love music and you love history and you can combine both, it's a boy. You never get tired.

So, Gary, stay for a second. I want to let everybody know that. First of all, Gary, be sure to check the comments. Lots of good information and nice compliments for you and. Oh, thank you. Everybody know that in the next five or six minutes, we'll actually go over Peggy Sue and talk about that fancy double strumming, which creates either the hardest or the easiest rock guitar solo of all time, which we can recreate on the ukulele and imparting.

Buddy Holly's famous glasses

Gary. Yes, you and I are wearing what seemed to be almost identical glasses. And I wonder if either of us aren't inspired by Buddy Holly's famous specs.

You know, I would love to say that, but I found this style in a donut shop when I was like 14 years old. Somebody had left him behind. And so I knocked the old lenses out and put these in. So I've been wearing for 44 years now.

That's hilarious. And I've been emulating you all this time, so. All right, everybody say thanks to Gary in the comments. Gary, thank you very much. It's always a treat to get to talk music and talk history with you. I'm going to push a button that will make you disappear from the screen. I don't know what it does behind the scenes. So if I disconnect you entirely, my apologies. Thank you, Gary. Up there he goes. I'm afraid I cut him off.

Let's learn Peggy Sue!

All right, do you guys want to stick around for five more minutes and talk Buddy Holly? It's always a little disconcerting when we do these Ben, when we do the standard weekday things.

I feel like I've got the the rhythm of the event down pat. And when we have a guest on I'm using these weird ear things and I feel much more like I'm talking into the void. But that said, I can take a breath now and check the comments real quick. Thanks, everybody, for being so nice to Gary. He's a great guy. And if you're ever out on the high seas, he didn't mention this, but he does a lot of lectures on cruise ships where he talks about the early days of rock and roll. So you may run into him there. All right. Let's take a quick look at Peggy Sue. The great thing is.

There we go, the great thing is it's a real typical three chord song, with one exception, it seems like the really great songwriters often did not complicate their songs. They would just add a little extra something in.

So if you look at let me just strum it through without doing anything fancy and then we'll talk about how to fancy it up. And for those of you watching, the clock will be done by half past noon.

If you knew I'm not going to do anything fancy.

If you knew Peggy Sue, then you'd know why I feel blue about Peggy Peggy Sue.

But those are two chords so far. And and the third one. Well, I love you, Gal A7. And I love you, Peggy Sue. So you probably recognize those as the three chords of rock, right?

We use those all the time and other keys. It's like the CFA family so that a d e family is another version of that. And I don't know what Chord Buddy Holly did it in originally. For some reason I put it over into the key of a at some point when I was doing this arrangement. All right. So if you're comfortable with those chords, then you can play the whole song. But this is what I was saying. Listen to what Buddy Holly does in the chorus down here where the black line denotes the chorus. He goes, Peggy Sue, I'll play it double speed.

The way he does that, at least he's doing pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty big.

He's singing that part right there. That's what knocks it out of the ballpark into the stratosphere. It goes from it. Real typical A which is the key of the song to the F.

Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, Peggy Sue, and then we're back to our familiar words to say, Oh, so that's my theory.

The great songwriters keep it simple and then add in a little extra something.

And in this case, it's that bizarre jump from the AI to the F to the six that might be like a. Five foot two eyes of blue trike.

Yeah, kind of is we'll say that talk for another day. What I want to focus on right now is the strum, so I'm going to ask my bit Ben my producer to go full close up on my hands.

Let's see if we can get that. I don't know why that's so tiny.

Here's the basic from Peggy Sue. One and two and three and four and one and two and three and four and but Buddy Holly does as he doubles that up.

Now, if you've never tried this, it's going to knock you for a loop. But I promise you, if you can do one and two and three and four and you can do the doubled up version one and a two and a three and a four again. So here's the standard. We'll call it the Uke Clubs, drum one and.

And forehand, and here's the Buddy Holly version.

One and two and three and four in the morning, so the underlying count stays the same one and two and three and four and one and two and three and four in check.

The comments, everybody, smart people are chiming in with music knowledge.

But do you hear that, that the underlying beat stays the same?

The slow version, one and two and three and four and the doubled up version one and two.

And so what we're doing essentially is we are how to say we're doing the double the number of string hits per beat, one and two and one and two and one.

And so that's the best way I can explain it in a short, short time like this, if you're hitting it once down and once up, now you're going to have to go twice as fast. To get down, up, down, up within the same space of time, so when you tap your foot one, two, three, four, you can hit it on every downbeat beat and every upbeat or twice within every downbeat and every upbeat.

One and two and three and four and one. And a two and a three. And a foreigner. Danno de de de de de de de de la di da da da da.

You with me?

All right, so this is what I meant when I said it's either the world's easiest rock solo or the world's hardest rock solo. So it's going to be hard of this. Double cepstrum is new to you. But if you go and listen to the Buddy Holly recording, what you'll hear is that when they reach that break where our modern ear is accustomed to hearing, you know, a loud screaming rock and roll guitar solo, all Buddy Holly does is crank up the volume a little bit. Maybe it's his friend, like Gary was telling us, cranking up the volume a little bit and playing the chords of the song Double Strum right through.

So it's the chorus of the song.

Let me go back so you can see it. Thank you, Ben.

I'm going to play this through for you and then we're going to wrap things up for today, so I'll announce in advance of wrapping up that super guest week continues tomorrow. Did you know is National Ukulele Day? I didn't know that until I was contacted by showbiz historian and all around know it. All right. A guy called Trav S.D., a real author of many books, notified me that it was National Ukulele Day and invited himself to come talk about the ukulele in pop culture. So I think that's going to be very interesting tomorrow at the same time. So here's how Buddy Holly plays the solo.

So you got to love it, you can — I think it's a great song to play on the ukulele and a great style of song to play on the ukulele. And for those of you that stuck around, I actually have a link to that sheet music for you. I forgot to share it ear lier.

And as always, I appreciate everybody showing up so we can talk, play and think ukuleles.

So take care, everybody. Stay healthy, wealthy and wise. And we'll be back again tomorrow.

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Danno Sullivan
Danno Sullivan

Founder of ”Play It Daily” Ukulele, co-founder of the Ukulele Union of Boston, and spreader of good cheer.