Jefferson Market Courthouse in New York

A Love Affair with a Landmark in Manhattan: An Arresting Drama in Greenwich Village. [Opinions expressed are the views of OLD JEFF unless attributed to other - - potentially less-reliable - - sources, i.e., newcomers who have not been around since 1832 on Sixth Avenue.]

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Days before the Music Died

Before leaving from Greenwich Village for the ill-fated "Winter Dance Party" (a quickie Midwest concert tour) on 20 January 1959, Buddy Holly had been busy creating new songs and soaking up the rhythms around Jefferson Market. Let's back up a bit.

• • In 1958, on a visit to Peer-Southern Music [810 Seventh Avenue] and Murray Deutch, the executive V.P. who had persuaded Coral-Brunswick Records to take a chance on a new group called Buddy Holly and the Crickets, the young Texans were greeted by a comely 25-year-old Puerto Rican receptionist. Maria Elena Santiago was the niece of Provi Garcia, who ran Peer's Latin division.
• • It was love at first sight for 21-year-old Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holly [born 7 September 1936 in Lubbock, Texas].
• • Buddy and Maria Elena wed on 15 August 1958 in Texas.
• • Financial disputes with manager Norman Petty led Buddy Holly to break away and do things differently.
• • Provi Garcia, Maria Elena's aunt and guardian, lived at 33 Fifth Avenue [near 10th Street]. After the girl's parents died in Puerto Rico, she came to the Village and stayed with her only living relative.
• • By September 1958 the newlyweds had settled in - - a block from Provi and down the street from Jefferson Market.
Home was 4-H, a corner apartment at the Brevoort, 11 Fifth Avenue [at 9th Street].
The 2-bedroom unit with a wrap-around terrace rented for $1,000/ mo.
• • Married life with María Elena and Greenwich Village set Buddy Holly aflame. According to his widow, he loved listening to jazz at the Village Vanguard and poetry at local coffeehouses. He wanted to write movie scores. He wanted to record with Ray Charles and adored gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. He wanted to produce young artists and had a protégé, Lou Giordano. Ritchie Valens had asked Buddy to record him. Dining at Cafe Madrid with María Elena and his friend Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, he was so taken with the flamenco guitar that between sets he asked the guitarist to teach him how to play. He told Provi García he wanted to translate and cover Spanish classics.

• • All these songs were recorded at The Brevoort in his living room on an Ampex reel-to-reel recorder purchased from Norman Petty, the same machine used to tape most of his early hits.
• • 3 December 1958 • THAT'S WHAT THEY SAY (1:12) • Composer: Buddy Holly
• • 3 December 1958 • WHAT TO DO (1:54) • Composer: Buddy Holly • • Buddy Holly – vocal and acoustic guitar
• • 5 December 1958 • PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED (1:47) • Composer: Buddy Holly • • Buddy Holly – vocal and acoustic guitar
• • 8 December 1958 • THAT MAKES IT TOUGH (2:14) • Composer: Buddy Holly • • Buddy Holly – vocal and acoustic guitar
• • 14 December 1958 • CRYING, WAITING, HOPING (1:48) • Composer: Buddy Holly • • Buddy Holly – vocal and acoustic guitar
• • 17 December 1958 • LEARNING THE GAME (1:31) • Composer: Buddy Holly • • Buddy Holly – vocal and acoustic guitar
• • Since Norman Petty refused to release money, Holly agreed to play the "Winter Dance Party," a fast-paced rock 'n' roll tour after Christmas. Since his bride was pregnant, he didn't want her to travel.
• • Mid-evening on 2 February 1959, he phoned Maria Elena on Fifth Avenue to say that the promoter's cheap buses had lost their heat and broken down once too often. He and a couple of other guys were going to Moorhead, South Dakota on their own. He never mentioned they would be flying.
• • On 3 February 1959 Buddy Holly, age 22, was killed along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper when their small airplane crashed into an Iowa cornfield shortly after 2:00 AM. A few weeks later, Maria Elena had a miscarriage.
• • Perhaps Jefferson Market Library has these titles:
• • The Day the Music Died: The Last Tour of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens by Larry Lehmer [NY: Schirmer Books, 1997]
• • Rave on: The Biography of Buddy Holly by Philip Norman [1996]
• • Or rent The Buddy Holly Story [1978 film] starring Gary Busey. It's available at TLA, 52 West 8th Street.
• • • • Self-Guided Tour • • • •
• • Buddy Holly's home: Brevoort, 11 Fifth Avenue
• • Provi Garcia's home: 33 Fifth Avenue
• • Village Vanguard [est. 1935]: 178 Seventh Avenue So.
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• • Photos: 11 Fifth Avenue - Buddy's "apartment tape"

Jefferson Market.