Music in the 50's, Today We Remember

Fueling Superstition: The Buddy Holly Curse


First you must note, that I am NOT, by any means, in any way, shape or form seriously saying that there is actually a “Buddy Holly Curse”. In fact, I’m pretty sure there isn’t. Although, none of us can prove or disprove such things 100%…

Buddy Holly, 1958

The Buddy Holly Curse

The belief in curses has been around forever. Every time something happens to a celebrity or a sports figure or a group of people hiking, somebody claims it’s because of a curse. It’s pretty silly, really.

“The Buddy Holly Curse” is yet another one of those curse beliefs that has been going around since before the internet. Buddy Holly died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959 at only 22 years old. Subsequently, his wife suffered a miscarriage, which broke my heart the first time I read it. So at some point, Buddy Holly was said to have been cursed. Of course, nobody bothers to say who or what actually put the curse on him.

It has also been said that singer Ronnie Smith had a mental breakdown after the same tour and later committed suicide. A few years after Buddy Holly’s untimely demise, the new lead singer of The Crickets, David Box, also died in a plane crash. And after The Winter Dance Party celebration in 1990, singer Del Shannon shot himself to death. These events further fueled the curse belief.

A copy of “That’ll Be The Day” 45 Record from 1957

Change The Station, Please

When I was a kid, I was very superstitious. I guess that somewhere along the line, I heard that there were a lot of supposed “curses” throughout history. The music industry seemed to be especially fraught with curses. As a superstitious child, I often looked at curses as a reason to why bad things happened.

I was about 8 or 9, and I’d already discovered my love for 1950’s music. From Dion and The Belmonts’ teenaged doo-wop to Chuck Berry’s rockin’ guitar riffs, I was already convinced that music from the 1950’s was the best music that ever was.

I recognized the genius of Buddy Holly and The Crickets the very first time I heard their Number One hit, “That’ll Be The Day”. But I stopped just short of actually liking the song. In fact, I subconsciously forced myself to dislike it. I never picked it on the jukebox at those 50’s-themed diners. And when it came on the local Oldies station, I felt uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of turning it off.

But why?

Because I thought that Buddy Holly cursed himself by singing “That’ll be the day… when I die.

There, I had what I thought was the answer to the why and how. He cursed himself, quite by accident of course, by singing that song, reaping the benefits, then paying the price with his life.

Obviously, I don’t still believe this, but according to my juvenile reasoning, it made perfect sense. You make a hit song with the lyrics “That’ll be the day when I die” in it, you simply can’t expect to live out your natural life. In fact, tragedy is probably right around the corner. But poor glasses-wearing, suit-clad Buddy Holly. He didn’t know that. And that just makes it all the more tragic. So just how could I sit there, comfortably, and listen to that song? I ask you!

Let the record show that I thought this theory up all by myself (I’ve never heard anyone say that the song was part of the curse), and I was quite disturbed by it. At that point, I didn’t even know that people were saying there was a Buddy Holly Curse. I just knew that a famous singer died young and tragically, after singing about the day he would die.

No matter what you believe, there’s no denying that the tragedy that befell those three stars on that fateful morning in Clear Lake is just haunting. It’s haunting when you read about it, it’s haunting when you see it as a movie, and it’s haunting when you watch a documentary.

Poster for Winter Dance Party ’59 at The Surf

There’s No Curse. I Don’t Think…

Fast forward to the fall of 2016, when I became a true Buddy Holly fan. For the next 6 years, I listened to “That’ll Be The Day” constantly, enjoying each note in all its brilliant glory. In a sense, I was making up for lost time. I found myself laughing at the Younger Me, who actually believed Buddy Holly cursed himself, simply by singing the greatest song of all time. How silly.

I scoffed at sites like Ranker and shows like Mysteries At The Museum for doing segments on “The Buddy Holly Curse”. By then, it seemed it was just another fabricated superstitious belief for the sake of entertainment. And I pretty much concluded, that without any scientific evidence, curses just don’t don’t exist. Case closed.

Or is it?

A couple of caveats, before I write off the curse theory entirely: A few years ago, my friend and DJ Alan Seltzer played an interview with Buddy Holly on the air. The interview was from the Summer of 1958 and Alan Freed was asking Buddy how he’d been since he’d seen him last. Buddy was saying that he and The Crickets were just enjoying the summer, doing things they didn’t have time to do while on tour… Then Alan Freed began talking about their recent tour which included extensive air travel. Buddy glibly recalled one day when the helicopter they were supposed to take crashed on its way to them, so they had to take a plane instead. And Alan Freed glibly recalled turbulence on one flight that was so bad, they might’ve gone through the roof if they hadn’t been wearing seatbelts.

As I listened to that interview, I kind of just sat there, shaking my head, not quite believing what I was hearing. Later, I asked a couple of friends if they found it as creepy and ironic as I did. And yes, they had. So, after hearing that interview, I’m not sure I began re-believing in The Buddy Holly Curse, but it definitely sounds like death was chasing him.

Eddie Cochran was grief stricken over Buddy Holly’s death. He himself died in a car crash only 14 months later.

Eddie Cochran

I wasn’t going to bring up Eddie Cochran, another phenomenal talent gone too soon. But if you want to talk curses, this is a string of events that can’t be ignored.

I was aware of Eddie Cochran’s untimely demise at the age of 21. But what I found out more recently is how deeply the deaths of his friends Buddy, Ritchie and J.P. effected him. He recorded a song called “Three Stars” in which he directly addresses each of his fallen friends. You can hear him break down when he talks about Buddy Holly.

Eddie was supposed to go on that very same tour that took Buddy’s life. But instead, he went to California to do a project for Dick Clark. 14 months later, he too was dead after a car accident in Bath, England on April 17, 1960.

The fact that Eddie just missed the Winter Dance Party Tour, recorded the song “Three Stars” in memoriam and was (understandably) terribly shaken and grief stricken by his friends’ deaths, is enough to get me to wonder: Just what in the hell is going on out there? I mean, it’s a lot to just write off as coincidence.

Just days before the accident that took his life, Eddie asked his fiancee Sharon Sheeley to go down to the local record store and buy out all of Buddy Holly’s albums so he could listen to them. Sharon asked him if he was sure he was okay with that and he replied, “Yes. It doesn’t bother me anymore.”

“Gotta Travel On” was written by Paul Clayton

Gotta Travel On

Buddy’s choice of song for what ended up being his last performance had my my hair standing on end. “Gotta Travel On” is a folk song originating from the 1920’s. It was recorded in 1958 by Pete Seeger, and Billy Grammer’s version reached #4 on the charts in 1959.

Although Buddy himself never recorded the song, it was apparently one of his favorites, so he sang it in the set on his last tour- and on the last night of his life.

“I laid around and I played around this old town too long,

Summer’s almost gone, winter’s coming on,

I laid around and I played around this old town too long,

And I feel like I gotta travel on…”

Um, what?!

All right, maybe it just sounds creepy because of what happened to him, but you have to admit, the lyrics don’t help.

And Then There’s This:

Stop the presses. I take back what I said about curses being silly. While I can never say I truly believe in curses, I can also say I will always be superstitious. Especially with some of the shit I’ve found out.

On June 26, 2020, I was made aware of this quote:

“Death is very often referred to as a good career move” – Buddy Holly

Personally, I had trouble even believing he said that. But if he did, we’re back to square one when I was 8 years old. Because if that doesn’t sound like he cursed himself, then by God, I don’t know what does.


I refuse to end this post on a negative note. When all has been said and pondered over, I think of it this way: Buddy Holly wasn’t cursed. He was blessed. He was blessed with phenomenal talent, a loving family, many loyal friends and devoted, adoring fans. He was blessed with immense success and he was blessed with finding love. His life was short, but charmed. He accomplished more than most people ever will, and he will never be forgotten. Not only was he blessed, he, himself was a blessing to all of us he left behind.

Buddy Holly on his final tour, Winter, 1959

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More Links about The Day The Music Died by Retro Dee:

Facts and Trivia: The Day The Music Died

February Makes Me Shiver

Injustice on February 3rd: One Fan’s Story

The Day The Music Died: 60th Anniversary Edition

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