My Top Five Overdubbed Buddy Holly Tracks

Following the death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash in 1959, his music continued to live on through tributes, compilations and special releases. An example of his legacy being continued is the recent album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The trend for repurposing Holly’s music began almost immediately after his passing, with Jack Hansen overdubbing demos for ‘The Buddy Holly Story Vol 1 and 2′ compilation albums. I have always felt that Hansen’s attempts did not live up to Buddy‘s name, especially with the rather annoying backing singers. They also featured quite a few technical mistakes, with instrumental sections going out of time with Buddy’s demo; They corrected issues in the 2011 release ‘That Makes It Sounds So Much Better’. Despite the corrections, I have chosen not to include these recordings in my list.

For most of the 1960s, producer Norman Petty brought in The Fireballs to overdub a large amount of Holly demos, rejected recordings and unreleased material; releasing four albums between 1963 and 1969. The results varied from unexpected pleasure to downright awfulness. Petty often capitalised on a method of using Buddy’s mono recording in the centre, while The Fireballs played in the wider stereo field.

The subject of overdubbing Holly’s recordings is controversial among fans, with many mixed opinions. I believe that they are a blessing, giving the opportunity to enjoy more polished Buddy Holly recordings than he could give. In the years since the posthumous albums, they have released most of the recordings in their original state; the best of both worlds.

5) Holly Hop / Honky Tonk (Giant and Showcase)

I could not decide between the two instrumentals featured in two of Holly’s posthumous releases; they both work surprisingly well. Many of Petty’s overdubs suffer from the original vocals being a little muffled and hard to hear, but that is not a problem here.

‘Honky Tonk’ is a slow Blues jam, while ‘Holly Hop’ is a fast-paced instrumental romp; both give the opportunity to enjoy Holly’s guitar style.

4) Down The Line (Holly In The Hills)

Recorded by Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery, (As Buddy & Bob) this track has become a Rock and Roll standard. The overdubbed version is a rocking affair that does what it can with a low-quality recording.

They sourced mostĀ of the album from Buddy’s short period as a Country music artist, and the additions are mostly passable. ‘Down The Line’ is one of the few tracks that benefits from the overdub treatment, alongside ‘Wishing’.

3) Bo Diddly (Reminiscing)

Buddy recorded a demo of this Bo Diddley classic at Petty’s studio in 1956. The overdubbed version keeps the structure of the original recording, adding extra oomph and guitar fills to the proceedings.

They cake the track in reverb, much like the rest of the album, but this appears to be a positive decision. They released this version as a single in the UK, peaking number four in 1963, spending twelve weeks on the chart.

2) Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Reminiscing)

Chuck Berry’s ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ was a huge hit for the singer-songwriter, when Buddy recorded a demo of the track in 1956. Much like the previous track, the version included on this album has had a few things added and covered in reverb. While the original recording is more pleasing on the ear, it is the overdubbed version that most will have heard first.

How so? released the overdubbed version as a single in the UK, peaking at number three in 1963.

1) Slippin’ And Slidin’ (Giant)

On an album full of garbled production that feels like a noise war between The Crickets and The Fireballs, this song is a shining light in a very dark place. Taken from the Apartment Tapes, this fast take on a Rock-and-roll classic is given a Folk Rock shine; elevating it to an acceptable standard. After a shaky start, The Fireballs supplement Holly with their unique sound.

Petty also overdubbed the slow version of ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’ for the ‘Reminiscing’ album, but its overuse of reverb is a real turn off. The fast version kicks and feels like it gives a plausible possibility as to what Buddy would have done with the track had he recorded it properly.

Are you a fan of Petty’s Buddy Holly overdubs? What is YOUR top Five?

Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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