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Life / Entertainment / Theatre / Buddy
Guide to the London stage musical "Buddy"
  Main characters
  Story outline
  Background notes
  Further information


This page is a brief guide to the stage musical Buddy. It is currently being staged in London's West End at the Duchess Theatre.
This show closed on 7 February 2009.

Duchess Theatre

Buddy poster

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The Duchess Theatre is at Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 4HS (nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square; map)

Performances start times are as follows (the theatre opens 45 minutes earlier):


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The following are the main characters in the musical:

Buddy Holly: the young American singer who had many hit records at the end of the 1950's. He was only 22 when he died.
The Crickets: Buddy's original backing band
Maria Elena
: a Puerto Rican lady who met Buddy while working as a receptionist for a music publisher in New York, and married him soon after. She was pregnant when Buddy died, and later suffered a miscarriage.

Buddy plays to Maria Elena


The Big Bopper: Jiles Perry Richardson, known as "J.P." to his friends, was a Texan disc jockey who also performed rock'n'roll using the name "the Big Bopper". His most popular record was called "Chantilly Lace".
Ritchie Valens: an American rock'n'roll singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is most famous for his version of the song "La Bamba". He was only aged 17 when he died.

Left to right: The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens


The Big Bopper sings "Chantilly Lace"

Rocking at the Surf Ballroom

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The musical is based on the true life story of Buddy Holly.
The first half follows Buddy's short but very successful musical career, and his relationship with Maria Elena.
The second half is based on the performances of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.
After the concert all three men, together with the pilot, died in a plane accident.

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Cover versions have been made of many of the songs in this musical. Most people will recognise some of them even if they weren't alive in the 1950's and haven't heard the originals. In the UK some of the popular cover versions have been:
- Oh Boy was a number 1 hit in 1975 for the pop group Mud
- A version of Heartbeat was a hit for Showaddywaddy in September 1975. The song is also used for the name and opening music for a long-running Sunday night drama series (set in a Yorkshire village in the 1950's).
- Los Lobos performed a version of La Bamba for a film about the life of Ritchie Valens, and this went on to become a big hit in the UK in July 1987.

Buddy : The Buddy Holly Story (CD)
Artist: Original London Cast
Label: Relativity
Date: 1995
The Singles Plus (CD)
Artist: Buddy Holly
Label: Br
Date: January 2002

The Best of Big Bopper (CD)
Artist: Big Bopper
Label: Spectrum
Date: August 1999
Ritchie Valens (CD)
Artist: Ritchie Valens
Label: Wounded Bird
Date: November 2006

Buddy Holly - The Music Of Buddy Holly And The Crickets (DVD)
Studio: Universal Island
Date: June 2005
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (DVD)
Studio: 2 Entertain Video
Date: April 2006

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Peggy Sue was the girlfriend of the drummer (Jerry Allison) in Buddy Holly's backing group The Crickets (the song was originally going to be called Cindy Lou, the name of the daughter of Buddy's sister). Buddy wrote a follow-up Peggy Sue Got Married and recorded a demo version in December 1958. After Buddy's death this tape was discovered in his flat and it was released as a single.

Chantilly lace is a finely decorated type of lace which has been produced for several centuries in the French town of Chantilly (near Paris). The song Chantilly Lace was a hit for the Big Bopper in 1958. The song are the words of a man who is explaining on the telephone about the type of girl he likes best:

Chantilly Lace
Chantilly Lace and a pretty face
and a ponytail hanging down
A wiggle in her walk, and a giggle in her talk
Make the world go round
Ain't nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl
To make me act so funny, make me spend my money
Make me feel real loose, like a long-necked goose
Like a--oh baby, that's a-what I like!

La Bamba is a traditional Mexican song which Richie Valens made famous. It was one of the first Spanish songs to become popular among the English-speaking population of the United States. The words and their meaning is shown below:

La Bamba
Para bailar la bamba [to dance the Bamba]
Para bailar la bamba [to dance the Bamba]
Se necesita una poca de gracia [a little humour is needed]
Una poca de gracia para mi para ti [a little humour for me and for you]
Y arriba y arriba [faster and faster]
Y arriba y arriba [faster and faster]
Por ti seré, por ti seré, por ti seré [I'll be for you]
Yo no soy marinero, yo no soy marinero [I'm not a sailor]
Soy capitán, soy capitán, soy capitán [I'm the captain]
Bamba, bamba ...

The song American Pie by Don McLean (released in 1971) starts with the singer's memories of "the day the music died", referring to the day in February 1959 when he heard the news about the death of Buddy Holly together with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.
Click on the link to hear the song and to read an explanation of its lyrics.

American Pie
A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while.
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn’t take one more step.
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

The Day the Music Died
Author: Larry Lehmer
Publisher: Omnibus Press
Date: April 2004
La Bamba (DVD)
Studio: Uca Catalogue
Date: February 2006

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Below are extracts from some of of Buddy Holly's songs from the musical, to help you to sing along to yourself ...

That'll be the Day
Well, that'll be the day, when you say goodbye
Yes, that'll be the day, when you make me cry
You say you're gonna leave, you know it's a lie
'Cause that'll be the day when I die

Every Day
Every day - it's a-getting closer, going faster than a roller-coaster
Love like yours will surely come my way (a hey - a hey hey)
Every day - it's a-getting faster, everyone says "go ahead and ask her"
Love like yours will surely come my way (a hey, a hey hey)
Every day seems a little longer, every way - love's a little stronger
Come what may - do you ever long for true love from me?

Oh Boy
All of my love - all of my kissing
You don't know what you've been a-missing
Oh boy - when you're with me - oh boy
The world can see that you were meant for me
All of my life I've been a-waiting
Tonight there'll be no hesitating
Oh boy - when you're with me - oh boy
The world can see that you were meant for me
Stars appear and shadows fall
And you can hear my heart call
And a little bit of loving makes everything right
I'm gonna see my baby tonight

Heartbeat - why do you miss when my baby kisses me?
Heartbeat - why do you skip when my baby's lips meet mine?

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The story is simple and easy to follow. American accents are used. Even if you don't understand the short sections of speech, there are songs throughout the performance so you can enjoy the music and dancing.
Age: This is a "feel-good" show which is suitable for all ages. Children under 5 are not admitted, but older children will probably enjoy it. If you are over 60 you may remember when the original songs were released, but if you are younger you may know many of the songs because of the many cover versions which have been made.
Music: The actors are musicians and perform songs live on stage. You will enjoy this show if you like 50's rock 'n' roll music or simply enjoy energetic live pop performances.

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For a documentary about the "day the music died" (early on the morning of 3 February 1959), see:
Part 1 ; Part 2 ; Part 3 ; Part 4

Official website for the musical:

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British theatre: Life/Entertainment/Theatre
West End Live: Ideas/Album/West-End-Live

If you like Buddy you may also enjoy:
Jersey Boys (based on the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons): Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Jersey-Boys
Chicago: Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Chicago
Mamma Mia: Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Mamma-Mia

Home page: Home

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