An eclectic collection of artists that included Stevie Nicks, members of Cobra Starship, Chris Isaak and Paul Anka saluted Buddy Holly Wednesday on what would have been his 75th birthday in, appropriately enough, Hollywood.
Producer, manager and singer Peter Asher organized the Holly tribute at the Music Box Theater in conjunction with the release Tuesday of “Listen to Me” on Verve Forecast, a Holly tribute album to benefit organizations funded by Songmasters — as the Grammy Foundation, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Artists House Music. The concert was filmed for airing in December on PBS.
A reception on the Music Box’s rooftop prior to the show had plenty of old-timers pointing out the legends on hand – Holly’s widow Maria Elena, Phil Everly, legendary session guitarists Albert Lee and James Burton and Pricilla Presley — while discussing days or yore at labels such as Warner Bros. and Capitol. While the music of the Everly Brothers and Holly piped through the rooftop’s P.A., Phil Everly offered a few thoughts to Billboard on their days together in the 1950s.
“When we were interviewed in the ’50s, the first, second or third question would be ‘what are you going to do when it’s over?’ The people writing the articles hated the music,” Everly said. “Whether it was Buddy or Eddie Cochran or Don and myself, none of us thought it would last because that was what we kept getting told. Inside the perimeter, what we were thinking was — and this is what we loved — the cool thing was to do something original. That was important to all of us. i’m only here because Buddy was my friend. My great respect for his music has never diminished.”
Everly and Holly were greeted by an assortment of well-wishers, among them “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe and Songmasters’ Jennifer Cohen and Regan McCarthy. Enjoying the Texas-style barbecue were Pete Wentz, the Grammy Foundation’s Scott Goldman, Grammy Museum’s Lynn Sheridan, Vanguard Records A&R executive Bill Bentley, attorney Jay Cooper, PBS’ Joseph Campbell, MFH’s Bob Merlis and the first recipient of the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Holly Prize, Laura Warshauer.
Booze and food kept coming out as the reception ran extra long due to the production starting an hour late. The show, written and produced by documentary filmmaker David Leaf with Asher and Isaak as co-hosts, featured six of the artists on the album plus video greetings from Holly fans Brian Wilson, Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Jackson Browne, Imelda May and others. During the concert, Asher played historian, Isaak was comedic relief. “Buddy Holly was a factotum,” he said before ad libbing, “yes, I said factotum. This is PBS.”
Guitarist Waddy Wachtel led a seven piece band — with an occasional string trio — that featured bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, musicians featured on countless Asher-produced albums in the ’70s. Artists spoke often about the eloquence of Holly’s lyrics and the fact that his ordinary appearance and demeanor was an inspiration to so many; “we felt like we lost a friend when he passed,” Graham Nash offered. “”In two, two and a half minutes, he taught you everything you need to know about life and love,” was Lyle Lovett’s comment.
Here is the set list:
Stevie Nicks – “Not Fade Away”
Lyle Lovett – “Well … All Right”
Lyle Lovett w/ James Burton – “I’m Looking for Someone to Love”
Shawn Colvin – “Learning the Game”
Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy – “Everyday,” “Oh Boy”
Chris Isaak – “Crying, Waiting, Hoping”
Michelle Branch w/Graham Nash – “Words of Love”
Graham Nash – “Raining in My Heart”
Graham Nash & Peter Asher – “Take Your Time”
Boz Scaggs – “Maybe Baby”
Boz Scaggs, Graham Nash & Peter Asher – “Rave On”
Raul Malo – “Listen to Me”
Michelle Branch & Chris Isaak – “Heartbeat”
Gabe Saporta & Victoria Asher of Cobra Starship – “Peggy Sue”
Gabe Saporta & Patrick Stump – “Think It Over”
Paul Anka – “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”
Stevie Nicks – “It’s So Easy”
Raul Malo – “True Love Ways”
Malo, Colvin, Lovett, Everly, Branch and ensemble – “That’ll Be The Day”