I did a phone interview in December 2008 with Buddy Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly (pictured with Gary Busey during Buddy’s 2011 Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony), for a story about the release of two multi-disc albums, The Memorial Collection and Down the Line: Rarities, and the upcoming 50th anniversary of his death.
Maria and Buddy had been married for less than six months when his plane went down on Feb. 3, 1959. She has spent the rest of her life overseeing his legacy, inevitably crossing swords with her in-laws and city officials in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas. She remarried, briefly, and had three children.
The Puerto Rican native, who moved to the USA 60 years and now lives in Texas, speaks in a thick accent. So don’t blame me for some of the dubious grammatical flourishes and lengthy sentences. I knew going in that it would be about 20 minutes, but I had so many questions to ask. The publicist came on several times, telling me to finish up, but I ignored her. The interview is over when I say so, thank you!
Here are some excerpts:
ARE THERE SOME SONGS THAT ARE ALMOST TOO PAINFUL TO LISTEN TO? OR HAS TIME HEALED MOST OF THE WOUNDS?
They say time heals, but with me of course I’ve been for 50 years out there for Buddy and doing interviews and when they have to give him special awards I was there. During the play in London (Buddy), I was coming in every year and doing promotion. But this touched me very deep.
HOW MUCH MORE UNRELEASED MATERIAL IS THERE?
No, this is it. This is from the beginning to the end.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR TIME IS DEVOTED TO THE BUDDY HOLLY BUSINESS?
Seven days a week! And all times. I have an office in the house and I’ve been all over — Germany, Australia, London, many many times, every year and other places. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 50 years. So this is what I do. Thanks to the fans that have also kept him alive aside from his music. I’ve been blessed with that. After losing him, the fans have there for him and for me, so I have to do that. I say every day thank you to the fans that have been so loyal and remember him all these years. They pass the legacy of Buddy’s music to their children. A new generation is still aware of Buddy’s music, and they like it.
HOW MUCH MONEY DOES THE ESTATE BRING IN EVERY YEAR?
That’s a question that I cannot answer, to be honest with you. It varies.
AND YOU WERE MARRIED ONE OTHER TIME, RIGHT?
Correct, but unfortunately I divorced.
HOW LONG WERE YOU MARRIED FOR?
I have no recollection at this point! I was married for a few years and then we separated and he (Joe Diaz) went his way, I went my way, and then finally I got a divorce because we were not together.
HOW MANY CHILDREN DID YOU HAVE TOGETHER?
I had three.
IT MUST HAVE BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOUR HUSBAND AND CHILDREN THAT YOUR LIFE REVOLVED AROUND YOUR PREVIOUS EXISTENCE WITH BUDDY?
No, my children love Buddy. They know that that was the love of my life even though I was remarried. It was a situation, also, in which he knew. This is another subject that has to go in details how this came about, but I don’t think we have the time to do all this. My children, they still love Buddy and they know that that was the love of my life. To be honest with you, he knew how I felt and he encouraged me to continue doing this for Buddy. There’s difficulties and there’s a lot of things that happen between two people, and he realized that my heart was not there. It was still with Buddy.
YOUR THREE CHILDREN WILL BE THE BENEFICIARIES OF YOUR ESTATE?
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES INVOLVED IN ADMINISTERING THE BUDDY HOLLY ESTATE?
Oh, my dear! I’ve been called many names because I required people to do the right thing. I trademarked that name already. People want to use it without compensation and I feel that was Buddy’s bread and butter and the legacy left to us. I’m the guardian of that legacy. As you probably know too, you get into a situation with people that are not very nice. And they want to use that name and image to make money for themselves. I never question people when they call me for charities, and I do want to know and I request that they show me this is for that. There are many people out there — they’re not fans — they’re just people who want to benefit from something that does not belong to them.
I UNDERSTAND YOU FORCED THE CITY OF LUBBOCK TO REMOVE BUDDY’S NAME FROM ITS WALK OF FAME AND ANNUAL MUSIC FESTIVAL?
We are on good terms right now. We are gonna just go ahead and start again. Again and again! This is something that you have to deal not only with them but also with a lot of people that want to use. They call me names and they call me this and that, but I overlook that and I continue dealing with the right thing. If I am able to help somebody who really wants to do something that is really the right thing that they’re doing for benefits or for a charity, I’m there. But for their own charity, their pockets, I will not. And I will fight them, for sure.
IS FEBRUARY THE 3RD REALLY THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED?
That’s a coin phrase that Don McLean felt that way when he heard the news and he right then and there (sic) composed that song. The fans, they don’t like it because they know that Buddy’s music has not died. On the contrary, they continue. A lot of his fellow musicians, they’re in contact with me most of them, and they always say, “We do Buddy music because he’s so adaptable to do, and we’re still doing it our way, but it’s still a Buddy Holly song.” His songs, two are not alike, they know that. And also the other thing is that they feel that his music makes you happy, not unhappy.
NOTE: Unrelated to the above interview, my gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here on Kindle, or here as paperback. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com.
Copyright © 2009, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING