The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Interview with Bill Pinkney of the Drifters

Friday, September 7: 9 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Bill Pinkney of the Drifters reflects on his time with Buddy Holly

September 7, 2012 would have been Buddy Holly's 76th birthday. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Holly recorded a catalog of songs – "Rave On," "Peggy Sue," "That'll Be the Day," "Oh Boy!" and "Maybe Baby," among them – that are rock and roll standards. He was born Charles Hardin Holley (later amended to "Holly") on September 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, and learned to play guitar, piano and fiddle at an early age. Holly was an innovator who wrote his own material and was among the first to exploit such advanced studio techniques as double-tracking at Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico. He pioneered and popularized the now-standard rock-band lineup of two guitars, bass and drums. In February 1955, Holly opened a show at the Lubbock Youth Center for Elvis Presley, an event that hastened his conversion from country and western to rock and roll. ("We owe it all to Elvis,” he later said). Between August 1957 and August 1958, Holly and the Crickets charted seven Top 40 singles. While the wealth of material he recorded in that short time made a major and lasting impact on popular music, it was Holly's personality on and off the stage that endeared him to many, including the Drifters' Bill Pinkney.

In 2005, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's education department began recording interviews with artists and seminal figures in the history of rock and roll as part of an oral histories project. These interviews were used to help develop the Museum's distance learning program called On The Road, which continues to bring rock and roll education to classrooms across the globe. Bill Pinkney was among the artists interviewed for the project. A founding member of the Drifters, Pinkney was part of rock and roll's emergence in the 50s, appearing on such seminal Atlantic recordings as "Money Honey," "Honey Love" and "White Christmas." "Buddy Holly was a good friend of mine," said Pinkney, who passed away in 2007. In those nascent days of rock and roll, Pinkney spent many hours sharing a tour bus with Holly. In this candid interview clip, Pinkney recalls how Holly's kind spirit helped soften the harsh realities of segregation in a very personal way, how music was a powerful tool to foster integration and why Holly was "number one" in his book. "Buddy Holly, when I couldn't get a sandwich for myself, Buddy said: 'Just sit tight Bill. I'll get you a sandwich,'" recalled Pinkney. Watch the clip below to hear Pinkney tell the whole story.

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