Just before 5 p.m. on Saturday, guests began lining up at the steps of the Buddy Holly Hall, antsy for the 7:30 p.m. concert to belatedly celebrate what would have been the 85th birthday of late music legend Buddy Holly, whose milestone birthday was last Sept. 7.
It was no surprise to a see a full crowd to celebrate Holly at the performing arts center in his hometown, but it was also one of the final two U.S. shows of rock ‘n’ roll star Peter Frampton before he retires from music for good. The 72-year-old suffers from a degenerative muscle disease that has long-impacted his legs, and recently, moved up to his hands.
Upon arrival, a sign at the front informed guests that three of the participating acts could no longer perform: Duane Eddy, who had an injury and was hospitalized after surgery, and James Burton and Sonny West, who both fell ill with COVID-19.
“I’m just glad Peter Frampton wasn’t on that list,” a fan said as he waited for the doors to the auditorium to open.
As hundreds packed the lobby full prior to the start of the event, many got to pose with Holly's beloved 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle and take photos with rock 'n' roll trailblazers Steve Cropper and Albert Lee -- who joined the Crickets after Holly's death -- before they performed later that evening.
A representative from Heritage Auctions in Dallas offered fans an opportunity to bid on the show poster from the Feb. 3, 1959, Winter Dance Party -- the concert that Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were headed to when they died in a plane crash. He later told the audience, while on stage, that it's expected to auction between $500,000 and $1 million, surpassing the current world record for most-expensive poster -- a $250,000 Beatles poster.
"Let's kick the Fab Four's butts and set a world record," he said.
Beginning promptly at 7:30 p.m., the three-hour performance was delightful, it appeared, for most.
An hour-long interview portion launched the celebration as the crowd heard personal stories from Frampton – who the entire auditorium welcomed with a standing ovation -- Cropper, Lee, and Mario Valens, the younger brother of Ritchie, who was a forefather of the Chicano rock movement before he died at 17.
All shared an admiration for Holly from a young age, noting his influence over their own musical careers. Frampton reiterated an anecdote that he had previously shared with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in an interview ahead of Saturday's performance.
“The very first song I ever sang in public was Buddy Holly,” the 72-year-old told the A-J on July 27. He was 9 and performed “Peggy Sue” at his local Cub Scouts chapter, hoping to earn a merit badge.
In a touching performance Saturday evening, Frampton played the 1957 chart-topper during his three-song set -- which also included "Lines on my Face" and "Do You Feel Like We Do?" -- using an acoustic guitar that Holly’s widow Maria Elena Holly loaned to him.
Frampton said she had several made to resemble Holly's, with each receiving a name of one of Holly's songs. Inevitably, he chose “Peggy Sue,” although he said it was originally offered to Paul McCartney.
“He’s a Beatle, so I said, ‘Well, Beatles should get whatever they want,’” Frampton said. “A few months later I got a call … they told me they couldn’t get ahold of Paul McCartney … of course I didn’t tell them I had his number.”
Earlier in the show, Lee -- who was part of the Crickets after Holly's death -- joined the house band on guitar for most of the acts. They performed a special tribute to Holly, which was an ideation of what they believed he would have written as a follow-up to "Peggy Sue." In addition to his own four-song set, he also performed a song of Eddy's and played on guitar when Valens' sang his brother's iconic hit "La Bamba" with an impressive harmonica performance.
Among other most memorable moments throughout the night: Cropper whistling to "Sittin' on the Dock (of the Bay)," which he cowrote with Motown legend Otis Redding and Gary Nicholson's performance of "Pay Bo Diddley," which was his own rendition of Holly's "Bo Diddley."
By the end of the evening, the crowd erupted in a lengthy applause and standing ovation.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Peter Frampton among legends who honored Buddy Holly at birthday bash