Buddy Holly Story, The (1978)

Buddy Holly Story, The (1978)

“I have a sound in my head — and so far it’s not like anything we’ve done here.”

Rock ‘n roll musician Buddy Holly (Gary Busey) gains fame with his fellow bandmates (Charles Martin Smith and Don Stroud) and marries his sweetheart (Maria Richwine), but has a tragically short time to make his mark on the world.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Biopics
  • Gary Busey Films
  • Musicians
  • Rock ‘n Roll
  • Untimely Death

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Gary Busey gives an exciting, natural performance as the legendary and influential country-tinged rock singer from Lubbock, Texas, who had scores of hits by the time he died in a plane crash (with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper) in 1959 (he was 21).” He describes Busey’s Holly as “basically a polite, nice guy” who “won’t be pushed around, has a mordant wit, stubbornness about his music, and unbridled drive.”

Indeed, the film nicely highlights Holly’s musical talents above all else; we understand why and how he managed to be such an influence on so many big-name stars despite his tragically early death. Peary points out that “Busey’s portrayal has an added dimension in that he actually sings Holly’s famous songs, rather than lip-synching Holly recordings.”

With that said, the story infamously “plays so much with facts that former Cricket Sonny Curtis felt inclined to write the song ‘The Real Buddy Holly Story’“, and should be closely fact-checked for those interested in the specific details of Holly’s career. Peary further argues that the “script’s conflicts are too minor: Buddy and [the] Crickets… mildly arguing about touring”:

… “the group having to prove themselves to an all-black audience at the Apollo (thought to be black, they were the first white singers to perform there)”:

… “Holly courting a young Puerto Rican woman (Maria Richwine)”:

… and “Holly trying to persuade the studio boss (Conrad Janis) to let him produce the group’s songs.”

However, he notes that the “film keeps interest, thanks to Busey” and is “consistently entertaining.” I would agree. While I immediately watched a documentary and read more about Holly’s life to correct my understanding, this is a nice introduction to his persona and music, and Busey’s engaged performance remains noteworthy.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Gary Busey as Buddy Holly

Must See?
Yes, for Busey’s performance.


  • Noteworthy Performance(s)


One thought on “Buddy Holly Story, The (1978)

  1. First viewing (3/17/22).

    Not must-see, though it’s notable (and held in high regard) for Busey’s performance (so, if you have an interest in Busey, you might like what he brings to the role). As a biopic, it moves along reasonably well – and apparently there is a certain amount of truth within – but its considerable inaccuracies, of course, have been brought out – esp. (acc. to Wikipedia) re: “the portrayal of Holly’s family, the treatment of the Crickets and the omission of Norman Petty, Holly’s producer.” As well… “Peggy Sue Gerrow Allison Rackham, for whom the song ‘Peggy Sue’ was written, called the film ‘typical Hollywood, gobbledygook fantasy’.”

    In terms of the music itself, the film satisfies, esp. with the actors doing their own singing and playing.

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