This was my true friend, Carl Bunch., R.I.P. , Carl. I miss you so much !
Carl Bunch war ein guter Freund für mich. Ich vermisse Dich, Carl !
Originaltext Carl Bunch in einer der vielen eMails, die er mir bisher schrieb:
This interview is the best I've ever done and tells my story better than
anyone else ever has.
I'm sending it for you to use on my page. That's all for this.
Dieses Interview ist das beste, das ich von mir kenne und es
erzähltmeine Lebensgeschichte besser als alle anderen Quellen.
Ich schicke es Dir zur Verwendung auf meiner Seite.
Bei der Fülle Text muss ich beim Thema Übersetzung kapitulieren.
Die meisten Leser sind der englischen Sprache mächtig; es gibt ja
auch noch kostenlose Übersetzungshilfen . . .
Dennoch ein paar Detail aus seinem Leben:
Als Jugendlicher erkrankte Carl, der zu der Zeit als bevorzugtes Hobby Tanzen hatte, an Knochenkrebs in einem Bein, eine sehr leidvolle und langwierige Krankheit, die er aber nach einem Krankenhausaufenthalt von mehr als 15 Monaten überstand. Knochenstücke aus der Hüfte wurden nach und nach als Ersatz für entfernte Knochenteile im Fuß transplantiert. Seine Tante schenkte ihm mit 15 sein erstes Schlagzeug. Darauf begann er in seines Vaters Garage zu üben, 7 Tage die Woche, bis zu 8 Stunden täglich. Die Garage mußte zum Schutz der Nachbarn innen mit Eierkartons ausgeschlagen werden. Durch dieses zähe Üben und die volle Konzentration auf die Musik überwand Carl mit der Zeit die Gedanken an die heimtückische Krankheit.
Er war Mitglied einer Band, genannt die "Poor Boys", danach sogar zusammen mit Roy Orbison in einer Band. Der Zufall wollte es, daß Carl mit seinen Bandkollegen Aufnahmen in den Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, NM machte, als Buddy Holly gerade anwesend war. Er sah Carl und dessen Performance beeindruckte ihn. Carl wußte zu der Zeit von all dem nichts. Als Buddy Holly für die Winter Dance Party 1959 Musiker suchte, erinnerten er und Tommy Allsup sich an Carl Bunch und er engagierte ihn als einen seiner Crickets. Für Carl war das in etwa so, als ob Paul McCartney einige Jahre nach Gründung der Beatles Ringo Starr gegen einen anderen Schlagzeuger ausgetauscht hätte. Noch etwas zur Richtigstellung in punkto "Crickets". Bei der WINTER DANCE PARTY wurde annonciert, dass Buddy Holly und die Crickets auftraten, daher darf Carl mit Recht in Anspruch nehmen, als ein "Cricket" bezeichnet zu werden. Vielleicht eine Laune des Schicksals, dass Carl kurz vor dem tragischen Flugzeugabsturz in's Krankenhaus kam, da ihm Erfrierungen an den Füßen ein Weitermachen auf der Bühne unmöglich machten. Carl hatte Schnee in die Stiefel bekommen, die Strümpfe waren naß. Er entledigte sich im Bus der Stiefel und der nassen Strümpfe, rieb sich die Füße trocken und zog, da er schrecklich fror, an jedem Fuß drei Socken übereinander an. Dann wieder hinein in die Stiefel. Was er nicht bedacht hatte: Im Stiefel war es nun zu eng, das Blut in den Füßen konnte nicht mehr zirkulieren, das führte letztendlich zu den Erfrierungen.
So war er nicht bei dem Kreis, der um die Plätze in der Todesmaschine mit einer Münze knobelte.
1967 wandte sich Carl, der viele Instrumente neben dem Schlagzeug beherrscht, wie z.B. Piano, Gitarre, Bongo, vom Rock'n'Roll ab und spielte Country-Musik, er war unter anderem Schlagzeuger in der Band von Hank Williams jr. . Carl komponiert zwischendurch, dies bis zu seinem Tod. Er hatte noch eine Menge vor, wie er mir in vielen emails berichtete.
Es kamen Carl beim Gedanken an den frühen Tod von Buddy die Tränen, wie man unschwer auf der DVD über Buddy Holly (Bericht auf dieser Webseite) aus dem Jahr 2005 erkennen kann.
Carl Bunch wurde durch den langen und auch sehr privaten Mailkontakt ein guter Freund für mich, ich bin als Buddy Fan froh, mit einem Überlebenden der letzten Crickets in Kontakt gewesen zu sein. Und dies bis zu seinem Tod.
Danke, mein Freund Carl !
Ruhe in Frieden !
David Bigham and Carl Bunch sign wall at restaurant in Clear Lake.
Courtesy Carl Bunch.
Up Close with Carl Bunch
- Buddy Holly’s Drummer during the Tragic Winter Dance Party Tour -
(Interview conducted by Dick Stewart – Editor and Features Interviewer)
This interview is licensed for publishing on my website by my friend
Dick Stewart. Muchas gracias, Carnal, desde Alemania !
Dieses Interview hat die offizielle Genehmigung zur Veröffentlichung auf meiner Webseite durch meinen Freund Dick Stewart, Herausgeber von LANCE MONTHLY !
Carl Bunch was not the original drummer for Buddy Holly and The Crickets. That distinction goes to J.I. Allison, who was Buddy’s best friend. But Holly did replace J.I. with Bunch and original bassist, Joe B. Mauldin with Waylon Jennings because of a period of disharmony that developed between him, the original members of The Crickets, and legendary music producer, Norman Petty. This historic clash of wills, which came to a head in 1958, has created much speculation as to the circumstances that led up to it and the severity of its aftermath. What is certain, however, is that neither J.I. nor Joe B. were members of The Crickets during Buddy Holly’s final tour—The Winter Dance Party—during which Holly was killed in a plane crash along with the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and pilot, Roger Peterson on February 3, 1959, because flying to the next venue in a snow storm seemed much more appealing than nearly freezing to death in the substandard chartered buses in route to each venue of exceptional distances in the dead of a severe Upper Midwest winter.
Carl Bunch did not drum for Buddy Holly at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on the night of February 2, 1959. He had developed a bad case of frostbite on one of the bus rides and was hospitalized shortly before Holly’s fateful tour stop. But Carl’s recollections of the venues and the camaraderie that developed between the artists as a result of the subnormal transportation that led up to his hospitalization are both candid and riveting. “You can't really understand how bad the circumstances were under which we lived,” says Bunch. “We had broken down bus, after broken down bus, after broken down bus, often without heaters, to be confined in for what seemed like forever between gigs that were way too far apart to begin with.”]
“I begged Elvis for a job the first time I saw him perform in Odessa.”
“Buddy believed that Norman was stealing from him. J.I. and Joe B. didn't.”
“I know it upsets J.I. for me to call myself a Cricket, but as far as Buddy Holly was concerned, I was a Cricket.”
“He [Buddy] was so angry with Norman that he would have loved to prove to the world in a court of law [that] he was a thief.”
“J.I. was reported to have gotten angry with Norman at this point and knocked him down, telling him not to say bad things about Buddy.”
“But when Buddy came out, it was almost like God had walked out on the stage.”
“For years after the tragedy, I really believed in my own mind (though I didn't tell anybody besides Tommy and my family) that Buddy, Ritchie, and J.P. had visited me in the hospital room to tell me everything was going to be okay.”
“One of the greatest untold tragedies in rock and roll history was the emotional pain Buddy and J.I. suffered due to their break-up.”
“Buddy didn't cuss a lot until the subject of Norman or the bus came up.”
“Dion called us Bloody Holly and the Rickets and we called them Moron and the Bellhops.”
Lance Monthly (LM):
Carl, when and where were you born?
Carl Bunch (CB):
I was born at a very early age, November 24th, 1939 in Big Spring, Texas weighing in at 2 lb. 11oz. at seven months instead of nine. The doctor tried desperately to convince my family that I couldn't live because of my size. Mom said you could put me in a shoebox and watch me crawl to the other end.
I spent my first six months in the hospital. They tried to take me home after three, but I turned blue and I had to be returned as defective. To see me now is proof that I've overcome my small beginnings. If I fell down, my friends could roll me home.
Did you grow up in a city neighborhood or in the country?
I grew up in the West Texas boomtown of Odessa. My father and grandfather were very successful building contractors. All there was back then were mesquite bushes, horny toads, diamondback rattlesnakes, and tired jackrabbits.
Peter Bogdanovich made a movie about growing up in Odessa called "The Last Picture Show." As providence would have it, I was the chauffeur who drove him to the world premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
He was so impressed with my West Texas accent that he bought me a ticket at the box office and insisted that I critique the picture for him. I told him after the movie that I thought someone had hidden a camera and caught all our childhood indiscretions on film. I felt like my privacy had been invaded. He was thrilled.
How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Courtesy Carl Bunch.
I have one younger sister, Kathy Allan, who now lives with her husband Brad in Colorado.
Sis and I were a very successful dance team as young children, traveling all over West Texas to perform at all kinds of functions. My first love was dancing. I had no thought of being a musician during those younger years. By the time I was thirteen I had a dance scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California, but all that went by the wayside when they found I had bone tumors in my right thigh.
I broke what was left of the bone there doing a flip for the younger kids in dance class and spent the next year and three months in the hospital in traction with my leg hanging up in the air and sandbags hanging every where, keeping everything lined up right.
After three years of recuperating from surgery that took all the bone from that thigh and replacing it with chips of bone from my right hip, Sis and I tried to start again. I lost too much muscle in the transplant to be much more that a decent chorus line dancer.
I started playing drums to get the coordination back in my feet after all that. I liked it and it replaced my dreams of becoming the next Donald O’Connor. Sis got married and swapped her dreams of stardom for a wonderful family.
There's a brand new movie just coming out called "Saturday Night Lights" about high school football in Odessa. Sis and her husband Brad were responsible for floating the bond issue that built that wonderful new football stadium there. It rivals Texas Stadium where the Cowboys play.
What were the typical home chores that were required of you by your parents?
When I was small, my main chore besides the normal take-out-the-trash-and-clean-your-room was to use a big push broom and try to sweep the sand off the grass that was [in] it every time we had a sandstorm. I never really was able to complete the chore before the next sandstorm would come and cover the grass again. The result was the biggest sandbox in the neighborhood. Good for playing marbles, but a sorry place to try and spin tops.
Joe B. Mauldin, Carl Bunch and Glen D. Hardin.
Courtesy Carl Bunch.
During your youth and aside from yourself, were there other members in your family that had a strong interest in music?
My mother and father both had a great love for show music. I believe that's where I got my desire to be the next Donald O’Connor, watching the musicals they took Sis and me to see. Neither of them, or Sis, for that matter, ever played an instrument. They made me take piano lessons for a while, but I persisted in playing by ear rather than learning to read. Bad mistake on my part. Sure would have helped me later when I started to write music.
We had the sandstorms in Albuquerque, too, Carl, especially during a severe drought some time in the mid - 50s. Often, the clothes that had been hung out on the line developed a strong sandy smell. Dryers were unaffordable for my parents back then, so I had to dry my Levis and my pink and purple shirts (favorite colors in the ‘50s for “Cool Cats”) in the house on the backs of chairs facing the sun. Sound familiar?
Man does your description of the mid fifties stand out in my mind. I had a heliotrope-colored (bright purple) sport coat I wore on stage with the Poor Boys until we had our infamous "Poor Boy" jackets made.
They looked like Levi jackets with the collars turned up in the back Elvis style, except they were red with The Poor Boys and musical notes on the backs. We wore them to school and it was "grease" to the max.
It got to be the biggest honor a girl could get to wear one of our jackets. That meant they were going steady with one of the Poor Boys, but only one girl got to wear a jacket all the way through high school. That was Sara Nell Brewer, Richard Porter’s girl. The rest of the seven of us had a different girl for every month (LOL).
Lord what memories. I wore black slacks with pink stitching down the sides of the legs. Only a pimp would wear stuff like that today. There's a picture of me with Ramona Lock on the first tour I ever went on. I was wearing a black shirt with sparkly silver stitching down the middle of the front. Sure wish I had that shirt today.
What were your favorite things to do during your free time while growing up? I always had a passion for digging mud ponds in my Folks’ backyard and filling them up with crawdads, carp, suckers, soft-shelled turtles, and any other interesting aquatic critters I could catch in the nearby irrigation or drainage ditches.
We had a big low place about two blocks from my house that would turn into a lake when it rained. We called it the Green Spot and that's where we had a million adventures. It was the closest water within a hundred miles of Odessa and the only water we had to play in besides the public swimming pools. It would last as long as two or three weeks after a rain and we'd harvest frog eggs from the tall grass around the edges and raise millions of baby frogs. Mom loved us for that. My grandchildren love to hear the stories of our adventures there. My wife Dorothy is nagging me about writing them down. She says they would make great children’s books. I may do it someday.
Unfortunately, the Green Spot turned out to be the cause of the great polio epidemic in Odessa that crippled or killed almost a third of the children there in the early forties. Mosquitoes! I thank God I didn't get polio (I got diphtheria later instead). Several of my friends did and some died. We were quarantined [in] our houses for over a month. Children couldn't play outside together. We had to stay in our own front yards and just talk briefly. No physical contact was allowed. The Green Spot is now a large park with enough drainage to keep it from ever being a lake again.
Did you ever take drum lessons, Carl?
My aunt Dorothy bought me my first set of drums when I was fifteen, overcoming the surgery on my leg. I was playing in the junior high swing band, but I never really had lessons. My band teacher, Mr. McIntyre, played drums with a combo that worked locally, but the only thing he really ever taught me was to chew gum really weird as a method of keeping the beat. The first fan mail I ever got from our TV show was a letter complaining about it. I ditched the gum after that and kidded Mr. McIntyre about it for months. My father banned me to the garage and was forced by the neighbors to soundproof it with egg crates. I used to practice five to eight hours a day seven days a week to recordings of Gene Krupa and the Dukes of Dixieland. While the other kids were outside playing ball, I was practicing drums. I just loved to play.
Did you listen to a lot of western music on the radio before rock ‘n’ roll made its presence?
I was raised with show music and we were musical snobs in my house. It took serious pleading to get my dad to let us listen to pop music on the Lucky Strike Hit Parade. He had a fit when I went to playing that dirty "bop music" (LOL). It's funny that he hated Elvis until he opened his own record shop and Elvis kept him in business.
I started my love for country music when the late Ray Charles put out an album called “Ray Charles Sings Country.” I've been in love with country every since. I left rock-and-roll music in 1967 to play drums for Hank Williams Jr. What memories that brings back.
Would you say Elvis Presley played a big role in your musical tastes when he came on the scene?
I begged Elvis for a job the first time I saw him perform in Odessa. I worked my way back stage and literally begged him for a job. At that time it was just Elvis, Scotty, and Bill. They were going to keep it a string band so they could play the Grand Old Opry, which wouldn't allow drums back then.
Wasn't a month later he had hired D.J. Fontana. I saw Elvis years later when I was making a movie with Hank Jr. Elvis was closing out a movie on the MGM set next door to us and I got an invitation to the "Party Afterwards" that he always threw for everybody that had anything to do with the movie.
They turned the entire sound stage into a dining hall and while everyone ate, Elvis would go around all the tables and thank everyone individually for their part. When he came to me he said, "I'm sorry, but I don't remember you, though your face is familiar. Could you remind me of your part?" I told him who I was and that Lance Legault had invited me to the dinner. He laughed and said he remembered me begging for a job, but that he'd heard that I had played with Roy Orbison and then later Buddy Holly and figured I'd done all right for myself anyway. I had forgotten completely that I told Roy all about that night when I was playing with him and Roy had told Elvis years later. Elvis is still the king.
Carl, what high school did you attend, and can you recall with as much detail as you can about what was considered “cool” with the teens in reference to fashion and in-phrases?
Everything was copasetic at Odessa High School from ‘57 through ‘58. I left in December of ‘58 to join Buddy Holly as one of the Crickets. The Poor Boys, my first band, just about set the style for clothing at OHS, and for “cool,” as well. We were in direct competition with Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings back in those days for the next band to go national like the Crickets did. That's when I started playing with Roy. His drummer was forever going on National Guard trips or out making a small fortune hustling professional bowlers. If I wasn't playing somewhere with the Poor Boys, I'd be a Teen King for a night, or two, or three.
Gotta say it was "Ace Man" if you rolled the sleeves up on your T-shirt, turned the collars up on your regular shirt, or wore ducktail haircuts. Now if your rolled-up T-shirt sleeve had a pack of "fags" [common ‘50s slang term for cigarettes] in the roll, that made you both “cool” and "bad dad" at the same time, although smoking kept me from being elected Most Popular for the year book in 58. My kid sister was on the annual staff and told me I lost by less than twenty votes; it was because I was always out behind the school smoking with the "fag heads." Boy has that word changed [its] meaning (LOL).
Bobby socks and fold-rolled Levis were the cool regulars, and outrageous colors, specifically “playboy pink” and black together were a sign of good taste in fashion. It was poodle skirts and petticoats for the girls. “See You Later Alligator” wasn't just the lyrics to a song, but was shortened to "later gater" for the "coolest." Happy Days was very close for the way it really was for my group. The Poor Boys took over Roy Orbison’s TV show when the Teen Kings fired him and he moved to Nashville. Do you believe his second band fired him? His first band was the Wink Westerners because he was from Wink rather than Odessa.
We had two weekly live-radio shows as well as a half hour live TV program every Saturday. We recorded first on Hamilton Records then had a release on Coral. All this really made us able to live the rock and roll dream. I'd compare our life style to that of the characters in "Peggy Sue Got Married," which was another good piece on our times.
Before the birth of West Texas Rockabilly and the popularity of Elvis Presley, didn’t Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Platters, and the rest of the original high-profile African-American artists of rock ‘n’ roll make as big an impression with your schoolmates as did hillbilly music? In addition, since these artists were black, would you say that the parents tried to discourage their kids from listening to what was negatively labeled as “jungle music” by a very biased adult news media at that time?
I played for two weeks with a black group called the Velvets featuring Virgil Johnson. We couldn't stay in a black hotel because I was white and they, of course, couldn't stay in a white hotel. So we stayed in his fans’ homes when we traveled. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats, and the rest got good airplay in West Texas on some stations and might as well have been banned on others. We weren't deep enough in the south to hear all the hateful slurs they faced in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, but parents in general from our neck of the woods faced it like most parents now have to deal with rap. They wouldn't allow it in the house, but couldn't keep us from listening when we were out of the house. After a while they got weary of the fight and let us play our 45's at home. My Father would have beaten me half to death if I had ever used a racial slur. The “N” word would have gotten me grounded for at least six weeks, but that was just my Dad. Other fathers weren't quite as fanatical about segregation as him. I could tell you stories for a month, but that's not what this is about.
courtesy Carl Bunch.
Before joining the Crickets, are there any track releases of nominal success by any of your earlier groups?
My original band was the Poor Boys, who I told you recorded on Hamilton records, a subsidiary of Dot and Coral records. I co wrote “Lookie Lookie Lookie,” which was our biggest release. Did pretty good in the West Texas area, but didn't become a national hit. I was a part time Teen King with Roy, and then after Buddy was killed, Tommy Allsup and I went back out on the road with Roy again. In between Buddy and Roy, we had a group called the Jitters that didn't get enough airplay to stay together. We recorded on Coral as part of a deal struck by the Crickets and us to keep us out of court over the name Crickets. J. I. and Joe B. said Buddy had given the name to them. We were all so messed up over the tragedy that we didn't want to fight over it.
No doubt, you were very taken with Elvis Presley, as you stated that you begged him to hire you as his drummer. In a Lance Monthly interview that I conducted with Jerry Naylor (Vol. 5, No. 11, January 2004 issue), he said that when he first heard “That’s All Right,” it changed his life forever as a musician. Did you have a similar experience?
The first time I saw Elvis work it electrifiedme. I had no idea [how] anyone could so blatantly take over the emotions of so many people so fast. He wrung that crowd out like a washcloth. I remain WOWED by his work today. He changed the face of music, the whole world over. No single performer has affected the masses like him.
Did you first learn of Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ existence because of the group’s first smash hit, “That’ll Be the Day,” before you personally met Holly and the rest of the original band members? In addition, what were the original circumstances around your first meeting with Norman Petty and your overall take on his demeanor, his Clovis studio, and his creativity?
We danced to Buddy’s music at sock hops and watched him on the Ed Sullivan Show. That was the biggest thing that could happen to a performer back then. Dick Clark was great, but you knew you had made the big time when you played the Ed Sullivan Show. The Poor Boys recorded at Norman’s studio in Clovis.
Norman was a businessman. He put his name on every song that came out of his studio and that was just a given—part of the price you paid to get his influence in obtaining a recording deal. I didn't know Buddy was even in the studio when he first saw me play. He was in the control booth with Norman and I never saw him, but Tommy Allsup said I made an impression on him. I didn't meet Buddy face to face until I quit high school and moved to New York City to be his drummer. When he fired J.I. and Joe B., he told Tommy to call me and ask if I would be one of the Crickets. That would have been like Paul McCartney asking me if I wanted to take Ringo’s place a few years later. For a few short weeks, I saw every dream I'd ever had come to pass. Those few days changed my life forever. I am eternally grateful that the Lord gave them to me. They turned my fifteen minutes into a lifetime.
Those are some powerful memories. They still stir up some pretty profound emotions.
Powerful memories for the Holly fans, Carl, but certainly powerful to the nth power to someone who was Buddy’s drummer on his final tour. Some of the Holly bios say that Norman tried to turn J.I. and Joe B. against Buddy because of Norman’s falling out with him. Was there, in your opinion, any truth to this and did Buddy give you the actual reason(s) for his dismissals of J.I. and Joe B. aside from them not wanting to move to New York?
To be as honest as possible, Buddy never spoke with me at all about the problems with J.I., Joe B., and Norman. I got everything I know from conversations between Buddy and Tommy. I'm sure you know that Tommy had been with the Crickets for some time before the breakup occurred. Norman was against Buddy’s marriage from the start, which I believe was the primary reason for the split. Buddy believed that Norman was stealing from him. J.I. and Joe B. didn't. Norman convinced J.I. and Joe B. that he was the one with the power to make and break their careers, so they decided to remain with him rather than take their chances in New York City with Buddy at the reigns.
This broke Buddy’s heart. Not only was J.I. and Joe B. Buddy’s band, but they were [also] his friends from childhood. Buddy felt absolutely devastated that they would take the word of a man he believed to be a thief over his. If Buddy could have gotten his hands on the money he believed Norman owed him, he wouldn't have been forced to go on that tour under such horrible circumstances. You can't really understand how bad the circumstances were under which we lived. We had broken down bus, after broken down bus, after broken down bus, often without heaters, to be confined in for what seemed like forever between gigs that were way too far apart to begin with. There were no superhighways back then. We drove everywhere; we went on two land roads, sometimes under ill repair themselves. Add all this to Buddy’s emotional state over J.I. and Joe B. choosing Norman over him and you can get a much better idea of how he was feeling than you would otherwise.
Popular belief is that J.I. is the original creator and owner of The Crickets’ name. If this is so, why do you suppose that J.I. and Joe B. told you that Holly passed on the ownership of the name to them?
The Crickets were a joint venture between Buddy, J.I., and Joe. B. I don't think Niki Sullivan was one of the original participators, but I could be wrong. I wasn't there. It was not an equal partnership. J.I. got a small percent; I can't remember how much right now, but I have it in a book somewhere. Joe B. got a smaller percentage than J.I., so Buddy was more than just in charge, and he was a businessman all the way.
When they broke up, it's my understanding that Buddy told J.I. and Joe. B. that they could have the name if that's all they cared about. One of those go-ahead-and-see-how-well-you-do-without-me sort of a things.
Buddy, however, changed his mind about that when he was dealing with Irving Feld, who I understand took the Col. Tom Parker approach. J.I and Joe B. were nothing more than sidemen as far as he was concerned and there could be no Crickets without Buddy.
Courtesy Carl Bunch.
That to my understanding was the reason we were booked on The Winter Dance Party as Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Buddy promised me that if he was satisfied with my work on the tour when it was over, I would become a permanent member of the group and start getting a part of the profits like J.I and Joe B. had before me.
I know it upsets J.I. for me to call myself a Cricket, but as far as Buddy Holly was concerned, I was a Cricket. Buddy told me to sign my autograph that way and I did. I have been called the “Frostbitten Cricket” often enough that I took the name.
The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock lists me as the drummer with The Winter Dance Party band. I'm guessing they did that in order to keep peace with J.I and Joe B. and I'm okay with that. I greatly admire J.I. and don't want any of the glory that should be his. He has the name and he deserves it. I'm not a has-been ‘cause I'm still here. At least I'm not and never was (LOL).
If the name wasn't Buddy’s to deal with, he wouldn't have made this deal. Buddy was a Christian and an honest man. I'm sure that he believed he would have prevailed if Norman sued him. He was so angry with Norman that he would have loved to prove to the world in a court of law [that] he was a thief.
How angry did Norman Petty get when he learned that Buddy fired J.I. and Joe B. and hired you as his drummer, Allsup as his guitarist, and Waylon Jennings as his bassist? In addition, Jennings admitted that he had no experience as a bass player, so given Buddy’s high-profile status, it appears that he could easily have hired an experienced bass player with a proven track record. Why didn’t he?
I was told that Norman went into a rage about all this in front of J.I. and said that God would deal with him severely for what he was doing. I understand that Norman filed an injunction against Buddy for using the name of the Crickets. Buddy just shined it on. J.I. was reported to have gotten angry with Norman at this point and knocked him down, telling him not to say bad things about Buddy. All this is just ancient history now, rolling around in my memory and I can't even remember for sure who told me. I think it was Ronnie Smith, when I rejoined the tour after the plane crash, but I've had aspartame poisoning since then and I can't be absolutely sure of anything anymore. I do know J.I. loved Buddy enough to put Norman on his fanny if he did say something bad about him. One of the greatest untold tragedies in rock and roll history was the emotional pain Buddy and J.I. suffered due to their break-up.
Buddy hired Waylon because Waylon was his friend. He figured that Waylon could learn to play bass overnight because he already played guitar. He was wrong. I have pictures of Tommy looking at Waylon with a scowl on his face that would have frozen me stiff had he looked at me that way. I remember him saying, "It’s the four bass strings, Waylon. That's all it is for god’s sake." Waylon told me later when I was playing for Hank Williams Jr. and we were on the same packaged show that Tommy was always on his ass for the way he played bass. I was glad it was Waylon getting the heat and not me.
What grade were you in when you quit high school and did you earn your diploma at a later date and attend college?
I was a junior at Odessa High School when I quit to go on that tour. I was a year behind my classmates because of the year I spent in the hospital overcoming the bone tumors in my right leg. I got a GED in the Army and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychotheology from Friends International Christian University. My masters is in Biblical Counseling and I have a Bachelor of Science in Theology.
Carl, while on the road with the Crickets on Buddy’s final tour, with whom did you room and in what cities were the venues at which The Crickets played before the fateful Clear Lake, Iowa performance? In addition, can you describe for our readers some details of those venues in general in reference to the opening number, the song that always seemed to go over the best, the overall reaction of the fans, how The Crickets went over in comparison to the other acts, any negatives that had to be overcome, and how Buddy and the rest of the Crickets dealt with the stress, etc?
Most of the time on the road we lived on the bus. It was rare to get to stay in a hotel; at least it felt rare. I spent most of my time with Ritchie Valens. We were the two youngest on the bus and Ritchie liked me. He knew I was more than just a little impressed with him as a performer. I've never met anyone with a better command of the audience than Ritchie. He was an incredible performer for his age and could have only improved had he lived.
The Crickets each had their own hotel rooms when we got to stay in a hotel, until after the plane crash. Then I shared a room with Ronnie Smith. Ronnie was the lead singer with the Poor Boys so he and I had been close friends for a long time.
We opened the tour at George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee on the 23rd of January.
We played the 24th at the Eagles Ballroom in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
We played the 25th at the Kato Ballroom in Mankato, Minnesota.
The 26th we were traveling and played the 27th at the Fiesta Ballroom in Montevideo, Minnesota.
The 28th was at the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul.
The 29th we played the Capitol Theatre in Davenport, Iowa.
The 30th we were at the Lamar Ballroom in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
The 31st was my last night to play with them before the crash in Duluth, Minnesota at the Armory.
They played the Riverside in Green Bay, then the Surf in Clear Lake, I think. I was in the hospital rather delirious at the time.
GARTH AND CARL, THEY ARE BOTH LOOKING GOOD !
Courtesy Carl Bunch
It's difficult to remember details of every venue we played that long ago, but here goes trying:
At George Devine’s Ballroom in Milwaukee we were over an hour late due to problems with the bus and the weather. I remember very clearly Buddy asking just as we pulled up, "What time is this eight o'clock gig going to get started?" We had to set up on stage in front of an angry crowd and we ended up starting about two hours after we were supposed to. I was an absolute nervous wreck. Buddy kept talking to me backstage telling me I'd be just fine. He said, "You're one of the Crickets now. You could break every drum head you have and they'd still love you."
When we got on stage we opened with Frankie Sardo doing his thing. I can't remember any part of his music now, but the girls thought he was beautiful and ate him up. While we were playing his stuff, I noticed a friendly face in the audience. It was a friend from OHS who was in his Navy uniform. I really began to relax and enjoy playing by that time.
Dion came out and did his latest hits, "Teenager In Love," "Runaround Sue," and the rest. The audience loved him.
The Big Bopper absolutely sent the crowd into a frenzy with “Chantilly Lace.”
Ritchie’s “La Bamba” had just hit number one on the charts and he whipped them into a frenzy on top of a frenzy with his performance.
But when Buddy came out, it was almost like God had walked out on the stage. We always started his set with “Gotta Travel On,” a Billy Grammer hit. I was okay until he started “Peggy Sue.” The crowd went wild and so did I. I started playing so fast there was no way for him to do the song right, so he just backed away from the mike and let me go like it was a drum solo. I finally wore down enough to do the song at the right tempo. I was afraid he was going to fire me because of that, but he just laughed it off.
That's the way Buddy tried to deal with all the negatives, just laugh them off. That is, except for one mistake I made: I left my uniform in the dressing room at one of the venues and tried to lie my way out of it. Buddy told me not to dig the hole so deep I couldn't get out of it, and then never said another word to me about it.
For years after the tragedy I really believed in my own mind (though I didn't tell anybody besides Tommy and my family) that Buddy, Ritchie, and J.P. had visited me in the hospital room to tell me everything was going to be okay. It wasn't until after I was born again that it dawned on me that they couldn't have physically visited me. It was the night they were killed that the visitation took place. That's why I couldn't understand how it could be true when my mother told me on the phone the next day that they were dead. I just saw them last night I told her. She just cried and repeated that they were dead. They took me back to my room in shock. I had girls visit me in the hospital and we all cried together, but it didn't become real to me until I was on the plane to Sioux City with a stack of newspapers in my lap detailing the tragedy. Sometimes it's still not real and sometimes I still cry. Sometimes I think the whole world of music still cries.
I rejoined the tour at Sioux City. Ronnie Smith and Jimmy Clanton met me at the Airport and took me to the hotel. Frankie Avalon had joined the tour for a few days and Fabian was to join us in a day or so. This was Irving Feld’s way to cash in on the tragedy. We weren't even allowed to go to the funerals. We were promised a big bonus if we would finish the tour. We never got a dime of it. And as Forest Gump says: "That's all I've got to say about that." At least for the time being.
How well did you know Maria Elena during that time? Did you have an amicable relationship with her and were you under the impression that she wanted to become Buddy’s sole manager?
I met Maria Elena when we landed in New York at Buddy’s apartment [on] 11 Fifth Ave. She was gracious, allowing Tommy and Waylon and me to sleep on her couch and floor until we left to go on that fateful tour. Waylon kidded about her cooking and Buddy told him to eat and shut up. I didn't get to know her very well because I was always either working on Buddy’s material at the rehearsal studio or going around with Buddy taking care of business. What I did see of her was a woman dedicated to making the very most of Buddy’s career. She ran the Buddy Holly fan club from their dining room table, answering mail, and sending out autographed pictures. She had Buddy sign one for my younger sister, Kathy, and mailed it out herself. She believed then as she does now, that she and Buddy could do just fine without Norman. Buddy was making a deal with Irving Feld to be his new manager. Irving ended up managing the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. I fear that's what would have become of Buddy’s career if he had lived and stayed with Irving. Irving wasn't the most honest man I have ever known.
WDP 1959: Waylon Jennings, a little bit hidden behind the Big Bopper, Carl Bunch and Tommy Allsup.
Courtesy Carl Bunch.
Did you have a girl back in Texas when you were on The Winter Dance Party tour that you missed intensely?
I had a girl friend I missed very much and wrote to just about every day. Her name was Glenda and I got to be her bragging rights until we broke up when I got home. I got into music for the same reason most guys do, so I could get the girls to take an interest in me. I used to tell people I was so ugly [that] I couldn't buy a date up ‘till then, but Richard Porter will tell you different. He says I always had the prettiest girls in school and he's right. The problem was that they all thought of me as either a good dancing partner or older brother, not a sweetheart, except for a couple of girls (grin).
In an interview I conducted with leading Buddy Holly historian Bill Griggs, he said this of Waylon Jennings: “Yes, Waylon was very forthright, an attitude I admired. You never tried to bullshit Waylon, and he wouldn’t do that to you. If he found out you were lying to him about something, the relationship was over.” Your thoughts on this statement, Carl?
That would be a good picture of Waylon. He didn't put on airs or put up with them. He was a good old boy as long as you were straight with him.
Waylon was responsible for getting me my job with Hank Williams Jr. He was the most charismatic man I ever had anything to do with. Elvis put on a show with his hips and stuff and the girls all went bonkers; Waylon just stood there with his feet planted a couple of feet apart and drove them absolutely crazy. I've never met another man quite like him. I wish I could say we were close, but that would be an exaggeration. I left Hank Williams Jr.’s band, the Cheatin' Hearts, without notice. His booking agent made me really angry after cheating me out of some money and I just quit. I called everyone in the band but Hank Jr. and told [each one] why I was quitting, but I couldn't call Jr. himself and tell him. I loved him too much and I knew he would talk me out of it. I had made up my mind not to put up with the booking agent’s abuse any longer and I knew I couldn't say no to Hank. Waylon had a problem with that and we never talked again. It was a decision I've regretted ever since—not quitting, but not facing Jr. when I did.
I wanted very badly to share my faith with Waylon before he died, but couldn't get through to him to do so.
I love Bill Griggs. He kept me alive. When I had been declared dead on some websites, he resurrected me. There's not a better man I know than Bill.
The physical abuse that you and the rest of The Crickets had to endure, traveling in those substandard buses with little or no heat, is so incomprehensible! Can you recall some of the conversations among you, The Crickets, and the other artists during those agonizing bus rides? The four-letter words must have been profuse! Who would you say yelled the loudest and promised to kick the butts of those who were responsible for this misery? In addition, how serious was your frostbite and did anyone else suffer the same fate?
George Tomsco and Carl Bunch together on stage !
Courtesy Carl Bunch.
Buddy didn't cuss a lot until the subject of Norman or the bus came up. We went through at least four vehicles before his death and each one had its own profane name. Dion and the Bellmonts made a lot of racket about the conditions, [and] Waylon complained sparingly. I tried never to complain, until I got the frostbite. At that point I became delirious and God knows what I said. We all tried to stay as positive as we could because complaining only made things worse. Everyone but Ritchie and me gambled almost constantly with dice and cards. Buddy wouldn't let me play. He said he wasn't paying me enough to let everyone else take my money. I wasn't much at cards or dice back then. Truth is I'm still not, though nowadays I have no desire for it anyway.
The time we spent on the bus was miserable. We tried humor to take the edge off. Dion called us Bloody Holly and the Rickets and we called them Moron and the Bellhops. We played a game called skunk in which I became the target of Dion and his boys. I was always getting skunked. Buddy nicknamed me Goose and I think getting skunked repeatedly had something to do with that. You skunk someone by getting them to do or say something so obvious that it's lame. For instance, we stopped at a mom-and-pops place to get gas for the bus and while we were there, Dion spent a good fifteen minutes skunking the fellow pumping gas. He bought a coke out of the machine and stood there trying to open it in the change return until the guy pumping gas couldn't stand watching him any more and went over, took the bottle from his hand, opened it in the opener, and handed it back to him. Everyone watching just roared and the guy pumping gas had no idea what it was all about.
On the bus, Dion would say, "Hey Carl" and I'd say "What?" Then there would be no reply. A few minutes later he'd do the same thing. He would continue doing that until I caught on and then [he’d] yell skunk, which, of course, made me feel like a fool. I got skunked so often that it embarrassed Waylon and Buddy. Tommy was too old to play and didn't care much. Ritchie would tell me not to let them get to me and cheered me up by talking about how much fun it was to be headliners.
J.P. had the flu and Ritchie was coming down with it, but I don't think anyone else suffered frostbite. I got an e-mail from a fellow who wanted to apologize for posting a lie on several Buddy Holly websites. He was saying that he was wearing one of my toes on a chain around his neck and that he had bought it on Ebay. A newspaper interview I did several years ago also reported that I had to have several of my toes amputated as a result of that injury. For everyone’s information, they aren't pretty [but] I still have all my toes. Don't know where in the world these rumors come from, but it certainly isn't me.
Getting back to my interview with Griggs, I asked him if there were still some Holly mysteries that he was still trying to solve. He gave me twelve and assuming that he has already interviewed you, he may have put some or all of these questions to you. Nevertheless, here are two on which you may have an opinion: 1. Was there a payoff for the name “Crickets” by Buddy Holly to Dean Barlow? 2. Did Buddy have more money with him the morning of February 3, 1959 than what was reported?
There was never any kind of payoff for the name of the “Crickets” by Buddy to anyone that I know of. The idea that there was is incredulous to me. [And] Tommy Allsup took care of the money on that tour. I don't know what was reported, but I'd trust what Tommy says with my life.
Since you spent most of your time with Valens on The Winter Dance Party tour, you, no doubt, got to know him fairly well. How would you describe Ritchie’s demeanor, and did he ever talk to you about his producer, Bob Keane of Del Fi Records, who reportedly had stiffed Valens monetarily just like he was accused of doing to the late Bobby Fuller? In addition, since America in the ‘50s was still wrought with prejudice against non-whiles, especially those of African-American, Asian, and Hispanic descent, did you ever witness an act of prejudice against Valens on the tour?
Ritchie didn't talk much about his recording deal or management. He talked a lot about his future and the new music he was writing. He talked about Donna a lot and got ribbed quite a bit about not going with the groupie girls after the gig.
Ritchie, Bopper, and Buddy were all one-woman men. No matter what the temptation, they went to their rooms, when we had one, and not to the parties like Freddie, Frankie, Carlo, and me.
Ritchie was very quiet until he walked out on the stage where he simply exploded. It was like he was two different people on and off stage. I wouldn't call him shy, but rather private. I never saw a single prejudicial act happen because of his being Hispanic. I'm glad too because I was raised to be colorblind and I believe all music should be.
Carl, when you said that Tommy Allsup stayed pretty much to himself during the horseplay on the substandard buses that was induced by the miserable conditions, was he pretty much that way throughout the tour? And because he had about ten years of age on everyone, was he ever jokingly referred to as “old man” or something like that? How would you describe Tommy Allsup?
I would describe Tommy Allsup as the best musician I've ever been privileged to work with and truly a man of honor. If Tommy says so you can take it to the bank. Generous, quiet, creative, funny, and always ready to jam, Tommy is the best friend I've ever had in the music business. Not only did he get me my job with Buddy Holly, but he’s [also] offered [me] many opportunities to play with other artists by introducing me to them. My favorite example of that would be Roger Miller. I met him at Tommy’s house when Tommy was chief A & R Man for Liberty Records. Not only did he introduce me to Roger, but suggested that if he needed a drummer he need not look any further. Roger hired me for a gig in a bowling-alley lounge that night. Can't remember ever playing with anyone more fun than with Roger.
Tommy spent most of his time with Buddy and J.P. and took care of the money when it was time to get paid. Buddy couldn't have put that job in better hands. If you want to know about Buddy’s mood on the tour, ask Tommy. Buddy shared more with him than anyone.
Hier ein Foto von TommyAllsup vom 5.2.1994 aus dem Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, IOWA, zusammen mit Maria Elena Holley, Niki Sullivan, Don McLean und Peggy Sue Gerron.
By courtesy of Alan Clark.
Tommy Allsup, mentioned above in the interview, on the 5th of February, 1994 in the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, IA, together with Maria Elena Holley, Niki Sullivan, Don McLean and Peggy Sue Gerron.
Did everyone get along on the buses, or was there some verbal or physical confrontations for some reason or another?
The only real confrontation on the bus came after the tragedy and was directed at Freddy of the Bellmonts. Freddy had bought a pistol, and though it was unloaded, kept aiming it and clicking the trigger. Waylon and Tommy both told him to stop and when he didn't stop right away, Waylon went after him. Tommy intervened before there was any bloodshed and put Freddie in his place. Later that night there was a disturbance in the hotel with Freddie and Carlo making too much noise, chasing one another through the hall with the fire hose. Someone came out to complain and Freddie pointed his pistol at him. The management was called and the road manager confined them to their rooms. The next day Tommy took the gun away.
You say that Irving Feld would not have been a good manager for Buddy if the airplane tragedy had not occurred, and since he was directly responsible for the miserable traveling conditions of The Winter Dance Party tour, why was Holly interested in him as his new manager? In addition, what is your overall take on Feld?
CB: [At first]
I was impressed with Irving Feld because he was the head of G.A.C., the biggest booking agency in the business at the time; but what did I know. Buddy needed new management and Feld’s reputation looked good from where we were standing. [But] no good manager would put an artist like Buddy in such dangerous and sorry conditions. Buddy was nothing more than a temporary financial windfall for Feld. If he had really cared about us he would have made things right with our transportation and paid us as he promised Tommy. He decided to beat us out of our money instead. Tommy went to get our bonus and Feld said there was no money. Maria Elena had supposedly picked it up, but it wasn't her money to pick up. It was ours and I left New York City dead broke because of that. Tommy never even got the money he had laid out for my hospital bill and airfare to Sioux City. I should have sued, but I feared getting labeled sue happy and let it go instead. I didn't want to get blackballed out of the big time. Wish I'd have had Pre-Paid Legal back then.
Could you elaborate a little more for our readers on the aftermath of Buddy’s demise in reference to The Crickets being talked into continuing with the tour? In general, what was said that convinced the members of the band to stay on?
Tommy spoke with Irving Feld on the phone and brought us the offer of a big bonus and the favor he would owe us if we'd finish the tour with Frankie Avalon, Jimmy Clanton, and Fabian joining us. Waylon didn't want to do it, but we all needed the money so bad that he agreed to stay on. None of his promises was worth the air he breathed to deliver them. Ronnie Smith was called to join the Crickets and I was glad to see him get the break. Waylon, however, did the majority of our vocals. It was difficult beyond belief. I have a line in one of my songs:
"I was there when they said the music died, and I stood by and I watched Waylon cry, when we sang ‘It Don't Matter Anymore.’ And I remember just like yesterday, all the music that we used to play, and it makes my heart beat just like it did before."
From there I would go into a medley of Buddy’s music starting of course with “Heartbeat.” Those were the hardest days of my musical career. I still had trouble playing and sometimes Carlo would have to fill in on drums because my feet would just give up from the frostbite. Still I can't tell you how good it felt to be there making history we never thought about. The roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd (LOL)—days that changed my life forever.
In the summer months of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, I fought fires for the U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest to pay for my tuition at the University of New Mexico. As college students from around the Country were heavily recruited for this type of hazardous work, one would think that this would have created a hostile relationship among the firefighters because of the wide range of accents, lingo, backgrounds, and mannerisms, and because those were the days in which one was at a disadvantage if one differed a little from what mainstream America had considered preferred citizenry. Nevertheless, it became apparent to me that if the focal point of the gathering of individuals is to face an important task—in our case, to fight fires—none of the aforesaid seems to matter, and the result is a strong comradeship and an intense interest in each other’s background. In the case of the musicians that were part of The Winter Dance Party tour who hailed from nearly all quadrants of the U.S., each had one very important goal in mind, and that was to collectively put on the best show as possible at each of the venues. Would you say, Carl, that this is a fair comparison?
This is a really good comparison because we, as you did, faced very hard conditions together and, as is human nature would have it, grew close as a result. I doubt that Frankie Avalon or Fabian would remember me, but Jimmy Clanton will and the last words Dion ever spoke to me were: "Goose, I'll never forget you." You couldn't be more divergent culturally than Dion and me.
Waylon and I were estranged by the way I left Hank Jr., but before that, he recommended me for the job, and that speaks a ton to me. By that time he was a superstar and I was working with an unknown trio in a small bar in Nebraska where nobody knew who I was or really cared. Waylon brought me back into the spotlight again. He didn't have to do that, but he chose to.
If Maria Elena picked up the bonus money at the conclusion of The Winter Dance Party tour, that, of course, would mean that Feld came through somewhat with his promise, at least, monetarily. Has it ever been proven that Maria did, indeed, pick up the bonus money? In addition, were their complaints by any of the other stars about been stiffed?
There has never been any proof offered that Maria Elena picked up the money owed us. It was just Feld’s word to Tommy and we were in no shape to do anything about it at the time. I don't know if Tommy confronted Maria Elena back then or not. I was kept in a hotel room, not allowed to even take part in the negotiations with Maria Elena, Coral Records, or with Norman for that matter. I had no say or input into any of it. Tommy spoke for me and Ronnie dealt for himself. I'm sure Tommy got whatever he could out of the deal for me and him. Waylon left town and dropped the whole thing.
If anyone else had any problems with Irving, they didn't share them with me.
Even though The Winter Dance Party ended on a negative note, was it the intention of you, Tommy, and Waylon to continue as the Crickets but were immediately stopped in your tracks by Norman Petty?
Tommy and I would have continued using the name of the Crickets had J.I, Joe B., and Norman not sued us. Waylon wanted out on his own anyway. Buddy produced Waylon’s first single and would have continued producing him had he lived. Maria Elena was on Joe B. and J. I.’s side, so we took what was offered and left it at that. There was really nothing else we could do at the time.
How did Waylon and Tommy deal with being cheated out of the bonus money? Were they also contemplating suit but stopped short of the idea for the same reason as you?
Waylon may have wanted to sue, I don't know. I didn't see him after we got back to New York. I'm sure he didn't take lightly being stiffed out of his money, but he didn't discuss it with me. I felt really bad for Tommy, because he had lost more than Waylon or me. He was out all the money it cost for my hospital stay and my airfare from Michigan to Sioux City on top of that. Still all he could do was apologize to me, like it was his fault.
Tommy has never been sue-minded that I can recall. More people in the music business have stiffed him than you can count, but, to my knowledge, [he] has never sued anyone. Tommy's not afraid of anything that I know of, much less how someone who stiffed him would feel about being sued. He just figures that what goes around, comes around.
After your departure from The Crickets, what immediately followed musically for you, Tommy, and Waylon?
We returned from New York to Odessa, Texas with a new group named, Ronnie Smith and the Jitters, opened a new theatre in Odessa, and that was about it. The Jitters never had a record that did squat and Tommy and I joined Roy Orbison’s new band and went back out on the road with him. Uncle Sam caught up with me and I ended up in the Army a few weeks later.
Tommy went on to become one of the most prolific producers in the recording business. Waylon became a superstar in his own right and I faded into obscurity, until Waylon got me my job with Hank Jr.
My friend Carl together with Jay P. Richardson, Tommy Roe and Tommy Allsup in the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, IA, 02-02-02.
By courtesy of Alan Clark.
2. Februar 2002: Im Surf Ballroom Clear Lake Iowa posieren für dieses tolle Foto mein FreundCarl, Jay P. Richardson, Tommy Roe und Tommy Allsup.
I've lived three lifetimes since then and I'm working on a book about it with a really good writer named Derryl Hicks. He's the author of God Comes to Nashville, which has a bit of my testimony in it. It's one of the 100 most important books to ever come out of Nashville, but is now out of print.
My name is right there on the front of the book—many others (LOL).
It's been a great ride Dick and it's an inspiring story to look back on. "Roller Coasters and Bulls," a lot of ups and downs, (another song I'm working on), but those who endure to the end shall be saved and I have endured to that end. It's been prophesized over me that the end shall be greater than the beginning and I believe it. There was less than three pounds of me in the beginning and there's sixty two times that now, and every pound is believing God for the prayer of Jabez to continue coming true in my life, day after day.
I’ve always found Roger Miller as being an interesting composer and performer who was disadvantaged as an orphan at age three and a victim of the depression. Although you indicated that you drummed for him for one particular venue, did you have a chance to chat with Miller long enough to draw a reasonable conclusion on his demeanor?
Roger Miller was one of the most interesting men I ever got to know in this business. It was an unusual circumstance that caused us to bond. We were talking about his music on the way over to James Best Acting Studio and I asked him why everyone else thought of his music as funny when I saw it as tragic. He got a strange look on his face and asked my why I saw it that way. "The lyrics," I said and gulped. "Out all night and running wild, with a woman sitting home with an eight-month-old child. That sounds very sad to me."
He almost started crying as he said, "You're looking beneath the surface and into my soul." I made similar remarks about several other lyrics being snappy on the outside but sad on the inside and he just took me as a friend. By the time we parted ways, his wife had left him and he ended up giving me his baby’s playpen she left behind for my baby girl. He and I had several things in common including his respect for Tommy, Buddy, and Roy that made us bond instantly, but I couldn't keep up with him. During that early period of his career he used a good deal of speed and was on stage almost twenty-four hours a day, every day. If he wasn't on stage he was headed to one. I've never met a funnier man, but I've never met a sadder man either. I'm so glad that the latter part of his career brought him the lifestyle and satisfaction he so richly deserved.
How long did you and Allsup work with Orbison, and describe Roy’s mannerisms and some of the venues the two of you had with him for our readers. Was it an enjoyable time without any negatives? Why did you and Allsup leave Orbison?
I'm as proud of my association with Roy Orbison as I am of that with Tommy, Buddy, and Roger. Tommy and I were with him about two months before the Navy shore patrol showed up on my front porch in Odessa, ready to escort me to the brig. I sort of shined on my Naval Reserve meetings to go on the road with whomever I was playing because I found out that they couldn't take me into active duty in the Navy because I was colorblind. They changed the rule without me knowing.
I loved playing with Roy, but his bass player and I didn't get along at all. Roy actually stopped the car once to let us out and fight. It's funny because I can't remember the name of the bass player or what it was that caused us to be at odds with each other. Roy was getting tired of it though and so we buried the hatchet to keep him happy.
One thing that stands out in my memory about those days is that when we got into the town where we were playing that night, Roy would try to find a Chinese restaurant even before he looked for the venue.
Sometimes the venue was a National Guard armory, or a county auditorium, or a bar or even a high school auditorium, but it made no difference to Roy as long as he had a venue. He once played in Ruidoso, New Mexico, booked with Ronnie Smith on the bill, and they played the entire gig for the only two couples that showed up.
Roy was very quiet and very serious. He was easy going, but just like Buddy, he knew exactly what he wanted his music to sound like. He could hear it in his head. He told me once that the reason he liked my work was that I didn't play too much. Far too many drummers think that drums should be the lead instrument. I always thought that the singer was supposed to be the lead instrument and played to make him sound the way he wanted to sound. That might be one key to my success in the field.
I left to go into the Army rather than serve on active duty in the Navy Reserve. I found out at Navy boot that the reserve sailor always got the lousy duty. The Army promised me the moon and delivered absolutely none of their promises. Thank God I got their malarkey in writing. Tommy was still with Roy when I left to go into the Army.
In an interview that I conducted with high-profile L.A. sessionist, Larry Knechtel (January 2004 issue), he said that Hank Williams, Jr. hired him as the bassist for a Christmas album called “Family Traditions.” While Hank was laying down the vocal tracks to “Little Drummer Boy,” he messed up by singing “rump a bump bum,” which caused Larry to give out a loud audible laugh. Hank then left the room and had his producer, Jimmy Bowen, fire Larry. Sounds to me like Hank didn’t have much of a sense of humor. How did he treat you and the rest of his sidemen when you were his drummer? Was it an impersonal, all-business, no-nonsense relationship? In addition, did he ever talk to you about his dad and how difficult it was to be in his shadow before his breakout success?
Hank Jr. was seventeen when I joined his band, The Cheatin' Hearts. He turned eighteen shortly after that and began his quest to get away from his mother and be declared "emancipated." It was actually Audrey Williams that hired me. Jr. just went along with what ever she said at the time. It wasn't long though before Hank Jr. and I started to get closer. I was the only single guy in the band so we hung together on the road. He was rebelling against his mother and wanted to sing rock and roll and was impressed with my background. He did a few sessions under the name of Bocephus on Verve records, but nobody seemed to pay any attention. He wrote a song called "Standing in the Shadows of a Very Famous Man," which pretty well told how he felt. It was his first big hit.
I believe Hank Jr. is his own worst enemy. I think he really believes his own publicity and is reckless in his lifestyle simply because he can be and believes that's what is expected of him. There is a line in a song I wrote called "Outlaws and Lawmen" that says: "If I could just turn old Waylon around, or help show Hank Jr. the light, or lead Willie back to his old family Bible, I'd know I'd won my fight." Unfortunately, he's far too impressed with himself to give me the time of day. Part of that is because of the way I left the group, but 99% of it is just pure ego.
One of the Holly biographers said that Dion was addicted to heroin while growing up in the Bronx. In your opinion, is there any truth to this and was alcohol the only drug of choice by some or all of the musicians that were a part of The Winter Dance Party tour?
Dion was addicted to heroin as he stated in several interviews in the past. I didn't know it until I read it years later. I'm proud that he is my brother in the Lord and no longer a slave to anything. As far as alcohol goes, it was probably the most often used back then, though Buddy didn't approve of any accesses at all. I bought a fifth of bourbon in New York where it was legal for me and took it on the bus. I broke it out just before getting frostbite thinking that it would prevent any such thing from happening. I found out later that all it does is keep you from feeling the pain as much. I would say that in my career I spilled more than most people drink and I have been delivered from myself. It's easy to get addicted to alcohol and drugs when someone else is buying and it's funny how few Christians offer to buy.
How long were you in the U.S. Army, where were you stationed, and what did you do musically while in the service?
I was in the Army for a year and a half before I finally made them account for all the broken promises, and got an early discharge. They had me stationed in Atlanta for the majority of my enlistment. I won the instrumentalist division of the All Army Talent Show at Ft. McPherson late in 1959, playing piano, drums, guitar, and bongos. I spent most of the rest of my duty TDY competing for the national title and entertaining the troops.
Carl, I’ve asked this question a number of times of my interviewees who’ve had a strong relationship with Buddy both directly or indirectly: In one of the Buddy Holly biographies it was theorized that Buddy fathered a child out of wedlock, which has prompted a lot of talk and speculation. Do you have any information in reference to this that you can offer to our readers?
As far as there having been a lot of talk about Buddy fathering a child out of wedlock goes, I've never before heard a single word about it [and] I don't believe it. It's totally out of character for Buddy to have been sexually involved with anyone but Maria Elena. That's one of the things that stood out so much to me on the tour. Buddy could have had any of hundreds of beautiful girls or women, but chose not to cheat on his wife, period. I can't imagine why anyone would spread such a vicious rumor about such a nice guy. Buddy was a Christian. He did not believe in adultery.
You mentioned your wife, Dorothy. How long have you been married and how many children and grandchildren do you have?
I met Dorothy while I was a member of the Cheatin' Hearts and in spite of Ralph Emmery saying on his show on WSM Radio [that] it would never last, we have been married 36 years. More about us in a minute.
I have two children by former marriages and two grandsons by one. I married while I was in the Army and had a son named James Matthew (Matt). I let his stepfather adopt him during a really down part of my life and lost contact with him for many years. I'm proud to say that he and his lovely wife Ginger made contact with me late last year and we are developing a wonderful new relationship today. God is so good.
I was married to my second wife for three years, also and have a wonderful daughter named Susan Elizabeth who has given me two great grandsons, Colton and Ashton. I have a song about our reconciliation after some thirteen years of being separated. It's called "Susan, You Called Me Daddy Again." It will be part of a new album Dorothy and I are working on and it's the single most effective alter-call song I've ever witnessed in my life. When Dorothy and I minister and use this song, we never fail to see the alter fill to overflowing because of the powerful testimony that goes with the song. Unfortunately, we live too far apart to see Colton and Ashton as often as we would like. Susan is in Bryan, Texas and we are in Palmdale, California. We hope to get together in Lubbock this coming September at the Buddy Holly Center where I'll be performing along with Tommy Allsup, Larry and Travis Holly, Richard Porter, Robert Reynolds of the Mavericks, Emmy winning guitarist Al Perkins, and many others as we launch a new recording project called “Roots of Country Music.”
Dorothy has given me two precious children: Corrina Lee and James Scott. James is currently the project manager for Country Wide in Lancaster and will be accompanying us to Lubbock this September. Corrina is working on her California State teacher’s credentials and we are watching her twin six-year-old, redheaded boys while she is in school. They are more fun than anything else I do. I am blessed beyond belief.
Did you jump right back into music immediately after you were discharged from the Army?
When I was discharged from the Army I tried to keep my marriage together by living in Reidsville, Georgia for a while. My in-laws convinced my wife that I would do better by her if I were to settle down and get a regular job rather than travel all around the country playing music. I worked as a guard at Georgia State Prison for eight months after Matt was born, but the marriage didn't work and I went home to Odessa to help my ailing father run his record shop.
After my father died, I went back to playing music and met my second wife. Marrying on the rebound seldom works and this relationship only lasted three years. I played for a while and worked at the El Paso Gas refinery for a while until we split up. I was on the road again with the Bobby Osborne Trio when Waylon called my mom about me playing with Hank Jr. Mom thought Waylon was asking me to play drums for him and I would have gladly taken the gig, but it was Hank Jr. that needed the drummer. Waylon did offer me a job some years later when his drummer got busted for the umpteenth time for pot. But he beat the rap and I lost the gig. Dorothy and I had moved across the country to take the job, but God had other plans.
It was a common practice in the ‘50s for many of the promoters and producers to take a portion of the writer’s credits from their artists. Did that ever happen to you?
Norman put his name on “Lookie Lookie Lookie,” which was my only release on a major label in the ‘50s. Music is a cutthroat business, but I've been able to keep all my music free from poachers since then.
At what studios did you record and which were the ones that impressed you the most?
I've recorded at Ben Hall’s Studios in Big Spring, Texas, at Norman Petty’s Studios in Clovis New Mexico, [at] a very good studio in Orlando, Florida (can't remember the name of it now), Tommy Allsup’s Studio in Odessa, and another of Tommy’s Studios in Azel, Texas. [Also] at a studio in Ft. Worth and in several studios in Nashville. I would have been smart to become a studio player early on. That's where the money is. Nashville’s studios are the best I've recorded in, but the memories in Clovis and Azel are the greatest.
I too will be attending the Buddy Holly Symposium with my wife, Judi, in early September as a member of the press, and I look forward to meeting you and your family. My guitar roots with my traditional guitar-instrumental group, The Knights (formed in 1961 and still active) was inspired by George Tomsco of the Fireballs and Nokie Edwards of The Ventures, and my preferred guitar has always been the Fender Jazzmaster. Are you fond of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s instrumental efforts by these artists?
I'm so glad you and Judi will be in Lubbock in September. Dorothy and I look forward to meeting you there. I can't say I ever met Nokie Edwards, though I was also a fan, but I'm proud to list George Tomsco as a friend. I'm sending you a picture of him and me on stage together along with several others that might be of interest to you for this article. As far as guitars go, I own a wonderful 1988 collectors-series Ovation that has a great story to go with it, just not for this interview.
At what point in time did you and your wife develop a profound relationship with God and why?
[On] February 8, 1971, just before midnight [in Southern California], Dorothy laid our copy of The Late Great Planet Earth on the table by the bed and we went to sleep. At 6:00 A.M. the earth began to shake violently, knocking me from the bed to the floor. Dorothy ran into the baby’s room and grabbed Corrina. She was baptizing her with spit as I ran out the front door with my shotgun to see if paratroopers were accompanying what I thought for sure was a bombing. The young lady next door told me it was an earthquake and said I was cute in my jockey shorts. I ran back inside, made sure Dorothy and Corrina weren't injured, put on my pants and shirt, and ran back out to survey the destruction. There was a big aftershock that literally knocked me to my knees. When it subsided, I ran back inside to turn on our brand new color TV only to find it had fallen and been destroyed. Dorothy was in tears and sat on the couch holding Corrina while I looked for a radio. The only thing I could think to do was sit with her and hold her while she prayed. Her faith touched me deeply and when we were able to get ourselves together, we walked to a local bookstore and bought two Bibles. I bought her a Catholic edition and a Scofield-reference Bible for myself.
We spent the next few weeks looking up all the references in The Late Great Planet Earth and, by the time we had finished, I was convinced that what it said was true. I began having personal encounters with God over the next few weeks, in which He would speak to my heart with that still small voice, yet so clearly, there was no mistaking it was Him. Every time He would drop a thought in my heart I would look it up in the Bible and ask Dorothy what she thought. I was driving a limousine for Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Limousine service at the time and using the contact I made to try and advance my career as an actor. We moved from the apartment in North Hollywood to Santa Monica to be closer to the garage and Dorothy kept nagging me about my work not being pleasing to God.
One night I was watching Sonny and Cher when their guest David Clayton Thomas sang a song called “Magnificent Sanctuary Band.” The Lord spoke to my heart and said, "That's what you should be doing with your music." 6:00 A.M. the next morning I was watching a preacher on TV. I had a joint in one hand and a glass of wine in the other when that preacher stuck his hand out of the TV and into my face saying, "I don't care if you're a deacon in My church, [but] if you don't have a personal relationship with My son Jesus Christ, you are on your way to hell.” God spoke to me so profoundly I thought anyone there could have heard his voice as clearly as I had. He said, "That's you Carl. You have no such relationship and you are on your way to hell.” I woke up every time in the apartment complex screaming, "God don't let me die lost. Jesus save me, please." Scared Dorothy half out of her wits and made the baby cry, but it was the beginning of the most incredible adventure in faith I could possibly [have].
What is your take on the manufactured mainstream music of today and do you see it ever getting back to a clearly defined rock-and-roll expression?
I'm one the young would call old when it comes to today’s pop music. I listen mostly to country and gospel now due to my inability to enjoy 95% of what is called music in today’s market. I wish I could say that I held out hope that we could ever get back to a clearly defined rock-and-roll expression, but I don't. I'm proud to see the hundreds of young people coming to the venues [at which] I still play. Our music will never die, but I left rock and roll to go into country when I felt it was not going to get any better and that was in 1967. From what I've seen since then, I'm convinced I was right to make the move.
If you had to do it over again, what would you have done differently and what advise do you have for the aspiring rock-and-roll musician of today?
If I had it to do over again I'd practice longer and harder, live in the studios as much as possible, and take thousands of pictures. I have been blessed far above most of my peers to have met and worked with the incredible people who make up my musical past. One thing I would definitely change is the timing of my salvation experience: Lord that I could have shared my faith with many who are now gone. I don't believe in preaching at people, in spite of the fact that I am an ordained minister and do preach when the opportunity presents itself—even then, though I'm much more comfortable with sharing my personal experience in Him than just presenting a sermon.
My advice to aspiring musicians is to love what you do so much that no one can miss it. Don't ever buy your own publicity. You are blessed beyond description just by having the talent to play. Develop that talent as far as you can take it, but don't ever think it makes you special and that the rules of decency don't apply to you. Be thankful and tell God you are. He is the giver of the gift. He can help you to take it to the next level and the ones after that.
Most of the time on the
WDP 1959 he spent
with Ritchie Valens.
Courtesy Carl Bunch
Carl noch ohne Brille. Auf der Winter Dance Party 1959 verbrachte er die meiste Zeit mit dem jüngsten Mitglied der Truppe, Ritchie Valens.
Carl, thank you very much for your visit with me. Your replies to my questions have been both fascinating and riveting, to say the least. You da man! What are your final thoughts?
I am again blessed with the opportunity to say whatever I believe needs saying, without constraint. Thank you, Dick for letting me share my heart with your readers. I've lived at least three lifetimes in almost sixty-five years and the last is prophesied over me to be better than the first. If the prophecy is true, and I believe every word of it, you'll be hearing a great deal more of me in the future. I want to close with a challenge to your readers by sharing the lyrics to a song I'll be recording in the near future. The song goes like this:
Stand up while you can, every woman, child, and man. Your pledge of allegiance renew. Sing God bless America. Stand up for the Red, White and Blue.
If you think it's corny to be proud of Old Glory, mister, I've got news for you. The blood that was shed for your right to that opinion calls out for the Red, White and Blue.
Stand up while you can, every woman, child, and man. Your pledge of allegiance renew. Sing God bless America. Stand up for the Red, White and Blue.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, still under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
God Bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her with a light that will shine from above. From the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home.
Now if you still think it's corny to be proud of Old Glory, mister, I've got more news for you. The blood that was shed for your right to be that way will live on no matter what you say or do. There are many in this land [that] still salute old glory and daily pay the price to keep us free. United we stand, indivisible under God, and we will not lay down our liberty.
Stand up while you can, every woman, child and man. Your pledge of allegiance renew. Sing God bless America. Stand up for the red white and blue.
Thanks again for the privilege of sharing and all who would like to join me in making the words "liberty and justice for all" a reality.