53 years ago today…

Today is another busy day in the studio working on the new Human Statues album. It’s sounding really good. As I have a moment sit as Jeff records an acoustic track, I realize today is the anniversary of Buddy Holly’s untimely passing.
I already posted this article last March but in light of today being THE “day the music died” I thought it was worthy of a re-post.
I’ll be reprising the role of Buddy this summer in Vancouver’s Stanley Theatre.

Toronto Star‘s travel section:

In America, remembering the Day the Music Died

by Reb Stevenson

CLEAR LAKE, IOWA—On an autumn afternoon, a young man enters a dense cornfield. He’s tall, slender and wears horn-rimmed black glasses.

It’s not just any field: on Feb. 3, 1959, a plane crashed here, killing rock n’ roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

He stops at a guitar-shaped monument. Apart from the strong breeze that rustles the crispy stalks, it’s eerily silent.

Under normal circumstances, this creepy scene would prompt me to dial the ghostbusters. But I have some mitigating information: the man isn’t Buddy Holly’s spectre but my own brother, Zachary Stevenson.

Zach, a musician and actor, has played the optically challenged legend five times, including the lead in last summer’s sold-out Vancouver production of “The Buddy Holly Story.” With 260 shows down, he decided a three-state research trip was overdue.

So here we are, standing where it ended for Holly, who was just 23 years old on “the day the music died.”

Where it all began, however, is a whole 1,000 miles south.

Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936, forming the band The Crickets in his teens.

Zach and I made the rounds: we drove past Lubbock High, stopped in at a radio station where Holly hosted a show and Zach laid a guitar pick on Holly’s grave.

But, honestly, none of that stuff gave me a true understanding of why this short-lived musician is considered a rock ’n’ roll luminary.

The answer came in the guitar-shaped gallery of The Buddy Holly Center: I learned that both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones revered Holly in their infancy.

“Buddy still appeals to people of all ages on many different levels,” says curator Jacqueline Bober.

Plenty of memorabilia resides there, including his bedroom furniture, his last Fender guitar and — most heartbreaking of all — the signature glasses that were plucked from the cornfield.

Lubbock had its limitations, and so The Crickets found a recording studio 100 miles away in Clovis, N.M. Since that state is an hour behind Texas, the boys would gun it to see if they could pull in at the same time they’d left.

When we joined a guided tour at Nor Va Jak studios in Clovis, Zach and I exchanged a wide-eyed look that silently communicated the delicate sentiment: “Holy crap, this place is freaking awesome!”

Most impressive: A living piece of Buddy Holly history on hand. His name is David Bigham and he sang backup on four tracks, including “It’s So Easy.”

Bigham quit two weeks after Holly died, returning to the studio as a volunteer 31 years later.

“The moment I walked through that door, it was like I had left the night before. Everything was the same,” says Bigham, now 73.

Indeed, Nor Va Jak is a time capsule. Given the original equipment, the Baldwin piano and the celesta you hear in “Everyday,” you’d think Buddy had just popped out for a pee break.

If you’ve listened to “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” or “Maybe Baby,” then you’ve already heard this space. A dozen Buddy Holly hits came out of Clovis, where producer Norman Petty added his own unique flair to the songs.

One day, Holly’s drummer, Jerry Allison, was absent-mindedly slapping a rhythm on his knee.

Petty’s response: “Let me put a mic on that.”

The midwest was a far cry from the heat of New Mexico and Texas, particularly in February, 1959. The tour bus for the Winter Dance Party kept breaking down and one musician even got frostbite because the heating system was kaput.

Holly snapped, booking a charter flight directly following the show at Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom.

As for the outcome of that decision — well, a sad pall still hangs over Clear Lake. In a shop on the main street, we find framed photos of the wreckage for sale, bodies and all. I’m happy to report that Zach isn’t enough of a crazed fan to buy one.

He is, however, keen to see the Surf Ballroom. On that fateful night, parents got in free and hovered at the back, keeping a watchful eye on the 1,100 youngsters in attendance (who knew how this new rock ’n’ roll stuff might corrupt innocent little Bobby or Susie?).

We can envision the scene perfectly because the ballroom has practically been embalmed. The South Seas theme, the booths, a machine that projects clouds on the navy blue ceiling — it has all endured.

“It’s a bucket list item for a lot of people,” says spokesperson Laurie Lietz. “Especially for people who were teenagers in that era — the crash was a real turning point for them. It’s not uncommon to see a tear shed here.”

Despite its tragic association, The Surf is an active music venue. On a lark, we see former Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash play there (now there’s someone for Bobby and Susie’s parents to fret about).

But before that, Zach asks if he can jump onstage with his guitar and play a few Buddy Holly tunes.

“Of course!” says Lietz.

You’d think that, for someone who has performed for thousands, playing in an empty ballroom would be no biggie. But today’s rendition of “That’ll Be The Day” is more emotionally charged than most. Because, in his heart, Zach is playing to one very significant spectator — and I don’t mean me.

Reb Stevenson is a Toronto-based writer. Read her blog at www.rebstevenson.com. Her trip was partially subsidized by Texas Tourism. For a video of Reb’s trip, go to www.thestar.com/travel

JUST THE FACTS

SLEEPING: In Lubbock, stay in the 1950’s room at The Woodrow House B&B (2629 19th Street; 806-793-3330; www.woodrowhouse.com; $99-139 per night). In Clear Lake and Clovis, you’re looking at chain motels. The upshot: you can buy more rare Buddy Holly memorabilia on eBay with the money you save.

THE MUSEUM: The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas is open Tuesday to Sunday (806-775-3560; www.buddyhollycenter.org; admission $5).

THE STUDIO: Nor Va Jak Studio in Clovis, New Mexico is open Monday to Saturday by appointment only (contact Kenneth Broad (ksbroad@yucca.net or 575-760-2157; admission by donation).

THE VENUE: The Surf Ballroom and Museum in Clear Lake, Iowa is open year-round Monday to Friday ( www.surfballroom.com or call 641-357-6151; admission by donation).

THE CRASH SITE: Free maps to the crash site are available at The Surf Ballroom.

Thank you to all who purchased “Smashed Hits”

Thank you to all who bought a copy of my disc “Smashed Hits” last year which includes covers of Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams. I was able to sell enough to make a $2000 donation to MSF (Doctors Without Borders) this year.
I’ll be selling copies again this Spring when I take “Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave” to Saskatoon!

Making my contribution

Hello from Northern BC!

The beauty of northern BC

I’m on the road with the Human Statues touring schools in Northern BC.  Go to the Human Statues website or Facebook page for frequent updates.  It’s been exhausting but equally rewarding playing for kindergarten students through to grade twelves; reaching territory as north as Fort St. John and as far west as Haida Gwaii; even making it to the harbour town of Hartley Bay only accessible by boat.

Relive Rock ‘n’ Roll History

Relive rock ‘n’ roll history

Via the Nelson Star:

10_31Buddy_white-suit-jump-350-2.jpg

Zachary Stevenson plays Buddy Holly?.
Published: November 01, 2011 12:00 PM
Updated: November 01, 2011 12:17 PM

The Capitol Theatre is thrilled to present the world’s most successful rock ‘n’ roll musical this coming Tuesday.

Peggy Sue, That’ll Be the Day, Not Fade Away, — the list of hit songs penned by Buddy Holly goes on and on. By his untimely death, the legend had already changed popular culture forever. Vibrant and celebratory, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story highlights the talent and passion that lives on in his music, thrilling audiences long after they dance out of the theatre.

In 1989, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story premiered in London’s West End and ran for 13 years. The UK tour of Buddy has run for over nine years and the show has enjoyed success playing Broadway and around the world. Buddy has now been seen by over 20 million people. Alan Janes was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical and internationally Buddy has received 13 nominations and awards.

“Red Robinson gave me a copy of an interview he did with Buddy Holly when he was in Vancouver in October 1957 for a concert, shortly after That’ll Be the Day had been released,” says Bill Millerd, director of Buddy and artistic managing director for the Arts Club remembers. “In the interview, Buddy is bashful and awkward with none of that self-awareness that we often hear from mega-stars — a working musician in love with music making.

The talented performers in our production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story exude that same quality.”

The show stars Zachary Stevenson with Jeff Bryant, Scott Carmichael, Marlene Ginader, Jeff Gladstone, Jeremy Holmes, Elena Juatco, Kieran Martin Murphy, Michael Scholar Jr., Milo Shandel, Denis Simpson, Sibel Thrasher, Alec Willows and Seana Lee Wood.

Charge by phone 250-352-6363 buy online capitoltheatre.bc.ca.

Buddy in Coquitlam

Arts Club brings Buddy Holly back to life

buddy-dress3.jpg

The Arts Club Theatre on Tour production of Buddy.
By Larry Pruner – The Tri-City News
Published: October 19, 2011 9:00 AM

Zachary Stevenson doesn’t just play legendary rock-n-roller Buddy Holly?. He lives him, despite Holly’s very vibrant yet tragically fleeting career and life span.

Stevenson and the Arts Club musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story play at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Cultural Centre from Oct. 29 to Nov. 4.

The show has taken off as part of a series that opened last month and tours through November at various B.C. cities, just as Holly’s music career was doing before his untimely death.

“The day the music died,” as Don McLean wrote in his 1971 tribute song, American Pie, was Feb. 2, 1959, when the chartered plane in which he was travelling crashed in a Iowa farm field and claimed his life of a mere 22 years, along with those of other rising singers: Ritchie Valens?, 17, and 28-year-old J.P. “The Big Bopper?” Richardson.

While Stevenson, 29, is far too young to remember Holly firsthand, his own band, Human Statues, has its music infused with duo harmonies similar to The Beatles, who made it no secret in their early days they were inspired greatly by Holly.

It is said that Holly set the template for the standard rock and roll band: Two guitars, a bass and drums. He was also one of the first of his genre to write, produce and perform his own songs.

“I really only know the basics about Buddy… and maybe a little more for someone my age,” Stevenson, a Parksville native and current Vancouver resident, told The Tri-City News on Monday. “I didn’t even realize before he was from Texas. I didn’t hear that [accent] in his voice. He was an interesting character. He was polite and of Baptist religion, yet kind of rebellious at the same time.

“His music was really kind of punk rock for its day,” Stevenson said.

The play also involves Holly’s love interest, Maria Elena Stantiago, whom he proposed to after a whirlwind romance and was left a widow after only six months of marriage.

She was pregnant at the time of Holly’s death and miscarried shortly after, reportedly due to pyschological trauma.

“There’s only so much we know about him,” Stevenson said of Holly, who perished only 18 months after his biggest hit, That’ll be the Day, was released. “What we do have is his music itself and the energy it reveals… about life and love and all that stuff a young man goes through. But, at the same time, it’s cutting edge, too.”

Elena Juatco, who plays Holly’s wife Maria, says everybody in the play has a true and timeless connection with Holly, whose other hits include Peggy Sue and Not Fade Away.

“I think it’s important to say we all love music and this show’s about Buddy Holly and his music,” Juatco says in an interview on the Arts Club’s website (www.artsclub.com). “Everyone on our cast plays an instrument and when we have breaks everyone picks up a guitar or gets on drums and we just start jamming together.”

On Sept. 7 and what would have been his 75th birthday, Holly received a star posthumously on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And he has a star like Stevenson, paying him a live tribute well-worth watching.

• For tickets, call Evergreen at 604-927-6555.

Dead Ringer in Surrey

Via Surrey Now:  One dead ringer for several dead singers

On stage at Surrey Arts Centre; Zachary Stevenson best known for becoming Buddy Holly in Arts Club’s hit musical about doomed rocker

By Adrian Chamberlain, Surrey Now

The Buddy Holly Story. Shot by Tim Matheson

Zachary Stevenson plugs in again for Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, on stage at Surrey Arts Centre until Oct. 28.

Need help bringing a dead singing star to life?

Call Zachary Stevenson.

The actor-singer once starred in a show about protest singer Phil Ochs. He’s also portrayed country icon Hank Williams on stage.

But Stevenson is best known for becoming Buddy Holly.

“I’ve cornered the market as an actor, playing singers who have untimely deaths who wrote songs and played guitar,” said Stevenson with a smile.

For an interview, Stevenson wore the same prescription horn-rims he sports in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, which on Tuesday (Oct. 11) opened a two-week run at Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage.

Stevenson, who ordinarily plays acoustic guitar, straps on an electric to play the rocker who wrote “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” His uncanny imitation and persona of the doomed rocker landed him the plum role with the Arts Club Theatre Company production.

“I initially was approached to perform in the full musical in Ontario,” said the 29-year-old. “I researched him, the era and his music.”

Stevenson has spent hours pouring over the Internet, reading about the legendary singer and hearing his music.

“I was very meticulous in the smallest of details about Buddy Holly because I wanted to capture his essence,” he said.

“As far as looking like him, I wear glasses and have curly hair myself, so that helps.”

Last year, Stevenson was chosen as one of the Vancouver Sun’s “10 Rising Talents to Watch for in the Arts.” According to the Sun’s arts critic, Peter Birnie, the young singer has: ” … mastered a mimicry of some interesting singers, and it’s paid off.”

Birnie also went on to say this about his role in Buddy: “Zachary Stevenson nails the rock ‘n’ roll legend in a full-throttle tribute that fires on all cylinders.”

After performing Holly on stage in a half-dozen productions across Canada, the lanky actor/singer has mastered Holly’s vocal inflections.

“I really trained on his accent marks in the lyrics so I could get all the hiccups down-pat before the first show,” he added. “I polish my performance every time and it feels more and more natural. Now, I can step on stage and be Buddy.”

He went on to add that: “Although Buddy’s songs were simple, he didn’t follow the typical rock formula of the times. His music is timeless because of that rock ‘n’ roll spirit he portrayed. He had a lot of energy on stage.”

Stevenson said he never set out to mimic deceased music legends. While at the University of Victoria studying for a theatre degree, the budding performer developed a one-man show about Phil Ochs, an obscure American protest singer who committed suicide in 1976 at the age of 35.

Stevenson spent endless hours listening to Ochs albums in his father’s record collection.

“I’d sit in my house in Parksville and play the record and play along, trying to figure out his picking pattern,” he said.

Meanwhile, Stevenson said the hits that made Buddy Holly a household name get everyone in the audience up on their feet and dancing.

“Everybody also starts singing,” he said. “It is so much fun for me to see the audience get into the music as much as I do.

“Some of the younger audience has told me it’s the closest they’ll get to seeing Buddy Holly perform, and the older crowd tell me they get energized and they tell me they have great memories of that era.? As long as people keep wanting the music, I’ll keep performing it.”

Stevenson has found success playing his own music as well, with folk-pop duo The Human Statues. “I guess you can describe our music as influenced primarily by early pop like The Beatles, but with a modern twist,” he said. “We are often compared to the Barenaked Ladies … but we aren’t a novelty act.”

As for playing another deceased music legend, well, Stevenson certainly isn’t averse to the idea.

“People say ‘who’s next?’ And I say I don’t know. Jimi Hendrix? I don’t know if I can pull that one off.”

with file from Richmond News

TICKET INFO:

‘BUDDY’ AT SURREY ARTS CENTRE Tickets range from $29 to $48 for Buddy:

The Buddy Holly Story at Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage, from Oct. 11-28 (select dates). For show and ticket info, call 604-501-5566 or visit www.surrey.ca/arts.
© Copyright (c) Surrey Now

Read more.

Fall Dance Party!

In the year Buddy Holly would’ve turned 75, his spirit is, once again, on tour.  Last night we opened the Arts Club’s touring production of the Buddy Holly at Capilano University to a rockin’ crowd.  Kudos to our newest cast members Gordon Roberts, Mat Baker, Tom Pickett and Mark Burgess for learning the entire show in a mere 6 rehearsals!

Last night I was reminded just how demanding this role is physically and vocally and how much energy it takes honor the show and memory of Buddy Holly.  But it is never hard to pull off when the music moves you.  We have the same Crickets (band) as last year – Scott Carmichael, Jeremy Holmes and fellow Human Statue, Jeff Bryant.  And together it sounds dynamite!

This tour begins in North Vancouver, and tours to Burnaby, West Van, Surrey, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, Mission, Nelson, Kelowna, Chilliwak, Vernon, Cranbrook, Victoria, Courtenay, and closes at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo on November 20th.

For full details and links on how to buy tickets visit the Arts Club site.

Click the Streampad below to hear my cut of “That’ll be the Day”

Z

Doesn’t Philly live here anymore?

If you have to beg or steal or borrow, Welcome to Los Angeles: City of Tomorrow!  – Phil Ochs

from “The World Began in Eden and Ended in Los Angeles”

 

The heat of summer was cooling, my Rock n’ Roll show, FIRE, was put out but another small torch was burning south of the border in the hands of a humble, yet capable theatre company: Open Fist in Los Angeles.

A new play in the works about the life of my favorite folk singer, Phil Ochs was illuminated in it’s very first staged reading.

The Power and the Glory: the Tall Tales of Phil Ochs (American)

Jesse Bernstein's The Power and the Glory

My hat goes off to the cast and company that pulled this off in such a short time.  An especially big thank you goes out to my collaborator- Jesse Bernstein for his talent and perseverance and his lovely girlfriend for being such a welcoming host.  And to Erhin Marlow for entertaining and guiding me through the ever intriguing, beautiful, sensual morgue that is Los Angeles.

Fire is extinquished. But the damage was done!

We have firefighters for good reason.  When something is ablaze, much is destroyed.  Well, it seems, performing the theatrical play- Fire can be destructive for an actor as well.  Yes, emotionally speaking, the character, Cale, (based on Jerry Lee Lewis) is fairly self-destructive, but I’m actually speaking quite literally in this case.

Within the rehearsal process and short run of Fire I managed to break: Two tables, two belts, a radio, a pair of shoes, a piano string, a thumbnail, nearly a finger and on the final flourish of the closing night encore of “Great Balls of Fire”- a piano key was knocked sheer off.  Mind you, I was stomping on the piano 😉

Thank you to everybody at Blue Bridge – Brian Richmond, Darcy Stoop and especially Justine Shore; a fantastic cast and to all the people who attended and came with us on our journey.  Amen.

Goodness, gracious opening night of FIRE!

Last night we opened FIRE to a standing ovation!  The role of Cale Blackwell – a character inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis has been my greatest challenge as an actor to date.  Just getting my fingers in shape to handle the songs in the show would’ve have been enough to focus on in three weeks.  But the acting challenge presented in FIRE takes an equal amount of commitment, demanding a journey from a 17 year old preacher’s son to a celebrity at the height of the rock and roll era to a 42 year old washed-up, alcoholic on the verge of collapse.

Zachary Stevenson as Cale Blackwell in Fire
Jacob Richmond as Herchel

 

“The multi-talented Zachary Stevenson rose to the role of rocker Cale Blackwell bravely and with limitless energy […] alternating between furiously pounding the keyboard, then sliding down it and even stretching a leg atop it and jumping aboard, in Lewis’s signature style.”

– Amy Smart, Times Colonist, Victoria, BC

FIRE runs until August 14th at the McPherson Theatre in downtown Victoria.

Tickets can be purchased individually or as part of a subscription package by calling (250)-386-6121 or visiting the McPherson Box Office at #3 Centennial Square in Victoria.
OR click to order online

For more visit the Blue Bridge Theatre website.

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