May is Preservation Month! I'm celebrating with a new This Place Matters photo for The Everly Brothers Childhood Home in Shenandoah, Iowa, and I'm revisiting a photo from 2016 at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. It was the first time either venue had participated, so it was all the more enjoyable to be involved in these inaugural efforts.
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "This Place Matters is a national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities, and Preservation Month is the perfect time to share it with the world."
And that's exactly what we've done!
On May 5th, I had a conference call with my twin sister Sheryl and Bill Hillman about our upcoming activities for The Everly Brothers Childhood Home Foundation. I asked Bill if he could organize a This Place Matters photo at the home for Preservation Month. He thought it was a great idea. The next day, he arranged to print the signage and gather a crowd to stand in advocacy of the Everly home, a structure he's worked for years to save and restore. Sheryl and I were unable to be there, but Bill can be seen standing on the far right in the photo wearing a blue shirt.
To learn more about Bill's history with this landmark our work together, read my March article about the special exhibit and presentation: Clear Lake Welcomes Phil and Don Home Again!
Then and Now: A photo of Don and Phil Everly standing in front of the home in 1986 and a photo of what it looks like today!
For our project The Surf Speaks: Voices of a Living History, Sheryl came up with the idea to organize a group photo for This Place Matters at the Surf Ballroom that would also double as our "Class of 2016" project photo. On February 6, 2016, the final day of the Winter Dance Party, musicians, fans and community members stood together in support of our project and in advocacy of the historic Surf Ballroom (Watch the TV segment Iowa Icon about the ballroom's history).
It was an great honor (and surprise!) for us that Jerry Allison, founding member and drummer of The Crickets, joined our photo just hours before what would be his final career performance with the band. In addition to announcing his retirement, there was also a tribute scheduled for The Crickets bassist, Joe B. Mauldin, who had passed away the previous February. It was an emotional evening. Jerry had formed the band in 1957 with his best friend Buddy Holly and the Surf Ballroom was the last place Buddy performed before boarding his ill-fated plane. Aside from band members who joined The Crickets in subsequent decades, Jerry is now the last (original) Cricket standing. He was a pioneer and one of the industry's top session players. Seeing him in action that evening, it was easy to see why he's ranked as one of the top drummers of all time!
Jerry was in great spirits that day, looking mischievous and wearing a broad smile. I can't express how shocked I was when I saw him walk across the floor to join us. He was rock and roll royalty, unpretentious and friendly. As Jason Everly said about his late father Phil Everly in an article with Rolling Stone, "The real rock stars don't act like rock stars." Sheryl and I are standing to the left of Jerry, holding the "Class of 2016" banner. She's on the left in pink and white and I'm on the right wearing a grey sweater and black tie. Watch our group line up for that special snapshot!
Crouching between us is Chicago radio/TV icon Bob Hale, who was MC of the 1959 concert at the Surf and one of the last to see Buddy Holly alive. He made plans for Buddy to return in the spring. "See you in a few months," were Buddy's last words to Bob. We collaborated with our friends from Capture Films UK to interview Bob for The Airplay Channel (Watch).
Other individuals in our photo with connections to the history include:
- Surf Ballroom President Jeff Nicholas (His family owns the farmland where the crash site memorial is located)
- Tonio K (He recorded with The Crickets in the 1970s and joined them again for the 2004 album The Crickets and Their Buddies)
- Richard Casey (His father Richard Casey, Sr. was an owner of the Surf from 1964 to 1967)
- Barb and Dawn Dwyer (Widow and daughter of the late legendary aviator Jerry Dwyer who owned Dwyer Flying Service through which Buddy Holly chartered the plane)
We invited everyone to sign the "Class of 2016" banner and donated it to the Surf Ballroom Museum. When we approached Jerry months later about signing the This Place Matters banners and a few prints of the photo for our records as well as for our display in the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association exhibit for Buddy Holly's 80th birthday in October (Buddy 80), he kindly obliged!
The Everly Brothers had also played at the Surf Ballroom and other venues in Iowa in the late 1950s and 1960s. But the artists represented by our two This Place Matters photos share more than just a pictorial and geographical connection to Iowa's rock and roll history. The Crickets and The Everly Brothers toured together. They were friends and fathers of rock and roll. The Everlys influenced The Crickets to take on their Ivy League style suits and helped them adjust to life in New York City.
Buddy made demos of "Wishing" and "Love's Made a Fool of You" with the Everlys in mind, but they were never recorded. At our Buddy 80 event in October, the late Virginia Perl, who dated Phil Everly for two years in the late 1950s, told us that she'd never seen Phil happier than when he was with Buddy. Don was emotionally overwhelmed by Buddy's tragic loss, stating: "I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't go anywhere. I just took to my bed." Phil attended Buddy's funeral, sitting next to Buddy's parents and The Crickets.
Photos from 1958 (from left): (1) The Crickets publicity shot (From top: Jerry, Buddy, Joe B.). (2) Playing around backstage...it's finger snapping time! (Phil, Buddy, Jerry and Don). (3) Jamming before the show (Jimmy Velvet, Jerry Lee Lewis, Don, Buddy). (4 & 5) The Crickets back the Everlys on the Big Gold Record Stars Tour in West Palm Beach. (6) Phil, Jimmy, Buddy and Don on tour. (7 & 8) Buddy, Phil and Don at the Hotel Wolcott in New York. (9) Buddy's wife Maria Elena, Buddy, Phil's girlfriend Virginia and Phil at El Chico restaurant in New York.
Sources: TheCrickets.com, Virginia Hebel Perl, "Inside the Dream" by Jimmy Velvet.
The Everlys and The Crickets continued on together after Buddy's tragic loss in February 1959. That summer, Jerry joined the brothers at RCA Studio B in Nashville to record one of his most memorable drum licks in "Til I Kissed You." Renowned guitarist and songwriter Sonny Curtis, a close friend and early collaborator of the fallen icon, joined The Crickets as their lead guitarist and singer. He penned one of Don and Phil's hits, "Walk Right Back." One of the most beautiful and haunting collaborations between the post-Holly Crickets and the Everlys available publicly on film is from their UK tour in 1960. "Dream" and "Cathy's Clown" have a melancholy patina for Buddy's absence. Watch.
Phil Everly, who passed away in January 2014, was a speaker at Buddy's star dedication on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011 and appeared in the Listen to Me live concert on PBS in celebration of Buddy's 75th birthday that year. Don Everly is an interviewee in the new BBC Four documentary Buddy Holly: Rave On that premiered today on May 12th. Don and Jerry remain good friends. The longevity of the association between The Crickets and The Everly Brothers is a testament to their friendship and to the special camaraderie that the musical culture of that era afforded them.
This Place Matters represents more than just buildings and their tangible artifacts. It's about people. We make places special. They matter because we do. The architects, the builders, the musicians, the fans. Their stories, our stories, are still being written. May we do our utmost as professionals and citizens to ensure the successful stewardship of our shared inheritance!
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