Gary Busey as Buddy Holly at Parkway Theater, 02/03/12

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly at Parkway Theater, 02/03/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

By Steve Cohen

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly
Parkway Theater, Minneapolis
Friday, February 3, 2012

An actor perhaps best known for portraying one of music's great innovators brought a bit of rock 'n' roll legacy to the Parkway Theater in Minneapolis on Friday. Gary Busey, star of 1978's The Buddy Holly Story, performed a set of Holly classics on the 52nd anniversary of the rock legend's death. In town for a Q&A and screening of the film (as part of The Parkway's "Rock & Roll Moving Picture Show" series), Busey didn't disappoint with his mix of frankness, humor, enthusiasm and wackiness.

After the screening, Busey and a band of locals (made up of musicians from The History Theater's well received Buddy Holly production) pounded out a set of Holly classics including "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Rave On," and a tender "True Love Ways." Playing a '50s Fender Stratocaster run through a vintage Tweed amp (as Holly would have used) and wearing the actual horn-rimmed glasses outfitted to him for the film, Busey showed off the musical chops that allowed him to do his own singing and playing in the film.

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly at Parkway Theater, 02/03/12
Photo by Steve Cohen

In the pre-screening live interview with show organizer Rob Chapman, Busey wanted to make note of and clear up some inaccuracies in the film, which he had no control over during the film's production in 1977. An example was the portrayal of Holly's parents as unsupportive, when in truth they were enthusiastic about young Charles Hardin Holly's efforts. The screening of the film demonstrated how The Buddy Holly Story has served as the modern template for the multitude of rock music bio-pics that have sprouted since. In his Q&A with the audience, Gary Busey spoke of his friendship and respect for Holly's widow and also recalled time spent in the Twin Cities during the change of seasons while filming 1980's Foolin' Around.

As a refresher: Buddy Holly was an innovator who became one of the first artists to write and produce his own music. Minnesota's own rock legend Bob Dylan (at 17-years old) attended Holly's concert at the Duluth Armory two nights before Holly's death. Speaking of that show in his acceptance speech at the 1998 Grammy Awards for winning Album Of The Year Time Out Of Mind, Dylan recalled "And I just want to say that when I was 16 or 17 years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory, and I was three feet away from him...and he looked at me. And I just have some sort of feeling that he was -- I don't know how or why -- but I know he was with us all the time we were making this record in some kind of way."

Busey has decided to return to our region next February 3 to perform again with this band at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. That is the site of the ill-fated final concert by Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper all of whom were killed in a plane crash en route to the next date in Moorhead, MN.

Critic's Notebook

The crowd: Mixed but mostly older crowd, many who were likely youngsters when The Buddy Holly Story movie was released in 1978. Several people in the crowd dated back to the late '50s era when Buddy Holly made his original impact.

Gary Busey's Buddy Holly Setlist

Maybe Baby
Rave On
It's So Easy
Not Fade Away
That'll Be The Day
True Love Ways
Encore: Peggy Sue

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