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Buddy Holly's Widow Helps Mentor New Artists

Thousands of singer-songwriters and musicians were in Austin, Texas, last week for the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW). Many of them were hoping to advance their careers by finding an agent, a recording contract or at least getting some exposure. Also on hand was the widow of one of the pioneers of rock and roll, Buddy Holly, whose influence continues both in music and through a foundation that helps aspiring young musicians avoid the pitfalls he encountered in the 1950s.

Many parties and concerts at SXSW feature new music. One of them honored Holly, though, the great singer-songwriter who died in 1959. He was only 22 when he died in a plane crash while on tour.

Foundation's mission

One event was organized by the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation and its principal mover, Holly's widow, Maria Elena Holly. The foundation's aim, among others, is to help aspiring artists survive success.

Maria Elena said her husband had lost the rights to some of his own songs because he was new at the music business.

“At that time they put names in Buddy's compositions that they really did not write,” she explained.

Maria Elena said the idea for the foundation came from Buddy himself. “He always said, 'when I get some money we are going to start this to help the young people so that they will know, and not go through what I did.'”

Austin entertainment attorney Stephen Easley said the foundation tries to help aspiring musicians learn the business.

“To teach them the pitfalls of recording contracts, to teach them the pitfalls of licensing deals,” he said.

Granting awards

Easley said the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation will give an award beginning next year. It will include $10,000 and free management services, and is named for Holly's song, "Learning the Game".

“You can draw a direct line from Buddy down to every musician who plays a guitar today,” he said.

A group called The Wagoneers plays many Buddy Holly songs. Monty Warden sings some of them and said they still work magic.

“He and Chuck Berry were rock's first great songwriters and those songs just stand up,” said Warden. "That's why they continue to be recorded and continue to be influential to generations to come.”

Ray Garcia came from New Mexico with a group of young singer-songwriters and was intrigued by Holly's music.

“I like it. I think I could cover some songs, make it happen, put a little twist in it,” he said.

For many young performers, born long after Buddy Holly's death, the songs seem fresh.

The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation and Maria Elena Holly are encouraging musicians, young and old, to make sure that Holly's music does not “fade away.”