Where did Buddy Holly get his hiccup?
May 29, 2005 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Is there someone who was a direct influence on Buddy Holly's vocal style, a combination of people/styles, or was all of it just something truly original?

I can hear a lot of the musical influences on Buddy Holly, but I can't think of a person or genre/style that may have influenced his idiosyncratic singing. Thanks for the help.
posted by sleepy pete to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
This is a neat question to which I haven't yet thought of an answer. It might help to try to define Holly's vocal style first: this page does pretty well with "hiccup-like patterns, extra syllables, abrupt changes of pitch, and what one critic termed a playfully ironic, childlike quality."
posted by climalene at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2005

You're right, climalene, thanks for that addition. (I liked that page's explanation as well, I was just too dim this morning to link it.)
posted by sleepy pete at 9:48 AM on May 29, 2005

Given climalene's description... maybe you'd find similar techniques being used by jazz vocalists? But then, jazz has never been listed as one of his influences... his influences were more bluegrass and country, so I'd look there for antecedents - I doubt you'll find any, though.
posted by Leon at 10:50 AM on May 29, 2005

True originality is a rare bird, and, great though Buddy Holly was, he surely had antecedents. Nothing comes outta nowhere.

For instance, Holly was surely familiar with great country vocalists like Hank Williams and Hank Snow, as well as blues/R&B/soul artists like Hank Ballard (whose music I strongly recommend, by the way) and Billy Ward and His Dominoes, a group which featured both Jackie Wilson and Clyde McPhatter. All of these singers are tremendously expressive vocal stylists; while it might be impossible to trace the origins of the "hiccup" -- which was present in both country and soul music in the late '40s/early '50s -- these singers are all likely candidates. Hiccupy vocals were also a part of certain bluegrass groups, such as The Stanley Brothers, and are even present in the fantastic little "Ah-hah"s that Bob Wills chimes in behind Tommy Duncan.

And do not discount Elvis Presley, who got in there just before Buddy, and whose influence (especially via the broadcasts of the Lousiana Hayride, which Holly surely heard) was gargantuan. Think of the way that Elvis sings the first line of "Don't Be Cruel": "Well you-a know-a I can-a be found" -- very hiccupy, indeed. (In fact, this is one of the most notable features of Elvis's early singing style.)

Like every good artist, Holly borrowed (i.e., stole) from the stuff around him, and then turned it into something that was distinctively his.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:14 AM on May 29, 2005

The Everly Brothers were a big influence on Holly (Originally Holly wrote the song "That'll Be The Day" for the Everly Brothers) and you can definitely hear their vocal influence on some of Holly's 'sweeter' songs ('True Love Ways') but The Everlys didn't have that 'hiccup'...

Holly was influenced by Elvis, as well... Elvis didn't have the hiccup but he did have plenty of 'vocal stutters': "well-a well-a well-a," etc.

I look forward to reading more about his influences as the answers roll in.

On Preview: Dr. Wu beat me to it, and even added Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys. Well done, Doctor!

Let's add Jimmie Rodgers to the list as well.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:22 AM on May 29, 2005

Nothing to add, but just wanted to say what a great question.
posted by Dreamghost at 12:56 PM on May 29, 2005

I don't think you should ignore the influence of country yodeling - Hank Williams included it, but so did countless others - on Buddy Holly's singing style. If you think about it you could even call the hiccup a very very short yodel. Or not ;->
posted by mikel at 1:33 PM on May 29, 2005

True originality is a rare bird, and, great though Buddy Holly was, he surely had antecedents.

I agree with folks who see the bluegrass/country yodel thing as a major influence, but wouldn't be so quick to discount "true originality" as a factor in Buddy Holly's vocal style. It really was unique, I think, and the idea that he'd try to go one better fits with his generally experimental nature in the studio. I mean, the guy was years ahead of anyone else at the time when it came to trying new things in the studio.
posted by mediareport at 3:05 PM on May 29, 2005

Passed this on to my girlfirend. She says:

"Yeah, that Dr. Wu pretty much nailed it with the Hank Snow and the Hank Ballard and the Hank Williams and the Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (although Bob Wills was more of a crooner and the back-up guys did the weird stuff) -- I was thinking about folks older than the Hanks, however, and I thought of that Al Hopkins & His Bucklebusters song "West Virginia Gals" -- looked it up and sure enough, there's the hiccup -- it predates the Hanks. But they surely heard him. I mean, the influences on the mid-century country singers had their own folks they looked to, from early country music stars like Dock Boggs and Uncle Dave Macon (early Opry stars) to minstrel singers and imitators, like Emmett Miller (who Hank Williams cited as a huge influence), and even early blues musicians like Roosevelt Graves."
posted by kortez at 3:34 PM on May 29, 2005

No idea how accurate this is, since it's based on my sometimes faulty memory, and history as set forth in a bio-pic, and we all know how unreliable those can be.

But, I think I remember a scene in The Buddy Holly Story, when Buddy Holly admitted borrowing a recording technique from Les Paul. I think it was the way of recording tracks one of top of the other, so that he sort-of sang backup and/or harmony to his own vocals.
posted by marsha56 at 4:10 PM on May 29, 2005

Great answers everyone, and all people whose music I love. Kortez (or kortez's girlfriend) gets props for the one I didn't think of today--Al Hopkins. Definitely all of the Hanks mentioned, Bob Wills and Elvis were influences on Holly's vocal style. I also thought Lefty Frizzell, a little more contemporary for Holly but another Texan that I'm sure played Lubbock and someone who combined the yodeling of bluegrass and sliding notes to great effect.

I second mediareport's take on Holly--I think he was influenced by many styles, but he was really amazing in arranging and in the studio and was able to create something new out of the influences. Thanks again for the answers.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:32 PM on May 29, 2005

although Bob Wills was more of a crooner and the back-up guys did the weird stuff

Actually, the exact opposite is true. Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys had several crooner-type singers over the years, most notably Tommy Duncan. Wills himself played fiddle and now and then interjected comments in the background: "Play that thing!" "Yes, yes!" etc.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 4:34 AM on May 30, 2005

Or what Dr. Wu said above: Hiccupy vocals were also a part of certain bluegrass groups, such as The Stanley Brothers, and are even present in the fantastic little "Ah-hah"s that Bob Wills chimes in behind Tommy Duncan.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 4:41 AM on May 30, 2005

Just joined Metafilter (was up there as kortez's girlfriend) -- thanks to Fuzzy Monster for the correction. That's good to know. Always thought it was the other way around. Last night I thought of that song "Hangman Tree" by Almeda Riddle which was recorded by Alan Lomax in the 50's, I think, but it's an old ballad and she sort of hiccups from one verse into the next.
posted by frances1972 at 9:33 AM on May 30, 2005

Welcome, frances1972! Always good to have a fellow fan of the 'Old-Time Music' enter the 'filter.

Speaking of which, have you checked out taz's Front Page Post from today? Plenty o' excellent tunes to choose from, old-timey and otherwise.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:26 PM on May 30, 2005

I <3 Buddy Holly!
posted by geekyguy at 6:49 PM on May 30, 2005

« Older iPod Remote Breakage   |   Gift for future pediatrician? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.