Buddy grew up in Lubbock, Texas and was playing and performing locally by age 13. Through the period 1957-1958 he had a number of popular hits in America and the United Kingdom, most with his band The Crickets, including Peggy Sue, That'll be the Day, and Oh Boy!.
Buddy's music was notably sophisticated for its day, including the use of novel instruments (for rock and roll) and more complex harmonies and melodies. Some songs showed more lyrical sophistication than previously shown in the genre. He also managed to bridge some of the racial divide that punctuated rock, notably winning over an all-black audience when accidentally booked for New York's Apollo Theatre (though, unlike the fictional portrayal in his movie biography The Buddy Holly Story, it took several performances for audiences to be convinced of his talents).
As well as the movie of his life (for which actor Gary Busey received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor), there has been a successful Broadway musical documenting his career. His untimely death was immortalised in Don McLean's popular 1971(?) ballad American Pie.