OR CHARGE BY PHONE 1-800-678-5440



Interview with Maria Elena Holly, widow of Buddy Holly
With Lyrics of Miss American Pie by Don McLean

By Theresa Pisula and Tommy Lovelace and
June 1st, 2000

As the widow of one of the greatest pioneers and most beloved figures in the history of rock music, Maria Elena Holly is herself a well-know personality in the music industry. Buddy Holly met Maria Elena Santiago in 1958 and married her two weeks later - a love story which was immediately embraced by fans around the world. Maria Elena has made it her life's work to ensure that the memory of the rock-and-roll legend, Buddy Holly, will live forever.

Mr. Tommy Lovelace of the Rockabilly website THE ROCKABILLY KINGS RAG and the JULY 2000 NEWSLETTER and I scheduled an interview with Mrs. Maria Elena Holly, the widow of Texas' own Buddy Holly. I was running late and Mr. Tommy Lovelace has already started the interview with Mrs. Maria Elena Holly at the new Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Houston at Bayou Place on Texas Avenue in the Theatre District on June 1st, 2000. She was there for the unveiling
of the Sidewalk Star dedicated to Buddy Holly at the Grand Opening Ceremonies of the New Downtown Hard Rock Cafe.

Tommy: How about signing this old 45 rpm of Peggy Sue for me? I bought it when it was first released.
Maria Elena: Oh, my goodness! This is really an oldie!
Tommy: Correct! Maria, you have a lovely accent. You're a Latina.
Maria Elena: Yes, I'm Puerto Rican. Actually, I'm New Yorican. I was raised in New York.
Tommy: What is your musical background?
Maria Elena: My dreams were to become a Broadway star, dancer, singer, you know. But that all stopped when Buddy came into the picture. But, my aunt was involved in the music industry with Southern Music Publishing for many years since I was 17 so I grew up in that type of atmosphere.
Tommy: Do you play a musical instrument?
Maria Elena: Ha, Ha, just the castanets!

Tommy: Were you involved in Music with Buddy?
Maria Elena: I was married only six months to Buddy before he died. I went on tour with him on the tours that he had at that time. But, it goes back to the point that we were actually departing from being with his manager. He broke up with his manager at that time. So he was starting to do other things, and so we didn’t tour that much at that time. Because we were beginning to do other things, to get him back on his own.


A long, long time ago...
I can still remember how.....That music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance, That I could make those people dance,
And maybe they'd be happy for a while. But February made me shiver,
With every paper I'd deliver, Bad news on the doorstep....I couldn't take one more step.
I can't remember if I cried.....When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside, The day the music died. So...
Bye bye Miss American Pie, Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol'boys were drinkin whiskey and rye, Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."

MARIA ELENA HOLLY: June 1st, 2000 at the Unveiling of the Sidewalk Star dedicated to Buddy Holly at the New Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Houston

Theresa: How did you and Buddy meet?
Maria Elena: Ah, good question. Well, I met Buddy in New York at Southern Music Publishing Company. It was a place where he publishes music, of course. And by coincidence, we met. Because actually, I was substituting for someone that quit as a receptionist so my aunt who was one of the executives there asked me to come in because of course, I spoke both languages.

And so I went, and about three days after I was there Buddy came in. And he asked me out, and of course I said, “No, I can’t do that,” but then they convinced my aunt and everybody else there. And I went out with him that night at the PJB Arthur restaurant. PJ's was the place where everybody went to at that time, all the celebrities. So actually what happened was that, we came into the restaurant, he went off, he said, “I’ll be right back…..” He came back with flowers and gave it to me and said, “Would you marry me?”

Theresa: On the first date?
Maria Elena: On the first date. Not even five hours since we were together, you know. He asked me immediately actually, and he asked me to marry him……

Theresa: And you said?
Maria Elena: I said, “this guy’s crazy, this guy is absolutely bananas.” Because I mean, he didn’t even know. I said, “Do you wanna get married now or later?”

‘Cause I took it as a joke, I said, “Do you want to get married now or later?”
He said, “No, I’m serious. I want to get married. I want to marry you.”
So I said, “Well, alright. If you wanna marry me, you have one thing to do. You have to go through my aunt, and ask her, since she was the one that raised me.”

And so, he said, “Where do I have to go?”
And I said, “Well, she’ll be at home tomorrow. Today’s Friday, Saturday…..”
And he said, “Well, I’ll be there tomorrow.”
And so, the next day, Buddy Holly was there.
And he came in and the concierge called upstairs and said, “There’s a young man by the name of Buddy Holly to see your aunt.”
I said, “Oh my God.” I didn’t know what to do, because I didn’t tell my aunt anything, you know.

And so he came in. And with my aunt saying, “Well Buddy, is there anything I can do for you? Why can’t you wait until Monday, when we get back in the office? Is this an emergency?”
He said, “Oh yes. This is really an emergency. Maria Elena and I would like to get married and I want to take her with me on tour. That’s why I’m here. To ask you for her hand in marriage.”

MARIA ELENA HOLLY: being interviewed by Tejano newspaper

Theresa: How old were you then?
Maria Elena: Twenty-five. He was twenty-two. I have never had a date in my entire life. Never. That was my first date ever. My first date. And we got married in two weeks.

I went to Lubbock. My aunt tried to discourage us, but then she realized that, it’s very difficult to believe that it happened so quickly but even myself, I catch myself sometimes saying that you know, how did this happen? But of course, I never questioned it because it just happened. It could have been my destiny to marry him.

We were only married six months, and then the fatal crash, the way I see it, it changed my whole life at that time of course, I didn’t want to even talk about it. I just did not feel that he was gone. So to me, like I froze in there and he was still there with me. And of course, he’s still here with me too. Everywhere that I go he’s there. Not only because of me being there, but because of his music being played and he’d be honored by his peers and his fans still loving it and his music being so fresh still after 40 years. So you know, it was like a dream come true for Buddy and even for myself because he has not gone away.


Theresa: Was he already famous at the time you met?
Maria Elena: He was already well known, except I did not know who he was because I was involved with something else at the time. I used to mail out his demos to the disk jockeys and radio stations. Actually I did not know how well known he was already to the industry. So of course, after we went together, I started taking interest about it. Oh, at the same time, I forgot to say this, he was appearing that time at the Star----- Theatre. It was the first time I saw him onstage, and it was like, “Oh my gosh, what is this?” That was after, you know, we went out.

Theresa: With you husband’s popularity, how did it feel to be famous with him?
Maria Elena: Well, I never considered myself famous. I feel that I am an extension of what he left here. And I’m very pleased and honored that they still remember him and his music. To me, this is so enjoyable. A lot of people ask me if I ever get tired of doing this. I say “No,” ‘cause that has been one of his dreams for him to be able to hear his music being played over and over. His fans really remember him after all these years. To me, actually, Yes, I am part of his life and I’m very honored to be that. Sometimes, I say I wish he would be here with me. But I know he’s there somewhere looking down, watching.


Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock'n roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well I know you're in love with him.....'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes.....Man, I dig those rhythm'n'blues
I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck.....With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew that I was out of luck.....The day the music died.....I started singing...
Bye bye Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol'boys were drinkin whiskey and rye,
Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."

Theresa: Now he was onstage, and there were girls screaming for him. How did that feel like?
Maria Elena: You know, as a matter of fact, it was one of those things that he always did not like when I was around. It was the fact that I never said I was his wife. I always say I’m the secretary of the group. He did not like that. He would say, “You have to say you’re my wife.” And he’d tell everybody “She’s my wife.” And I would say, “No, I’m the secretary of the group.” Because at that time, the teeny - boppers, they didn’t like their idols to be married, of course.

Theresa: And he wanted to tell the whole world.
Maria Elena: So they would ask me, “Who are you?” And I’d say, “I’m the secretary of the group, I take care of all these people.”

Theresa: And did you go on the road with him?
Maria Elena: Oh yes, I did travel with him on a few tours.

Theresa: What was it like on the road?
Maria Elena: Oh my gosh. Nothing like nowadays, of course. That time, we had to do our own set up, we had to pick up the instruments, we had to collect the money, sometimes we didn’t get that. We practically had to wash our under-wears on the sink. We had to wash our shirts on the sink. I mean, we had to do everything. The pay was not that good either (laughs). So, it was quite different. I see a lot of people say, “Wow you’re lucky you were able to go on tour.” And I say to them, “Hey, hey, it’s not like it is right now.” It was a lot of work, a lot of work.

Theresa: And you toured across the country?
Maria Elena: That was another situation. Now, when they say you’re going on tour, they make sure that it’s flowing when you have to go distances. Back then, it would be one end of the world, then the next day you had to drive to the other end of the world, because it was not organized. Wherever you could get a gig to do the promotion that’s where you went. So, consequently, sometimes we were so exhausted. As a matter of fact, I had to learn how to drive where we were in. I never drove before, but Buddy at that time was so exhausted, that he’d say, “You have to drive.”
I’d say, “I don’t know how.”
He’d say, “Don’t worry, I’ll show you, it’s very easy. Just go straight.”
And I’d say, “Oh my gosh, what am I gonna do?” But I did it, you know, out of desperation I guess. The man was so tired, you know. So, those were the days, as they say.

Theresa: Did you tour with him outside the country?
Maria Elena: No, I didn’t go with him. He already had done that. We only did local tours. We were supposed to, as a matter of fact, one of the tours that we were working on was to go to England, because he was so recognized in Europe, especially England. So, he always told me, “You know, one of my dreams is that I want to open a recording studio in London. I want to open one in Lubbock. I want to open one in New York,” because at that time, there was nothing like that, really. And then, Buddy was so into music not only for himself, but to develop new artists, even at that time, that he told me, “When we go there you’re gonna see the talent that is in England and in Europe, you’ll be surprised.” And sure enough, we have the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Buddy had an ear and a vision, a feel for that.

(L-R) Susie Works of TUTS, Theresa Hyde and Maria Elena Holly

Theresa: Did you get to meet Elvis Presley, the Beatles?
Maria Elena: No, I met the Beatles, of course, I met the Rolling Stones after Buddy died, not before of course. Elvis Presley, I never met him but he called when Buddy died, he called and I spoke to him on the phone. I remember that. He called to say how sorry he was. Buddy was able to meet Elvis because he went to Lubbock. The story goes…he told me that Elvis did not have drums at that time. When he started, he didn’t have a drummer. And Buddy said, “You know Elvis, you need a drummer in your band.”
It was one of Buddy’s touches.

Theresa: He was such an influence. He influenced the Beatles.
Maria Elena: That was the other side of Buddy’s touch. He influenced a lot of the well-known names in the industry. To me, even the young musicians, the up and coming musicians, they look to Buddy because they knew his music was so fresh and was so simple that, for them it was so fresh to hear, and it’s still very intact.

Theresa: So, Paul McCartney came to see you?
Maria Elena: Oh, I have met Paul many times. And he celebrates Buddy’s birthday every year for over 18 years now. September 7th through the 14th in England is Buddy Holly Week. The same thing goes on in here, in the States also. Last year, he did the Birthday Celebration in New York.


Now for ten years we've been on our own.....And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But that's not how it used to be.....When the jester sang for the King and Queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean.....And a voice that came from you and me
Oh, and while the King was looking down.....The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned, No verdict was returned. And while Lennon read a book on Marx,
The quartet practiced in the park.....And we sang dirges in the dark.....The day the music died.
We were signing...
Bye bye Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol'boys were drinkin whiskey and rye,
Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."

Theresa: Did you go into the Studio with Buddy Holly? When he was recording?
Maria Elena: Yes, I did that when he was either recording in Lubbock with Norman Perry. It was not a very nice situation, but I survived. Well, actually he did one of his recordings there, one of the last ones before he broke up with him. And I remember it was King Curtis, Reminiscing. And then I also went to the Recording at Vivian Temple in New York, the last recording with Buddy in New York.

The shirt of BUDDY HOLLY, rock n' roll memorabilia at the Hard Rock Cafe in Downtown Houston

Theresa: Did you know that he was gonna be as big as he is now? Did you even conceive all this?
Maria Elena: You know what, I always knew because of his devotion and his persistence, and also, his determination to make it happen. That’s one of the reasons why it really pushes me to continue doing this because I know how much he loved his music, I know how much he wanted his fans and other people to enjoy it. It’s like a dream come true for him because it’s happening right now. And still his music is so fresh. That’s what I hear all the time.

Tommy: Grady Martin did play the first national sessions with Buddy and I don’t know…..I just talked to Grady this morning and he wasn’t sure which songs it was, but Dedra Moore, Bob Moore’s wife and Grady’s best friend, thought it might have been
Maria Elena: I could give you a name – Bill Griggs. Bill Griggs is a historian of Buddy. Do you know him?
Tommy: I know who he is, and also Harold Bradley of Owen Bradley Studio.
Maria Elena: Bill Griggs can tell you exactly. I have the phone number, it’s area code 806, he lives in Lubbock. And he’ll be able to tell you exactly the date he recorded it.


Theresa: Did you know Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper?
Maria Elena: I never met them in person but I spoke to them on the phone, especially Ritchie. Ritchie and Buddy hit it off so well. Ritchie was only 17 years old, Buddy was 22. I used to talk to him every night when Buddy called me and he’s Latino and I’m Latina, you know. He said to me, “Ritchie wanted Buddy to record with him.” As a matter of fact, one of the things that I remember was that Buddy told me, he said, “You know Ritchie’s coming home with me so make sure we have a place already for him.” And I said, “Don’t worry, we will.”

Ritchie didn’t speak very much Spanish. He spoke very little, he understood a lot but didn’t speak it very well. Ritchie wanted Buddy to do some recordings and sort of, help him out with a lot of the production of some of these songs, so that was gonna happen, being one of the things that he wanted to do.

Theresa: When did Buddy Holly win his Grammy Award?
Maria Elena: It was a Lifetime Achievement Award that they gave Buddy a couple of years ago. I accepted the award. Yeah, every time they give him one of those, I’m there. They call me to come up there. As a matter of fact, I’m going to South Dakota. And there’s a place, the name is very hard to pronounce, but they have a Rockabilly or Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Iowa and they’re giving an award to Buddy this year, so I’m going in September.


Helter Skelter in a summer swelter.....The birds flew off with the fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast.....It landed foul on the grass.
The players tried for a forward pass.....With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the halftime air was sweet perfume.....While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance.....Oh, but we never got the chance
'Cause the players tried to take the field, The marching band refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed, The day the music died? We started singing ...

Bye bye Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol'boys were drinkin whiskey and rye,
Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."



Tommy: You must travel a lot for him.
Theresa: Buddy Holly was always considered a precocious musician,
Tommy: A musician that’s way ahead of his time,
Theresa: And he was experimenting with the guitar, and sound effects. Did he ever come home one day, and he was really excited saying, “I just discovered this……”
Maria Elena: All the time. All the time, because actually that was one of the things that Buddy had. He was not afraid to go into new things and to test ideas that he had. And even with his music, like, one of the instances I could give you is the last recording at the Vivian Temple. Paul Anka brought two songs to him, and said, “Would you record these 2 songs?” And Buddy listened to the 2 songs. Boudreaux Brian wrote the songs and (Andalucia), his wife. And Buddy said, “Sure if I could do the arrangement my way. Let me hear it, and I will do that.”

It made him so happy, so he picked the songs out of the album. But he said, “I’ll do it if I do it my way.” So he played the songs at home, he took it out then he played it again. He goes, “I noticed something different here.” So, here we go again. But, you know these are somebody else’s songs. Buddy thought that he had to do it his way.

He was with Big Jacobs, who was with Fero Brunswick, who was a producer at that time. He was doing the sessions with Buddy, and he went to him, he said “You know, I wanna do these 2 songs.” He asked, “What do you mean?” He said, “I wanna do these 2, but you have to give me strings.”

And Big Jacobs said “No, that’s not possible. A rock and roller with strings?”

Theresa: With violins?
Maria Elena: Yes, yes, yes, violins. He said, “Where did you get that? This is a rock and roll session. But Okay.”

When he took the arrangement to Big Jacobs, Big Jacobs said, “Oh my god. We gotta put those two songs in, no arguments. I don’t know if you’ve heard those 2 songs, but they are the most beautiful. I mean, it was sort of…..if you go back… doesn’t matter anymore. He died after that. And it’s called Raining in My Heart. I mean, beautiful song. Up until this day, Paul Anka will hear that song and he cannot deal with that fact.

Susie Works and Maria Elena Holly

Tommy: Did he ever experiment with any sound effects, with distortion or echo, anything like that you know of?
Maria Elena: Well, he did that before, the double tracking voice.
Tommy: So, he was into overdubs.
Maria Elena: It was new back then, because they do it now. And he has the echoes. Him singing with himself, you know.


And there we were all in one place.....A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again.....So come on Jack be nimble Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick.....'Cause fire is the devil's only friend
And as I watched him on the stage.....My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell.....Could break that satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night.....To light the sacrificial rite
I saw satan laughing with delight.....The day the music died
He was singing...
Bye bye Miss American Pie, Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol'boys were drinkin whiskey and rye, Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."


Theresa: Have you ever had any kids?
Maria Elena: I didn’t go on the tour because I was pregnant. And I was just about a month and a half, and I was not feeling well. And, he said, “Oh, we need the money. We have to go on this tour.” It was not a tour for him, it was a tour for The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, and they were talking about a song called “Donna.”

Actually, because we needed the money. Because sometimes Freddie…..well that’s another story back there. He was so mad. He didn’t give the money to Buddy. He didn’t get that money. So, my aunt was taking care of us. But he didn’t want that. So, he said, “I need money to do what we’re supposed to be doing,” so, he that’s why he went on that tour.

And I did not go. I had my suitcases out the door, but I did not go because he said, “No, it’s gonna be two weeks only. I don’t want you to get sick out there.” And the tour was a horrible tour. But, I know up to this day, that if I would have been on that tour, he would not have gone on that plane. So, I go back to that night……I don’t even want to think of it. Because he knew when I said, “I’m going, I’m going.” Well, I said, maybe just in case I shouldn’t lose the baby. I lost the baby, anyway, so………….

Theresa: Maria, we learned a lot about you today. Is there anything you’d like to add about yourself that you would like the public to know?
Maria Elena: Like I said, before you know, I’m very happy, and very honored that people remember his music. I do this not for myself but for him. He is still remembered by his music. I feel like I’m there for him.

Theresa: Where are you gonna be going from here?
Maria Elena: After I finish here, I’ll be back home and then I would probably be doing other things. I’m looking forward to September, it’s a busy time for the celebration for his birthday. Oh, and I’m coming back here in August for the big Buddy Holly Musical.

Theresa: Oh yeah! Have you seen the musical in Europe?
Maria Elena: Oh my goodness! Millions of times, it’s been there for 12 years. I used to see it everyday. It’s a wonderful play.
Theresa: I can’t wait to see it!!!
Maria Elena: The one who is Buddy and the one playing the girl, they’re both married, in real life.

Maria Elena Holly and Shari Okin of Theatre Under The Stars


I met a girl who sang the blues.....And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away.....I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before.....But the man there said the music wouldn't play
And in the streets the children screamed.....The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken.....The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most.....The Father Son and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast.....The day the music died.....And, they were singing...
Bye bye Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ol'boys were drinkin whiskey and rye,
Singing "This'll be the day that I die,
This'll be the day that I die."

In keeping the memory of Buddy Holly alive, Maria Elena is assisted
in these efforts by the world's premier celebrity licensing company,
CMG Worldwide. Based in Indianapolis and with additional offices in
Los Angeles, CMG Worldwide is the home of properties and personalities
considered the most prestigious in the licensing and marketing industry.
Included among the two hundred legends that CMG represents are Buddy Holly,
Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Babe Ruth, Chuck Berry, and
Duke Ellington and such living idols as Sophia Loren and Ivana Trump.