Sonny West joins the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation as an honored friend Sonny is the writer of “Oh Boy” & “Rave On”
I had the great pleasure of meeting a living Rock n Roll legend, Sonny West, co-writer and first artist to record “Oh Boy” and “Rave On”, two of Buddy and “The Crickets” most loved songs.
Sonny and his lovely wife Dottie were most gracious,and Sonny told me some wonderful stories.
It was 1957 and an open mike evening at radio station KDAV,Dave Stone was hosting the show.
Sonny was visiting family (his parents lived in Littlefied Texas,near Waylon Jennings)and he was asked to call over to the radio station to perform.
When he arrived, there was already a session going on. Dave said “When these boys finish in the studio,you can go in Sonny”.
A couple of years ago, Sonny very kindly demoed a track for my dad.
He’d asked Sonny if he had any unreleased material that would interest Buddy/Cricket fans.
Sonny said in December 1958, he bumped into Buddy who was visiting his parents in Lubbock with Maria Elena for Christmas (which sadly, as we all know, was his last one).
Buddy praised Sonny and thanked him for the two great songs he and “The Crickets” had recorded to such huge success, and Buddy asked Sonny if he had anything else that might interest him.
Sonny said to Buddy he was working on a couple of songs, one in particular was nearly finished, and Buddy said he’d like to hear them where they were completed.
As we lost Buddy just a few weeks after that meeting, Sonny was like us all, devastated, so he put the song ideas away,and never thought about them again, in respect to Buddy’s memory,until a couple of years ago when he told my dad the story, dad persuaded him to record one of those songs he was finishing for Buddy to hear himself, for historical purpose.
Recorded at home, simply but soulfully by Sonny, we’ll maybe ask his permission to allow us to put it on the Facebook site for you to listen to. The song title is “What’ll You Have”. It’s numbing to think what might have been.
For now, take a listen to this 1956 authentic Rockabilly classic, Rock-Ola-Ruby from a fine artist and real Gentleman. Thank you for your hospitality Sonny and Dottie.
Thank you also Sonny West, for your BRILLIANT iconic songs “Oh Boy” and “Rave On”, they will forever be intertwined with those of Buddy holly and “The Crickets”.
The Board is happy to name Sonny West as an Honored Friend of The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. Mr. West was a fellow Texas Rockabilly player and songwriter who grew up near Buddy’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas. Sonny traveled in the same circles as Buddy, including working with and recording at the Clovis, New Mexico studio that Buddy and the Cricket made so famous. While Mr. West’s versions of “Oh Boy” and “Rave On” achieved some regional success, when Buddy applied his distinctive voice, arrangement and production to them, they became huge worldwide hits for Holly and the Crickets. “Oh Boy” became such a hit for Buddy and Sonny that Mr. West won a rare BMI songwriter “Million-Air” award, given to songwriters who write songs that earn more than a million plays on the radio. “Rave On” is such a Rock and Roll standard that Bruce Springsteen has said that he psyches himself up for shows by singing it backstage before he goes on. With this award Maria Elena Holly, Peter Bradley, and the entire Buddy Holly Educational Foundation are proud to honor Sonny’s friendship and contributions to Buddy Holly’s legacy.
Sonny West Responds:
WEST TEXAS ROCK AND ROLL …in the beginning
“In 1956 I was living just outside of Lubbock, Texas where I had the rare opportunity of meeting and visiting with other young musicians, singers and songwriters from the area. At age eighteen I was planning a recording session for myself, and hoping to get a recording contract. I contacted Norman Petty who had recently opened a recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico, which was only about 100 miles northwest of Lubbock. Norman was a bandleader and part-time DJ who had a very good ear for recorded sound, and charged fairly reasonable prices for making demo records. Roy Orbison and his band the Teen Kings had recorded their song “OOBY DOOBY” the previous year at the Studio and released that recording on an indie label, which resulted in a contract between Roy and Sun Records. Waylon Jennings was a DJ in Littlefield, Texas and was soon to transfer to KLLL in Lubbock all the while honing his musical skills for a future performing career. Terry Noland and his band the Four Teens were making plans to record some demos at the Clovis Studio. Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen, classmates at a north Texas college, were preparing to record “PARTY DOLL” and “I’M STICKING WITH YOU” at the Studio. At the same time, Buddy Holly had his first recording contract – with Decca Records – and had traveled to Nashville a number of times to record. Around this time Holly had a Decca release called “BLUE DAYS, BLACK NIGHTS,” which was garnering moderate sales and airplay, especially in Lubbock. I thought he was doing quite well for himself, but Decca was not happy with the sales, and would soon refuse to renew his contract.”
“I had the privilege of knowing and visiting with these talented people during this special period of time, all of whom, myself included, were trying to find the key that would bring us success in an extremely competitive market, knowing this would require hit songs on a national or worldwide scale. We had chosen the medium of phono-records to meet our goals. The music world was changing day to day. We were young. We were anxious. We were up against incredible odds. And most of all we were in a hurry.”
“My “ROCK-OLA RUBY” session was actually recorded by Norman Petty at the Lyceum Theater in Clovis. By using a driving electric guitar, a double bass, and adding a cardboard box filled with cotton to the drum set, we were able to make a definitive “Texas-style rockabilly” record. The lack of promotion and the changing times doomed this record to obscurity until the revival of the oldies in the 1970s. Buddy Knox did have a huge hit with “PARTY DOLL,” however, making it the first million selling record to come out of the little Clovis studio. In late 1957, Charlie Phillips recorded a country version of his “SUGARTIME” at Norman’s Studio. It became an overnight smash hit for the McGuire Sisters.”
“By early 1957 after Decca had failed to renew Holly’s contract, he decided to try making some demos at Norman Petty studio in Clovis. During the time Holly was with Decca he had recorded “THAT’LL BE THE DAY” in Nashville, but no one at Decca seemed impressed with it. Still feeling it had possibilities, Holly and Norman re-arranged “THAT’LL BE THE DAY,” and set it in another key. This time it turned out fantastic. Brunswick Records agreed to sign Holly. Realizing “THAT’LL BE THE DAY” was one of the strongest Holly numbers, it was sent to Brunswick, but because of previous agreements with Decca, Holly was not supposed to record this material for release on another label for a period of five years. This led to the creation of a group name – The Crickets – so that the song could be released. At this same time Mr. Petty was able to negotiate a contract between Terry Noland and Brunswick Records, for a few releases of the Crickets by Noland.”
“Buddy and his band members wrote the majority of their songs, but they were always on the lookout for other material. I had previously made a demo of my composition of “OH BOY” at Petty’s studio. When it became apparent that Holly and the Crickets were on their way up, Holly decided to record “OH BOY.” As it turned out, “OH BOY” became their second release, a huge hit, and one of Holly’s all-time best sellers. A bit later Holly also recorded another one of my songs. In early 1958, after my Atlantic recording of “RAVE ON” didn’t chart, Holly released that song which has become one of the classic songs from that time period.”
“Buddy Holly was one of those young guys who knew what he wanted and was serious about his music. Today we can look back and be grateful. He accomplished much in his short time here. His legacy is secure as he continues to influence generations.”