Almost 60 years since his death at just 22 in a plane crash in 1959, the music of Buddy Holly continues to endure, loved by millions across the globe.
And incredibly, the hit musical celebrating his life and those songs, such as Peggy Sue and Oh Boy, is now entering its 28th year. Alex Fobbester has been playing the title role in the national touring show since last August, sharing the lead in alternate shows with Glen Joseph.
It all spanned about 18 months of real success, and his output in that time was double some musicians’ whole careers, and they’re still songs we know todayAlex Fobbester
‘It’s been a bit of a whirlwind because the show is relentless and it’s my first time doing it, but it’s a lot of fun,’ explains Alex.
‘When we’re not being Buddy, though, we’re still on stage, we’re in the band, playing a supporting role.’
A relative newcomer to professional musical theatre, Alex is 23 – only a year older than Buddy when he died.
‘I’m just older than he made it to, but his output was just incredible. It all spanned about 18 months of real success, and his output in that time was double some musicians’ whole careers, and they’re still songs we know today, like Oh Boy and Every Day, That’ll Be The Day, that captured the nation and then the world.
‘He inspired all these people like a young John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, who all say without Buddy their music just wouldn’t have existed – without him they wouldn’t have picked up a guitar.
‘I think the story is universal as well, the story around that incredible talent and songwriting and performance ability. He grew up in this little southern town where people were telling him he couldn’t play rock’n’roll – that was for the Chuck Berrys and Little Richards, at the time it was coloured music.
‘But he always had this tunnel vision and drive.
‘Anyone who told him he couldn’t play it or it wasn’t for him, he found a way around it, so this whole show is about him crashing through these obstacles, but still with this charm and magnetic presence – people were drawn to him.
‘He had this core of steel that when it came to the music, you didn’t mess with him.’
The success of the show also paved the way for other jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You.
‘It inspired all these others that came after. There is really a feeling of being a small note in part of the legacy.
‘What’s excellent is that you expect there’s a demographic of Buddy fans that we’re targeting this at, but what you find is that you get parents and grandparents dragging their children.
I know I would be sceptical if that was me and I was a kid and I saw this bloke in specs on the poster and hadn’t heard of this crusty old singer from the ’50s, but you find by the end they’re often the first ones up on their feet dancing.
‘At the end of the show we play the last gig he did before getting on that plane, and it is just hit after hit after hit, and that really is the celebration of the music. If we transport the audience so they feel like they’re there in the ballroom, we’ve done our jobs.’
Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story
Mayflower Theatre, Southampton