#801: You’re So Square by Buddy Holly

Peak Month: October 1961
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CKWX chart
Peak Position #5
CKWX Hot Prospect: September 23, 1961
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “You’re So Square
Lyrics: “You’re So Square

In 1936, Charles Hardin Holley was born in Lubbock, Texas. When he was five years old he won $5 when he entered a local talent show and sang “Down The River of Memories.” He listened to the Grand Ole Opry growing up and after trying to learn the piano settled on taking up the guitar. During his Junior and Senior years in school, Holley entered some talent shows with friends in duos and doing gigs with a band playing a blend of country & western and rhythm & blues. He had a band that performed live on the Lubbock radio station KDAV. After high school graduation Holly focused on making a career as a musician. He heard Elvis Presley in concert in Lubbock in 1955. Shortly after Hollry would appear as the opening act for Presley in concert three times in 1955. Owen Bradley, who would also produce records for Conway Twitty, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline and Gene Vincent, became Holley’s record producer after he signed a record deal with Decca Records in February 1956. After signing the record deal, Buddy Holley dropped the “e” from his surname to become Buddy Holly.

Initially, Holly was not satisfied with the progress he was making with Decca Records. In May of 1957 he and his band sent a demo of That’ll Be the Day to Brunswick Records in New York City, under the name The Crickets. The label decided to release the record and it went on to be a big hit. The Crickets became a rock ‘n roll/rockabilly group in 1957. They are credited with influencing a whole range of recording artists including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. In fact, the Beatles got the idea for their name as a riff off of another insect, cricket, just going up one letter of the alphabet from C to B for Beatles. Paul McCartney once told the press, “If it wasn’t for the Crickets, there wouldn’t be any Beatles.”The Crickets were initially the backing band for Buddy Holly and among their hits are “That’ll Be The Day”, Peggy Sue”, “Oh Boy”, “Not Fade Away”, “Maybe Baby”, “It’s So Easy” and “Rave On”.

It was in Lubbock, Texas, that guitar player Buddy Holly and drummer J.I. Allison first met to discuss forming a rock ‘n roll band. They got bass player, Joe Mauldin to be a third member of the band. The three were capable of writing, playing, producing and recording their own records. They were also skilled at over-dubbing in the studio years before it became a standard feature of studio recording. “That’ll Be The Day” climbed to #1 for two weeks in July 1957 in Vancouver (BC).  The Crickets were seen as a part of the vanguard of rock ‘n roll at a time that many music critics predicted its demise and regarded it as a “music fad.” On October 23, 1957, Buddy Holly and The Crickets performed in concert at the Georgia Auditorium in Vancouver. While The Crickets were not acknowledged on the record label credits for “Peggy Sue”, many DJ’s knew that Buddy Holly’s band was playing on the record.

With the release of “That’ll Be The Day” in 1957 and their many subsequent hits, The Crickets became the leading rock and roll band in the world. In late 1958, Buddy Holly decided to move to New York and become more involved in the business side of music. Allison and Mauldin continued on with The Crickets, adding their old friend Sonny Curtis as lead guitarist and vocalist.

From April 1957 to January 1958, Holly returned on a number of occasions to record tracks for his second album, self-titled Buddy Holly. Among the tracks he recorded was a song written by the songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller called “You’re So Square (Baby I don’t Care)”. The song was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1956. In Holly’s case, “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” remained a non-single track following the 1958 release of the Buddy Holly album. Then Holly died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson). Numbers of Holly’s songs became hits after his death including “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” and “Raining in My Heart.” Holly had ongoing appeal in England where his recordings of “True Love Ways” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” charted into the Top 5 of the UK charts in 1963. Holly wrote “True Love Ways” as a wedding gift for his bride, Maria Elena Holly. They got engaged at P.J. Clarke’s restaurant, Table 53, while on their first date, on June 20, 1958.

Among the recordings by Holly released after his death was “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)”. It charted on the UK pop charts in 1961. DJ’s in Vancouver decided to give the tune airplay and the song climbed to #5 on CKWX and #6 on CFUN.

You're So Square by Buddy Holly

“You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care) was co-written by the songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. The duo wrote over 70 songs that made the pop charts across three decades. Their first song was in 1952, “Hard Times”, Charles Brown’s final Top Ten R&B. Lieber and Stoller’s last hit record was “I Keep Forgettin’” recorded by Michael McDonald in 1982. In between they collaborated with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to compose “On Broadway” for The Drifters. They also co-wrote “There Goes My Baby” for The Drifters with Ben. E. King. When King went solo, they co-wrote “Stand By Me”, Leiber and Stoller had one of their best successes with The Coasters who recorded the duo’s “Searchin’”, “Yakety-Yak”, “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy” among others. But Leiber and Stoller struck gold writing songs that are now part of Elvis Presley’s most memorable tunes. These include “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Don’t”, “King Creole” and “She’s Not You”.

“You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)” is about someone who is out of fashion, or square, as the slang word at the time implied. They don’t like hot rod racing, driving late at night, crazy music or rocking bands. They don’t even know any new dance steps. But in spite of, or maybe because of these things, their love keeps on growing. The song was one of the shortest for a 45 RPM, even at the time, lasting just one minute and thirty-five seconds.

No other radio market in Canada or the USA, beside Vancouver, charted “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)”. In 1978, a film, The Buddy Holly Story, was released. In 1986, Buddy Holly was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1989, in the theatre district of London, there was a premiere of the musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. The show had a subsequent run on Broadway the following year. In 2004, a film titled The Real Buddy Holly Story was released. It was created in response to what several members of The Crickets felt were misleading details in the 1978 film, The Buddy Holly Story.

Buddy Holly’s exposure to the general public was squeezed into just 18 months. “That’ll Be The Day” began to climb the pop charts in August, 1957. Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in Iowa, with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson), on February 3, 1959. Dion DiMucci would have been a fourth fatality, but he decided not to take the flight since it cost $36.

July 3, 2018
Ray McGinnis

Buddy Holly bio, Rolling Stone.
Buddy Holly: Rock & Roll as we Know it Wouldn’t Exist Without Buddy Holly,” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1986.
Philip Norman, Rave On: The Biography of Buddy Holly, (Simon & Schuster, 2014).
Philip Norman, “Why Buddy Holly Will Never Fade Away,” Telegraph, UK, February 3, 2015.
Spence, Richard (Director). The Real Buddy Holly Story. Universal Music Canada, 2004.
William Grimes, “Jerry Leiber, Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyricist, Dies at 78,” New York Times, August 22, 2011.
David Fricke, “Leiber and Stoller: Rolling Stone’s 1990 Interview With the Songwriting Legends,” Rolling Stone, August 22, 2011.
Leiber and Stoller – About, Leiber Stoller.com.
Sonny Curtis bio, Sonny Curtis.com.
The Crickets bios, The Crickets.com
Gary James, “Interview with Jerry Allison,” Classic Bands.com.
Sarah Rafique, “Classic Bassist Joe B. Mauldin Remembered as ‘Gentle Soul,’ Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Lubbock, TX, February 7, 2015
Will S., These Slang Terms From The 1950s Need To Come Back ASAP!, The Literacy Site Blog.
The Fabulous Forty,” CKWX 1130 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 21, 1961.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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