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Stevenson set to rave on with Buddy Holly tribute

It's less about commercial appeal and more about authenticity
0604 buddy holly sup CC
Zachary Stevenson brings his Tribute to Buddy Holly show to the Arden Theatre on April 10. SUPPLIED/Photo

On Feb. 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed, killing everyone on impact, disc jockeys across North America dubbed it “the night the music died.” 

Except it didn’t.

Although Holly was only 22 when he died, the Lubbock, Texas, native became a major-pop rock influence for some of the biggest heavyweights, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Elton John. 

And tribute artists such as Zachary Stevenson are making sure Holly’s music stays current in the 21st century’s fast-changing musical landscape. 

“When you analyze the music, it was simple instrumentation and arrangements, but there was honesty in the music. You could feel the energy, the emotion of it. It feels less contrived. When I think about Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, and the songs they wrote, there was an excitement about making it big. But it was less about image and commercial appeal and more about the music,” said Stevenson. 

Complete with Holly’s signature black, plastic-rimmed glasses now considered a symbol of chic geek, Stevenson launches a seven-city Alberta tour of Tribute to Buddy Holly. Along with the Rockin’ Royals as a supporting band, the musicians stop at the Arden Theatre on Sunday, April 10 for a night of nostalgia. 

The first tribute show Stevenson performed was in 2006 at Grand Bend on Lake Huron's shoreline as The Buddy Holly Story

“I feel I was born in the wrong era. In high school I was drawn to the music of the sixties — The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones,” Stevenson said. 

As a teenager growing up in Parksville, on Vancouver Island, he lived on a five-acre apple orchard with parents and two siblings. Since the small town had few recreational outlets, Stevenson hung out at the local thrift store. 

“In the 90s people were unloading their records and buying CDs. I’d check out the record rack and experiment with different music. They were cheap. You could buy a record for $0.25 when a CD cost $20. One day, a guy dropped off an entire discography of The Doors,” he said, admitting he bought the collection for a song. 

Currently, the tribute artist continues shopping for bargains, but has raised the bar. 

“One of the fun things of being on the road is I like to pop my head in shops and find things I can’t find anywhere else. My visits to thrift shops are now antique shops.” 

Stevenson describes Holly as “a good old southern boy who went to church. In some ways he enjoyed a typical middle-class life. But he was also a really determined individual. When he saw something he liked, he pushed for it. He was the leader, an outlier.” 

Although the 1950s rock’n roller’s professional career was cut short, his impact with songs such as That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, Maybe Baby, and Oh Boy have resonated with generations through singles, movies, TV commercials, and at countless dance parties. 

“I want people to feel good about the music. I want people to have a great evening out. For those who have memories of Buddy Holly’s music, I hope I can bring levity. For those who are less familiar with his music, I hope they will appreciate his music. It’s unpretentious and genuine.” 

Tribute to Buddy Holly starts at 7 p.m. The Arden Theatre is at 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets are $45 and are available at or by calling 780-459-1542.

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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