That’ll Be The Day: The Buddy Holly Story with Matt Salisbury

The Buddy Holly story has been seen by 22 million people across the world, it has won awards and been a sell out at the West End.

It tells the story of the rise of Buddy Holly to his final legendary performance at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.It features some of the greatest songs ever written, including That’ll Be The Day, Oh Boy, Rave On, La Bamba, Chantilly Lace, Johnny B. Goode, Raining In My Heart, Everyday, Shout.

We spoke with the director of The Buddy Holly Story Matt Salisbury about the story of the show,  the characters involved and his favourite Buddy Holly song.


Hi Matt! Could you describe the story of The Buddy Holly Show and what takes place in the story.

The Buddy Story is about the short yet prolific music life of Buddy Holly. We first show him as a teenager at High School and see the struggles he had to get his music heard and his determination to reach out to the youth at that time who were so desperate for a “new” music. It seemed at every turn Buddy had to convince everyone that rock and roll was the future. We follow his journey as he recorded and experimented with his style and see this quiet and driven young man develop his songs; songs that are now part of our musical culture and history. Success for Buddy did come as the music industry began to understand what he was saying, and we see him play at the world famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem New York where he finally arrives as a performer able to cross all cultural boundaries. With success, fame and money in his pockets, Buddy meets a young Puerto Rican receptionist in the offices of one of his NY publishers, and they fall in love…instantly. 5 hours later they are engaged, 3 weeks later married. It is one of the best known modern day romances. Buddy returns to Texas where many of his hit songs were recorded but the pull and possibilities in New York for experimenting and developing his music are too strong and he decides to go there alone. His best friends and fellow band members The Crickets do not share Buddy’s vison and direction and decide to play safe and stay in Texas. The last section of the production shows Buddy on tour in the mid-west with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, and we joyously recreate his final concert at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa. This, as is most of the show, is a celebration of Buddy’s music and life, and never ceases to thrill audiences with its unbounded energy. The songs are played by a multi-talented company of actors throughout and help make Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story one of the best and most exciting nights in the theatre.

KJohnnyW Photography

Image: Johnny Wilkinson

How did you get involved in the production and what your role is.

I got involved back in 1989 when I was asked to be Company Manager for it’s West End opening at The Victoria Palace Theatre. I remained Company Manager for all it’s West End run of 12 ½ years and now have the pleasure to direct the show.

KJohnnyW Photography

Image: Johnny Wilkinson

Tell us about the cast and the characters involved in the show.  

All the characters in the show are played by our versatile Company of 12 actors/musicians. Some have done many shows and some have not and sometimes come to us straight from Drama school. The show is built around the talent that comes to us and there is no magical formulae to casting the show. It’s always a challenge but we know what’s needed, and hope that the personalities we have found will bring the show to life in a fresh and energised way every night. As the show is a story of Buddy’s life the characters are mostly real people and we meet them over the evening. They include The Crickets; Joe B Mauldin, Jerry Allison and Nicki Sullivan, his first manager; Hipockets Duncan, Norman Petty and wife Vi Petty who were instrumental in his early recording days in allowing him to experiment, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, Maria Elena, Murray Deutch; his NY Publisher, plus many more.

BuddyClearlake (Dean Elliott and company)

What do you think is the enduring appeal of Buddy Holly?

His music. The songs then, and now, speak out and excite. There is something raw and electric when one hears such songs as That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Maybe Baby, Rave On all played live. It’s difficult sometimes to remember that more often than not they were played and recorded with just three or four people with none of the modern recording tricks and effects. Buddy was also a young man not affected or driven by stardom, fame and fortune. A regular boy next door. There were no sensational stories about him; he was a family man, polite, respectful and not all concerned about any race issue so prevalent in those days, particularly in the South. But he was determined and knew what he wanted to do, and he created it often in the face of adversity and obstacle.

Glen Joseph as Buddy with Apollo Performers.jpg

Image: Johnny Wilkinson

And finally, what is your favourite Buddy Holly song and why?

I have so many. Perhaps Not Fade Away, Well Alright and It Doesn’t Matter Any More are some of my favourites. But then again there is also True Love Ways and Raining In My Heart. Or Peggy Sue ?  So many great, great memorable songs it’s difficult to single out just one.


The Buddy Holly Story is at the Wyvern Theatre from Tue 22 to Sat 26 Nov.

For more information and to buy tickets please visit:

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