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West Texas Music Historian Bill Griggs Dies at 69

As Griggs wrote on his website Rockin50s.com:

Although most people know me as a researcher of West Texas rock ‘n’ roll music of the 1950s, and a historian of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, I’m really interested in the big picture, that of the entire 1950s music era.

This website is devoted, as the title states, to the Rockin’ 50s. This is the title of my website, my magazine, and my business. Aside from various lists of related items for sale, I also offer a News And Announcements board and an interactive message board where you can ask any question pertaining to the 1950s and someone will come along and answer it for you. I have a lot of very knowledgeable people supporting this board and the amount of information they possess is scary, but very useful for all of you!

Griggs goes on to tell his story:

BACKGROUND: Bill Griggs’ parents were both professional musicians. His father, William B. Griggs, played trumpet in some name bands, then formed his own band in Connecticut before retiring. His mother, Emma Giel, played keyboards in Hartford, Connecticut and was known throughout New England. Bill feels this furnished the initial impetus for his interest in music as there was always music in the house.

FAMILY: Bill was married in 1966 and has two children from that union, William F. Griggs II, and Holly Maria Griggs. He was divorced in 1990. His children now live in Connecticut. Bill married Sharon Reaume on June 3, 2004 and she helps him with his work and is always with him when he is attending a music event. They had been together for three years previous, got married, bought a house, and are very happy together.

HIGH SCHOOL: Bill attended Bulkeley high School in Hartford, Connecticut, graduating in 1959. At school, he was President of the Astronomy Club, member of the Audio-Visual Squad and Radio Club, and was on their track, cross country, and tennis teams. It was during these years that he began frequenting the State Theater in Hartford for their rock ‘n’ roll concerts and getting to meet with many of the artists of the day.

EARLY MUSIC: Bill Griggs grew up during the exciting era of the 1950s. He attended many rock ‘n’ roll shows and met many of the artists of that era. He is also a pack rat and has kept paper items, autographs, photos, and other items from that era which allows him to do what he is doing today.

THE BUDDY HOLLY MEMORIAL SOCIETY: During the 1960s, Buddy Holly had sorta been forgotten. In 1971, Don McLean released “American Pie”, and in 1973, that famous line appeared in the motion picture American Graffiti (“I hate that surfin’ stuff. Rock ‘n’ roll’s been going downhill ever since Buddy Holly died.) Still, the so-called Buddy Holly “revival” wasn’t happening.

The reality is that Bill Griggs founded the international Buddy Holly Memorial Society in 1975 out of disgust. He wasn’t seeing Buddy in print, or on television, or really, anywhere. The BHMS, as it was called, ran from 1975 through 1991. At the time it was terminated, there were more than 5500 members located in all 50 states and in 34 foreign countries. During the term of the BHMS, Bill Griggs began publishing his Reminiscing newsletter that soon became a full-fledged magazine.

Rockin50s.com

ROCKIN’ 50s MAGAZINE: Reminiscing was being published every other month and Bill decided he wanted to publish every month, so he established a new magazine Rockin’ 50s, publishing on the odd month. He found he couldn’t do two magazines all by himself and since the BHMS was about to be terminated, Bill decided to also discontinue Reminiscing and simply continue with Rockin’ 50s which is still being published today.

Covering the entire spectrum of the 1950′s era, his readers seemed to have liked what he was doing. The magazine was published on a fiscal year basis, that is, everyone renewed at the same time (helped Bill’s bookkeeping). If someone first subscribed in the middle of a fiscal year, they received all issues already published that year and the rest as they were published. The magazine was truly international, going to many foreign countries. (Bill had announced that when the final issue for 2004 was published, he will retire from publishing the magazine. Thirty years of publishing is a long time and he has many other things he wants to accomplish.)

This is no longer just the title of Bill’s magazine. It is the entire organization that leases photos to television and print media, furnishes information to various media for stories and obituaries of 1950′s artists, helps authors with research for books and articles, and much more.

Bill is recognized around the world as an expert on 1950′s rock ‘n’ roll music and an authority on Buddy Holly and the Crickets. His name is found in many books and other publications for assisting with research information, etc. He has also published many booklets pertaining to the era. His tour-de-force is the five booklet set Buddy Holly Day-By-Day in which he can tell you where Buddy Holly was just about every day of Buddy’s career. In 2004, with the computer age upon us, Bill and Sharon began producing CD-ROM Flipbooks of Bill’s works.

Bill Griggs can be seen on many television specials pertaining to the era. At this particular time, you might catch him on the 90-minute VH1 special titled The Day The Music Died and the E! Entertainment’s special Mysteries And Scandals, both still being aired in reruns, along with a short bit on the History Channel’s Lost And Found segment about Buddy Holly’s glasses.

I found this interesting video on YouTube:

This was posted by someone with the username SonicChirp and included this bit of information on the recording:

“April 8, 1957 (Monday): A Buddy Holly and The Crickets recording session at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis produced “Words of Love” (and “Mailman, Bring Me No More Blues”)…”Words of Love” became Buddy’s first attempt at overdubbing.”

In my book, it’s quite possibly the most haunting track Buddy ever laid…even more-so than the Apartment Tapes.

This was one of the first uses, if not THE first use, of the infamous echo chamber at Norman Petty Studios…which had been put together by Buddy, his dad, and brothers. Buddy handed up tile to the three said men from a room below during an all-night project sometime in February or March ’57…a project interestingly not acknowledged outside of just two or three sources (Day-By-Day not being one of them…a little surprised at that).

In closing, no mention of “Words of Love” should go without mention of Mr. Gary Clevenger’s most outstanding Words of Love…by far one of the most touching works ever of its kind. And it’s not just highly recommended for Buddy fans, but also other fellow ‘Stargazers’/Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens fans.

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