Tragic Details Found In Buddy Holly's Autopsy Report

Though Buddy Holly's career lasted only two short years, his impact on rock 'n' roll and pop culture are undeniable. Born Charles Hardin Holley to a musical family in Lubbock, Texas, All That's Interesting states that he spent his youth focusing on learning and playing music. In 1955, Holly, then a teenager, opened for Elvis. By 1957, he released his song "That'll Be the Day" with his band, The Crickets. The song topped the charts and made the band a hit. With their song's success, Holly and The Crickets went on tour. In August of that year, they were the first white act to take the stage at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater (via The Vintage News).

Per The Buddy Holly Story, Holly's use of instruments like the celesta and his famous "hiccup" technique made his music a novelty in the rock 'n' roll world. Holly also found love. Texas Monthly reports that in 1958, he met Maria Santiago, a receptionist at a music publishing company in New York. He asked Santiago to marry him on their first date. Shortly after, the pair married in Texas.

However, Holly and the Crickets would soon part ways due to creative differences. Holly wanted to stay in New York, while his bandmates wanted to return home. Now a solo artist, Holly reluctantly agreed to do the Winter Dance Party Tour in the Midwest in early 1959. Santiago wanted to join her husband on the road, but because she was pregnant with their first child, Holly said no.

Buddy Holly and the day the music died

By all accounts, conditions on the tour were brutal and people were getting sick from the freezing Midwestern conditions. The bus was unheated and broke down frequently (via Biography). When the tour made its way into Iowa, Buddy Holly was over it and decided to charter a plane that would take him and his tour mates to Fargo, North Dakota (their next show was in nearby Moorhead, Minnesota). As the plane was rather small, they had to figure out who would fly and who would continue the miserable journey on the bus (per All That's Interesting). In the end, Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson boarded the ill-fated flight.

According to History, Valens and another guitarist flipped a coin to see who would get a seat. Moreover, Richardson was suffering from the flu and convinced Waylon Jennings, then Holly's band member, to give up his seat for him. In a remark that would haunt him for the rest of his life, Jennings jokingly told Holly he hoped his plan would crash after Holly commented that he hoped the bus would freeze.

After a successful show at the Surf Ballroom, the trio headed to the nearby Mason City airport and departed before 1 a.m. The plane crashed a few miles after takeoff. Holly, Valens, Richardson, and their young pilot, all died. The three singers had been ejected from the aircraft, and Holly's body was found 20 feet away from the wreck. It was later determined that poor weather conditions and pilot error were to blame.

Buddy Holly's grisly end

Buddy Holly, whose career was on the rise, was only 22 years old (per History). His autopsy report painted a gruesome sight of what occurred to his body when the plane crashed. Holly's skull had been split and most of his brain tissue was missing (via CooperToons). Moreover, both of his ears were bleeding and his face and scrotum were lacerated. His chest had been crushed, and he had multiple fractures, including in his left forearm, right elbow, and his thighs and legs. Holly had been wearing a yellow leather-like jacket and had cuff links and the top of a ball-point pen on his person.

According to Wide Open Country, Holly's wife, Santiago, learned of his death through the news. She suffered a miscarriage shortly after. Santiago did not go to the funeral and has never gone to visit his grave. She is still alive today and owns all the rights to his name, image, trademark, and intellectual property. In 1987, she helped enact the Buddy Holly Bill, to prevent the families of dead celebrities from being exploited, per Texas Monthly. In 2019, she told The Mirror that she thinks about Holly "every day"

Don McLean later commemorated the plane crash in his 1971 song "American Pie" as the day the music died (via Biography). Holly's music, however, did not fade away. The Texas native's legacy lives on as he later influenced The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and many more (per The Buddy Holly Story). Per Find a Grave, he is buried in Lubbock, Texas.