María Elena Holly
|María Elena Holly|
|Born||Maria Elena Santiago
December 20, 1932
San Juan, Puerto Rico
|Spouse(s)||Buddy Holly (1958-1959; his death)
2nd husband (?-?; divorced)
She is the owner of the rights to Buddy Holly's name, image, trademarks and other intellectual property
Holly was born María Elena Santiago in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her mother died when María Elena was a child. In 1953 her father sent her to live with her aunt (Provi Garcia) in New York City. Santiago worked as a receptionist for music publisher Peermusic. In early 1958, she met Buddy Holly, who asked her out. Santiago had never been out on a date and told Holly he would have to ask her aunt for permission. Holly promptly got her aunt's permission. Five hours into their first date, Buddy handed a rose to Maria and asked her to marry him.
On August 15, 1958, less than two months later, they were married in Buddy's hometown of Lubbock, Texas. They settled down in Lubbock until Buddy broke up with his band, The Crickets, and they moved to New York. Santiago-Holly went on one tour (October, 1958) with her husband and took on promotional duties. Buddy Holly also formed the Maria Music publishing company which Stay Close To Me was filed with. Holly produced Lou Giordano's version of the song which was issued on Brunswick 55115 on January 27, 1959.
In the early morning hours of February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly was on tour when he, together with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, died in an airplane crash. Holly and Santiago had been married for only six months at the time of his death. Maria was a month and a half pregnant with Buddy's child, and miscarried shortly after the crash. Buddy was interred in Lubbock.
Santiago-Holly did not attend the funeral and has never visited the grave site. She told the Avalanche-Journal: "In a way, I blame myself. I was not feeling well when he left. I was two weeks pregnant, and I wanted Buddy to stay with me, but he had scheduled that tour. It was the only time I wasn't with him. And I blame myself because I know that, if only I had gone along, Buddy never would have gotten into that airplane."
Santiago-Holly eventually remarried and had three children. Now divorced, she is a grandmother living in Dallas, Texas, and promotes her first husband's legacy. In 1989, The Smithereens paid honor to her with the song "Maria Elena" on their album 11. Actress Maria Richwine played Santiago-Holly's role in the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story. Jill Hennessey portrayed her in the Broadway production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story.
Santiago-Holly has spent most of her life protecting Buddy Holly's legacy. She controversially wanted to charge the city of Lubbock to use Buddy's name in various ways, including in relation to a music festival, a street named the "Buddy Holly Walk of Fame", and a terrace named "Buddy Holly Terrace."
When Peggy Sue Gerron, the woman to whom the 1957 classic "Peggy Sue", written by Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, and Norman Petty, as well as the posthumously released "Peggy Sue Got Married", and which referred to Crickets drummer Jerry Allison's girlfriend (and future wife), published her autobiography "Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?", in 2008, Santiago-Holly unsuccessfully tried to sue her.
Early in 2008, Santiago-Holly visited the apartment building where she and Holly lived. There, she observed musicians in nearby Washington Square Park, where Holly often played his guitar. "I gave one musician $9 because 9 was Buddy's favorite number", she told the Avalanche-Journal.
- The Buddy Holly Story
- Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Morning Edition, 7 February 1959, Section 1, Page 3
- Detailed plot summary and information about the genesis of the show