María Elena Holly

María Elena Holly (née Santiago; born December 20, 1932)[1] is the widow of American rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly. She owns the rights to his name, image, trademarks, and other intellectual property. In 2010, Santiago-Holly co-founded, with Peter Bradley, "The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation" also known as TBHEF.

María Elena Holly
María Elena Santiago

(1932-12-20) December 20, 1932 (age 88)
NationalityPuerto Rican-American
(m. 1958; died 1959)

Early yearsEdit

Santiago-Holly (birth name: María Elena Santiago) was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. María Elena's mother died when she was 22 years old. 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. As a receptionist Maria Elena probably first met Buddy in August 1957 when as rising stars he and the Crickets first visited Peer Southern Music in the Brill Building at 1619 Broadway to meet their publishing manager Murray Deutch who was Maria's boss. Then a day or so before Thursday, June 19, 1958, when he recorded "Early In The Morning" in New York's Pythian Temple, Holly 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.[2]

Married lifeEdit

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.[2] Buddy Holly also formed the Maria Music publishing company with which "Stay Close To Me" was filed. 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. She learned of his death from the reports on television. A widow after only six months of marriage, she suffered a miscarriage shortly after, reportedly due to psychological trauma.[3] 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."[4]

Following the miscarriage suffered by Santiago-Holly and the circumstances in which she was informed of his death, a policy was later adopted by authorities not to disclose victims' names until after their families have been informed.[3]

Later yearsEdit

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 Hennessy portrayed her in the Broadway production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story.[5]

In 2008, Santiago-Holly threatened legal action against Peggy Sue Gerron, the subject of the song "Peggy Sue", after the publication of Gerron's autobiography Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?[6]

While visiting New York City in May 2008, Santiago-Holly visited Washington Square Park, where Holly often played his guitar. She observed musicians singing there, and later told the Avalanche-Journal: "I gave one musician $9 because 9 was Buddy's favorite number."[7] She also visited the apartment building where she and Holly had lived. Santiago-Holly remarked it was the first time she had been back to the building since Holly's death.[7]

The Buddy Holly Educational FoundationEdit

In 2010, Santiago-Holly co-founded, with Peter Bradley, the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. The foundation is a charitable corporation whose mission is to keep Buddy Holly's legacy alive by providing musical education to new generations regardless of income, ethnicity or educational limitations. Among the areas in the musical education provided are songwriting, production, arranging, orchestration and performance education. The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation co-hosts worldwide songwriting retreats with Chris Difford. They are organized by Peter Bradley Jr, board Director of the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-30. Retrieved 2014-01-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ a b "Interview with Maria Elena Holly".
  3. ^ a b Suddath, Claire (February 3, 2009). "The Day the Music Died". Time. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  4. ^ Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Morning Edition, 7 February 1959, Section 1, Page 3
  5. ^ "Detailed plot summary and information about the genesis of the show". Verge. Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
  6. ^ "Buddy Holly's Widow Threatens to Sue 'Peggy Sue' Over Book". Fox News. 11 January 2008. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015.
  7. ^ a b Boots on the Ground
  8. ^ "The Buddy Holly Educational Foundation names Ambassador". Archived from the original on 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2015-01-09.

External linksEdit