David Frizzell has a lot of memories about the music of Buddy Holly. “When I was first starting out in the business working for Lefty opening his shows, I was singing Buddy Holly songs,” he recalls of his older brother.
Now, David Frizzell has taken many of those songs and given them new life in Remember Me, a CD/DVD collection released in partnership with the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation. Frizzell explains to Billboard how the project came to be.
“They called me and asked if I could write a song for Maria Elena [Holly’s widow] for her birthday. I did that, and we got it to her. After that, we started doing some songs, and I asked some of my friends to come in and join me. I didn’t want to do it all by myself. We had some great artists and musicians.”
That may very well be the understatement of the month. Frizzell invited many of country’s biggest artists to come along for the ride, including Hall of Fame members Jimmy Fortune and Merle Haggard, as well as Helen Cornelius and T. Graham Brown. Haggard appears on the title cut, which kicks off the set, as well as “That’ll Be The Day.”
Frizzell also brought in someone who knew the musical renegade personally—Sonny Curtis, a boyhood friend of Holly’s who was in a band with him early in their careers. “I called Sonny and got him involved with it. He’s an amazing person, and such a great songwriter. He was so gracious. We did one of his early songs that Buddy had recorded in 1956. We just had a ball.”
Of all Frizzell’s accomplishments in the business, the Holly project just might be his favorite. “I don’t know if it could get any better than the experience we had with this project,” he tells Billboard.
All the artists on the project gathered in Nashville months after the recording was complete, where Frizzell took the opportunity to thank each of his friends for their participation and for helping to honor the legacy of Holly’s music. Merle Haggard simply replied, “I just hope people realize how important this is.”
For his part, Fortune says he was proud to be asked by Frizzell to lend his talents to the project. “It’s quite an honor. As a little boy, I was a big fan of Holly’s. He was so original. He opened the doors for people like The Beatles.”
The package includes a 21-track CD, as well as a DVD documenting the making of Remember Me. “David and Jo [Frizzell’s wife] put together such a quality project,” Fortune says. “The DVD really touched my heart. I never thought Jo was going to put the camera down, but I’m glad she didn’t because she captured a lot of magical moments during the making of the project. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever been involved with.”
Fortune—who penned many of the Statler Brothers’ biggest hits during his two decades with the quartet—says that as a writer, Holly brought something very unique to the mix.
“He figured out a different way to say things as a writer, and then you had the chord progression and how well they fit the lyrics of his songs. He was vague in a way, but always to the point where you understood him. It was also neat to hear what a great guy he was during the making of the record. Nobody said a bad word about Buddy Holly. He sounded like such a tremendous person.”
For Frizzell, he’s most pleased with the reception he’s received from Maria Elena. “So far, she has endorsed everything. She has been so incredible expressing her gratitude and her love for it. She sent a letter to each one of the artists, telling them that she appreciated them being on the project, which was very priceless.”