Buddy Holly's Widow, Maria Elena Holly

Maria Elena Holly

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Buddy Holly's widow, Maria Elena Holly, is still alive and well. Born Maria Elena Santiago in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she was no stranger to tragedy at the time of Buddy's death; her parents died when she was a young girl. While working as a receptionist for a New York music publisher, she met the young Buddy, whose star was just beginning to rise. After speaking to her rather traditional aunt, Buddy was allowed to court her, and they were married within two weeks.

Although she accompanied the singer on his first tour, she wasn't present on the infamous "Winter Dance Party" tour during which he lost his life; she was back at the couple's home in New York City, pregnant with their only child, when the crash happened. Tragically, she miscarried not long after. Nevertheless, she managed to move on, eventually remarrying, and is now a grandmother who is active in promoting Buddy's legacy.

A Heavy Hand

Buddy Holly's widow has often taken a heavy hand in that legacy, in ways that have seemed controversial to some: she owns the rights to Holly's name, image, and other "intellectual properties," and protects them fiercely. When Peggy Sue Gerron, girlfriend of Crickets drummer Jerry Allison, whose name Buddy used for his signature song "Peggy Sue," wrote a memoir about her friendship with the singer, Maria Elena threatened a lawsuit and claimed Peggy was never Buddy's friend. She's even sued the legend's parents in order to retrieve some of his memorabilia.

Even Holly's hometown of Lubbock, Texas has met with resistance when trying to name things after their favorite son; his widow (who actually lives in Dallas now) has been adamant about restricting what she sees as exploitation, and has gone so far as to successfully rewrite Texas law in order to retain control, by way of a 1987 statute which states that no deceased Lone Star artist can have his name or image used for any commercial purpose without first obtaining permission and cutting a financial deal with their living heirs. (To be fair, this does include Holly's family, with whom she splits all proceeds.)


She has, however, also founded the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation, in which she uses the royalties from his songs to allow underprivileged children to learn about music production, songwriting, and performance. The Foundation also honors accomplished musicians with a Buddy Holly Lifetime Legacy Award. Nevertheless, her reputation has remained tarnished, so much so that Lubbock natives sometimes refer to her as the "Spanish Yoko Ono."