Buddy Holly was portrayed with uncanny accuracy by John Mueller. John is an accomplished singer, songwriter, musician, playwright and award-winning actor, who has appeared in many stage productions, musicals, TV shows and movies. He has also starred as Buddy Holly in the world stage premiere of “Be Bop a Lula” in Hollywood, and he won a Drama Desk Award and critical acclaim for his portrayal of Buddy in the North American production of “Buddy....The Buddy Holly Story.” John performs from time to time with Elvis tribute artists and Roy Orbison impressionists -- in addition to performing as “himself” and playing his own brand of 50's style rock/pop/country music. See John’s website (listed below) for his schedule of upcoming performances and much more.
John bears a remarkable resemblance to Buddy Holly on stage, looking and sounding just like Buddy, and capturing his persona perfectly. Watching him perform, I felt a sense of what the original Buddy Holly must have really been like and it sent a shiver down my spine. John’s musicianship is also phenomenal. He has his guitar solos down note for note, and it was almost as if the music had been lifted straight off the original records. It was a real pleasure to listen to such accurate renditions of all those wonderful Buddy Holly songs such as That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, True Love Ways., Not Fade Away, Rave On, and It Doesn’t Matter Any More.
I also enjoyed meeting “superfan,” Amber, a 22-year old college student who happened to be sitting next to me. She knew all the words to all the songs and told me that her grandparents in Texas were big Buddy Holly fans and that she’d grown up listening to his music. She just loved the show too, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to dance on stage with "Buddy."
It’s no wonder that John Mueller has been highly endorsed by Buddy’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, and by Buddy’s brothers, Larry and Travis --quite an honour, as he is the only Buddy Holly tribute artist to be so endorsed.
As John says about his and Ray Anthony’s endorsements from the Holly family and the Valens family, “They are thrilled that someone is out there keeping this music alive.”
And speaking of family members! The third performer on the bill was Jay P. Richardson, paying tribute to his father, the Big Bopper. Yes, Jay is the actual son of the original Big Bopper, and, on stage, goes by the name ”Big Bopper Jr.” Jay, who was born 84 days after his father died in the plane crash, is an extremely likeable “cuddly teddy bear” of a man who instantly endears himself to the audience. Jay previously owned a nightclub called “The Little Bopper,” and used to book rock and roll acts but, with his family resemblance and his similar singing style, he was eventually convinced to perform his own tribute to his father. Since then he has performed with a number of rock and roll singers, including Bobby Vee, Freddy Cannon, the Crickets, and the Drifters.
Jay’s part of the show featured some great songs written by the Big Bopper such as Running Bear, White Lightnin’, Big Bopper’s Wedding -- and he performed a wonderful version of the unforgettable Chantilly Lace. He also added in lots of humour, and then had us all choking back tears as he sang a beautiful, sentimental song written by his Dad called Someone Watching Over You. Watching Jay perform and listening to his anecdotes, I learned much more about the talents and accomplishments of the original Big Bopper than I’d known before, and all I can say is that Jay does him proud and he’d be so proud of his son!
As if all this wasn't enough, the three performers were backed by the Winter Dance Party Band. This awesome band featured bass player, Ed “Too Tall” Maxwell; guitarist Robby Vee (son of Bobby Vee, who was chosen to fill in for Buddy Holly during the remainder of the original l959 tour); Grammy nominee Slammin’ Sammy K on drums; and musical director Mike Acosta on saxophone. Let’s just say they're definitely not your typical nameless, “blend into the woodwork” group of backup musicians! Each one displayed his own distinct personality and each was definitely part of the show. Ed, on bass, was “right on” note for note -- and, visually, he was a show all by himself at times! Robby, on guitar, caught my eye at first as he looked so much like the young Elvis. In fact, I found myself thinking he could easily be an Elvis tribute artist....until it was announced that he was Bobby Vee’s son, and then I immediately saw the family resemblance. An awesome guitar player (did I detect some jazz stylings?) and a songwriter, Robby was sensational. Slammin’ Sammy K on drums did double duty as MC, introducing the other band members and each of the performers, adding humour and showing us his awesome drumming ability, all the while holding the band together with great flair. Mike Acosta had a great look and great interplay with the rest of the band -- and he had his saxophone wailing in the true tradition of that instrument’s role in early rock and roll. This band was absolutely entertaining -- not only musically, but visually -- reminiscent also of the early rock and roll era they were re-creating. To sum it up, they were smokin’!
This was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve seen in years ...a happy, uplifting trip down memory lane, provided by a cast of entertaining performers with superb talent and musicianship. Kudos to all involved in this fine production.
And a footnote: One evening while I was still in Branson, and attending another event, I bumped into two young men I’d previously met in the audience at the Winter Dance Party show. Both huge fans of early rock and roll, and one an accomplished singer himself, they told me they hadn’t yet stopped talking about how good this show was.
Be sure to see the Winter Dance Party tribute -- I guarantee you'll rave on, too!
John Mueller /Winter Dance Party Tribute show: www.yourbuddyjohn.com
(check this site for upcoming WDP performances and details of the new Winter Dance Party DVD which is now available)
Jay Richardson: www.officialbigbopper.com
Ray Anthony: Website pending. See schedule.