Thursday, September 8, 2011

Buddy's 75th Birthday celebration and Hollywood Walk of Fame induction

Sept 7, 2011

Charles Hardin Holley's 75th birthday was celebrated with an induction into the famed Hollywood walk of stars, steps away from the Capitol records building on Vine street in Hollywood.  Phil Everly was on hand, Gary Busey, Maria Richwine (who portrayed Maria Elena in the Buddy Holly Story movie), the mayor of Hollywood, Peter Asher, many fans and of course Maria Elena Holly herself.  Kudos to Kevin McGowan for pursuing this endeavor for years.  The outside event featured Texas style heat, had to be 100 degrees out or at least it felt like it.  The mayor of Hollywood also proclaimed the day as "Buddy Holly day."

And here's the  star:

And now, check out Gary Busey's speech here:Gary Busey speech

Maria Elena's words of love here: Maria Elena Holly Speech

Phil Everly spoke as well but I did not get video of unfortunately.

Here's Gary, Maria Richwine and Maria Elena in background:

 After the ceremony it was time to go inside the famous Capitol Records building...

It was then time for some cake. Don't know who made it but they did a great job:

Good little quick chat then had with Gary Busey.

And the lovely Maria Richwine (photo courtesy of her):

Saw some old friends and fans of our show at the event, it was great to see everyone again.  Ran into an old friend Michael Frondelli who used to work at Capitol Records as an engineer so he knew the folks there and they gave me a little private tour of the studio A, B and C.  Standing in these great rooms thinking of all the cool cats that recorded there was special indeed.  Afternoon was reserved for R & R and to get ready for the evening's concert which was at the Music Box Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. 

The concert was produced by Peter Asher, taped by PBS and featured some great talent; Chris Isaak, Stevie Nicks, Paul Anka, Boz Scaggs, Lyle Lovett, Raul Malo, Graham Nash and others.  Unfortunately for the performers and audience the entire evening was done in starts and stops like a film shoot instead of like an actual concert. There were quite a few technical difficulties bogging things down even further. Really felt for the performers.  The bass player (name?) had a giant full beard and facial hair to which Chris Isaak quipped, "This man was clean shaven before this night began."  A very funny joke on how long the night was dragging on.  But the music ultimately prevailed (how could it not?) and some standout performances were  Raul Malo's version of "True Love Ways."  The man has simply an astonishing voice and control. Paul Anka sang "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" a song he penned for Buddy and did it flawlessly. Chris Isaak wisely chose to keep his few interpretations of Buddy's songs close in feel anyway to the originals, very nicely done. 

Here's a somewhat lousy and blurry shot of Chris:

At close to midnight it all came to an end.  Rave on Charles Hardin Holley. Did you ever imagine people would be honoring your songs over 50 years later?

John Mueller
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rockin' with the Philly Pops and Peter Nero!

March 2-6, 2011 will not soon be forgotten!  What a great time we had with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.  Always a treat for us to hear a full orchestra behind us and this was no exception.  Peter had a great sense of humor on stage and even participated in one of our jokes that we do. Unexpected and quite hilarious.  He is quite the pianist as well and did a great piano instrumental version of "Moon River."
Our rehearsals went off without a hitch and we were excited and ready to go.  4 shows in all with big crowds and an orchestra behind us. Fantastic.  At a saturday matinee when we finished the show, the crowd called out for an encore...someone sitting dead center called out, "Hey, Buddy" (my tribute song to Buddy) so we did it which was fun. To my surprise, during our bows Peter Nero came up to me and said, "we should do that song every night."  Thanks Mr Nero! 

Here's a glimpse of day one of our rehearsals:

The Kimmel Center is where we performed at in downtown Philadelphia and this picture doesn't show but half of it, it's big!!

Here's the little area on stage we had for our set up:

That's "Guitar" George wondering where the rest of the band is.

Here's our poster outside on the Kimmel Center wall:

Side view of the Kimmel Center:

A shot of our dressing room door. Funny, they misspelled George's last name "Muller"...but wait...a George Muller was the stage manager.  Maybe we hijacked his room!

                           One of our complimentary tickets we received for family and friends

 No trip to Philadelphia should be without these stops:

City Hall, which is quite amazing.

Washington Square Park

The Liberty Bell

Philadelphia Art Museum

Yo Philly! (Sorry Rocky, I cut your hands off)

First ever stainless steel plane in front of Benjamin Franklin Institute. 

In short, Philadlephia is a great city and we had a great time there. Great food, great music, great people, what more could you ask for? 

 We can't wait to get back sometime and rock with the Philly Pops!
For more info on Winter Dance Party head to

See ya on down the line,

John Mueller
March 2011


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Roll Over Beethoven! WDP rocks with the Columbus, OH Symphony!

Hey, this was a fun night on July 17th, 2010 indeed! Another chance to perform our new WDP show with the Columbus, OH symphony. This was our third outing, having worked with the Grand Rapids, MI symphony before and the Palm Springs, CA Symphony. We did all the greats originally recorded with an orchestra like, "Raining in my Heart,"  "It Doesn't Matter Anymore,"  "True Love Ways," and the odd duck out "Moondreams."  We did all the regular hits and included our arrangements/charts to "Hey, Buddy,"  and the medley we created for Buddy's apartment songs including "That's What they Say," "Learning the Game,"  "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," and "Peggy Sue Got Married."  Fantastic to hear all those with live strings behind.  The conductor Albert-George Schram was great and got thru our rehearsal the afternoon before the show in lightning speed and professionalism. In fact, the entire staff of the Columbus, OH symphony were great. They took great care of us and had us staying at the famous Blackwell hotel on the University of Ohio's grounds.  You could see from the lobby where Woody Hayes used to coach his college football games.  Sacred grounds, no doubt.

Here's a shot of of us rehearsing during the day.

Here's a nice review the Columbus Dispatch did of the show:

Guest rockers revive spirits of the ’50s

Sunday, July 18, 2010 02:59 AM

By Gary Budzak


The three singers who perished on “the day the music died” were brought back to life, sort of, at a fun Columbus Symphony Picnic with the Pops concert last night on the lawn of Chemical Abstracts.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were impressively impersonated by John Mueller, Ray Anthony and J.P. Richardson Jr., respectively.

All three looked, dressed and, most importantly, sounded like the original singers, who died together in a plane crash while touring in Iowa on Feb. 3, 1959.

For those of us who know the music but never saw the original performers in concert, these re-enactors had the audience singing, clapping and dancing along as if they were the real thing.

Some people have a problem with any concert that doesn’t feature the actual performers while they’re in their prime, and that’s their loss. My attitude is, if you can make me feel like this is how it might have sounded, or if a tribute is done with proper respect, then I’m good — as was this concert.

Since Holly had the lion’s share of the hits among the trio, Mueller did most of the work, including introducing the others.

He had a sly sense of humor, calling the suspender-wearing maestro Albert-George Schram “hyphen” and saying he would take a three-hour intermission to dry his suit on the sticky night.

Mueller proved to be a master of the Holly catalog, and his shtick included playing the same kind of Fender Stratocaster that Holly did, and partying like it was still 1959.

Mueller played many of Holly’s best songs, including Not Fade Away, Rave On, Everyday and Peggy Sue.

As for the other two, Richardson played up his father’s humor on songs such as White Lightning and Running Bear, along with using a period telephone to tell his baby that’s what he likes for Chantilly Lace.

Anthony showed off Valens’ versatility ( Let’s Go, Donna, Boney Maronie and La Bamba) that was on display in a too-brief career.

Although the singers had a five-man rock combo backing them, the symphony didn’t sit on its hands. They opened each half with gusto — sweetening the rocking sounds and adding flourishes — and provided even more backing on the second half.

Holly might have been heading toward a more string-laden sound at the time of his death, so this “50’s dance party” with the symphony made perfect sense.


Thursday, September 17, 2009


Sept 4th, 2009

Our journey began at Los Angeles International airport with a
"Wet Mud" sign at our terminal.

Hmm...never seen that before in an airport!  Does it mean it's been raining in Lubbock?

At any rate, we board our plane and off we go.

We arrive at Lubbock airport and a giant chess set greets us. Everyone else is's deserted at 8:00pm on a friday night.

Off we go towards Clovis and wind our way thru the cow aroma smells of Muelshoe, TX, ending up at Jalisco's in Clovis for some great local mexican food and are greeted very warmly by the staff and servers. We also see our show poster up there, very cool. The salsa is fantastically spicy. We are all breathing fire. Our sound man Jamie "Peaches" Gelsamino has driven all the way from Modesto, CA to ensure the best possible sound for the audience. Jamie loves chain food and declines our offer to chow at Jaliscos and winds up at a "Red Lobster" instead.

Jamie "Peaches" Gelsamino.

After a long day of travel we're all ready for some shut eye at the La Quinta Inn on Prince where again we are treated like royalty. Nice folk in Clovis.


Jamie, Marshall auditorium personnel and some Clovis volunteers help Jamie unload and set up his sound system and gear. I help test our new pre show video and it looks and sound great on the big screen. Rest of the WDP crew arrives a few hours later and we all do a great sound check. Marshall Auditorium has a great natural wooden sounding echo/delay that makes for a great 1950's vibe and feel. Many local Clovis residents including Marshall staff tell me they are perplexed by the music festival not using this facility this year. Instead, the festival chose an "event center" that is largely for rodeos replete with metal seats with no backs, dirt flooring, trains that go by every half hour and is sonically not conducive to live concerts. Not sure what the thinking here was, perhaps because it holds more seating but as one resident told me any event there would be lucky to get one quarter capacity filled at this large and vacuous venue. At any rate, we are thrilled to have the Marshall Auditorium. These kind of auditoriums are a dying breed in the U.S. but make for great concerts.

We leave our fun and uneventful sound check and Ray Anthony and I decide to drop by Joe's Boot Shop to say hello and look over their goods. Joe's handled our local ticket sales and are as friendly and as helpful as can be. Ray was really into the flashy belts.
The folk at Joe's Boots were great and it's a great store. If you ever get to Clovis make sure you drop on by. They even have a little wooden roping calf area for young'uns to practice their roping skills on!

Okay, it was time for a quick rest then on to the show! We arrive at about 6:45pm and get ready to rock and roll. Some nice hot rods out front courtesy of Carl and Donna. Nice crowd turnout considering it's labor day weekend and college football weekend opener plus the sad state of the econAdd Imageomy right now. It's not our usual packed to the rafters crowd but nice and enthusiastic indeed. The Clovis News Journal also neglected to cover our event but it doesn't matter. The folks are here and we're all ready to rock and roll. The show starts off with a bang as brother George "Guitar Geo" Mueller cranks out a lighting fast instrumental. It is super charged and the band is on fire!
Jay, Ray and I do our thing and get the crowd revved up into overdrive. For the second set we decide to toss into the mix, Billy Grammer's "Feel Like I Gotta Travel On" which of course Buddy opened with on the original Winter Dance Party tour. We also do "Moondreams," a song we've done before with an orchestra but never with just the WDP band and it comes off very well.

Mike "El Capitan" Acosta plays a nice flute part throughout in place of the strings and it works nicely. Much fun. We close the show with our new version of "Hey, Buddy" with Bopper and Ritchie verses in honor of the 50th anniversary of the WDP. It gets somewhat emotional and we do an encore next.  We then sign and greet fans after show for awhile.   

Sept 6th, 2009

Back sunday morning to Lubbock airport for our trip back home and I am greeted by ace Fox TV news reporter Lindsey Ashcraft. Boy, am I groggy and tired! Where's the coffee and donuts?? Anyway, Lindsey interviews me right in front of the airport terminal and I even sing a bit of "Everyday" right in the parking lot!  She put together a very nice piece you can see here:

It sure was great to see our old friends at the show including Gary and Ramona Tollet not to mention some fans of ours that drove all the way from Peoria, Il. Our fans and the Clovis community were great despite our non involvement with the music festival this year. We sure hope the festival learned from choosing an event center not conducive to concerts over Marshall Auditorium.   Perhaps Buddy said it best, "I should have reconsidered all those things I said I'd do, so now I'm changing all those changes that I made when I left you." 

Your Buddy,


Photos courtesy of BWalley photography. For more shots go to

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Winter Dance Party..with SYMPHONY!

Wowee! Our first ever WDP show with a full symphony! July 16 and 17th, 2009 live with the Grand Rapids, MI orchestra! Conductor John Varineau was most accomodating at rehearsals and a funny/nice cat to boot. He did a great job incorporating our quirky needs and helped us rock a crowd of 4300 on our first night! Thanks to our own sax player Mike Acosta's arrangements and scores and also Larry Goldberg's, we were ready to go from the outset. It was a thrill to perform for the first anywhere "Moondreams" and also a very neat arrangement and medley of Buddy's apartment songs. It was fabulous to sing "Raining in Heart" exactly as done on the recording and "True Love Ways" was great as well. Fantastic to hear "Bopper's Wedding" and "Chantilly Lace" with a full orchestra as well as Ritchie's "Donna," and "La Bamba." A great experience all around and many thanks to the great GRS staff for taking such good care of us! Enjoyed the visit to the historic Frank Lloyd Wright house in town and playing golf at the public course was great too. Michigan has mosquitos the size of alligators and was truly the only unpleasant thing about our trip. I was highly impressed by the community spirit in Grand Rapids, the culture and arts present and would recommend a visit anytime (except dead of winter!). Thanks to the entire GR Symphony for providing a world class experience.

Roll Over Beethoven, John

Folks shakin' a leg in the back

Ray performing

Monday, October 13, 2008

Clovis Festival 2008

Clovis Festival 2008

Well, Clovis Fest 2008 is over of course. What a whirlwind of activities. Here's a few notes from my daily log, blog or clogged sinus if you will, which is what I had when I arrived.

Thurs Sept 4th

Arrived in Lubbock airport feeling pretty tired. I had just finished an 8 week run of "The Wonder Bread Years" in Pittsburgh, PA and no time at home had left me, well a little sick and run down. Need rest! Head and sinus cold kicking in. Am invited and encouraged by Randy Petty one of the festival organizers to attend the Thursday night show that features Tommy Allsup, Kevin Montgomery and my Winter Dance Party pal Ray Anthony. Unfortunately, by the time I get there from Lubbock I am done for and the show has already started. I decide I need to eat and hit the hay. I take solace at Jalisco's homemade mexican restaurant on 7th avenue. Portions the size of New Mexico and hot salsa that will clear out a Mule-head like me. Highly recommend. I return to humble abode at La Quinta hotel and get needed rest and sleep. I hear the show went well and each cat was great.

Fri Sept 5th

I awake too late for the annual elementary school sing-a-long that George Tomsco always organizes for the kids and usually includes Gary and Ramona Tollet, Peggy Sue, George Tomsco and Stan Larkin and David Bingham of the Roses. A shame I missed as one year I did it I thoroughly enjoyed the kids reaction to music from 50 years ago. Quite fun. Truly bummed I missed but chalk up to my body saying, "sleep, you Mule-headed fool!" I take it easy the entire day and start to feel a little better. I take in the Bobby Vee show that night at Marshal Auditorium. They moved the festival back to the old junior high auditorium which has a much better vibe than last year's civic center and I think better for the audience as well as the seats are raked. Mainly, it just feels like the 1950's in that space which is great.
Marshall Auditorium
Marshall Auditorium, Clovis, NM
The show starts with Johnny Preston who was very good and very modest about his presentation. Always love that "Running Bear" and am still singing days later. Chris Montez came out next and I'd never seen him before so I was especially looking forward to it. Despite initial amp and guitar technical trouble he still was able to charm and rock his way thru a very enjoyable set. He even came down off the stage and danced with patrons! Very entertaining. The Chiffons were next and I had never seen them before either. Quite enjoyable and classy. Doo lang, Doo lang, Doo lang! Bobby Vee was the finale of course and was in his element and entertained all with gusto. Great history and songs with slide show as well. Everyone returned for a encore finale and the evening came to an end. We all went off to Chilis (unofficial Clovis Fest eatery due to it being the only place to get sort of decent food after 10:00pm) and soaked up some suds and food. Ran into Sherry Holley and her husband Tom there. Hadn't seen them in awhile so enjoyed short visit.

Sat Sept 6th

It never fails the day of my show I am running around like a mule with no head. Gotta get some more cold medicine, gotta get to sound check, gotta run to the official opening of the Norman Petty Museum at the Clovis chamber of commerce, gotta run from that back to hotel and get ready for our show. Anyway, I'm feeling better though not 100%. The museum opening was fun and great impromptu sing a long with David Bingham, Gary and Ramona Tollet and George Tomsco and Stan Lark of the Fireballs and myself. I have to sheepishly sneek out at 5:00pm as I have to get ready for our show.

Stan Lark, John, David Bingham and George Tomsco
Opening Day at the Norman and Vi Petty Museum
John, Peggy Sue and George Tomsco
Opening Day Norman and Vi Petty Museum Sept 6, 2008

Buddy, Roy and Elvis Show

Before our show starts the mayor of Clovis gives out a special plaque proclaiming to George Tomsco and Stan Lark that today is "Fireballs Day." Great stuff! George and Stan accept graciously. They are two of the nicest, class act guys I know in showbiz. Hats off.
We're next and a lot of people are floating around backstage. Tommy Allsup's there and quite a few others I'm not sure who.
The B,R and E band opens with a good rocking instrumental and then I am next. My voice is not 100% due to lingering sinus-cold but I feel much better than two days ago and rip into "Maybe, Baby." It feels good but I can't hear much. The sound system was somewhat a challenge this year as we all had a hard time hearing on stage and we're told later lead vocals and guitars were a little buried in the house too. Our keyboard player Brother Don Eanes never had any piano in his monitor but gamely played along as if he did. What a pro. We don't let any of this bother us though and put out 110% energy to entertain the capacity crowd. We're told we set a record for attendance and are happy to hear. I ask live onstage if Tommy Allsup wants to join me on "It's So Easy," and he comes out and borrows my brother George's guitar. He cracks that George's guitar strap length is set for a "little boy strap." Tommy's a big Texan. George is a small Kansas. It's hilarious to see Tommy holding George's guitar with the strap so close the guitar is practically in his face. Tommy rips out the classic "It's So Easy" guitar solo at the appropriate time and does I notice while a giant fly is buzzing round his fingers..didn't bother him a bit. I also bring up David Bingam and Gary and Ramona Tollet to sing backup vocals on "That'll be the Day." Always an honor to have these folk onstage and the crowd is delighted. I finish my set with my tribute song to Buddy, "Hey, Buddy" and darned if I didn't get a little choked up at the end of it. Neil Morrow's tribute to Roy Orbison is next and he wows them with his vocal range. Roy is a hard guy to look like and while Neil does his best to emulate that for the show his best thing is his voice and presentation. The crowd loves him. Scot "Elvis" Bruce is next and he has ladies throwing clothing items on stage and screaming at the top of their lungs. He does a great job. He brings me out to play the guitar solo on "Blue Moon of Kentucky" a la Scotty Moore style which I love to do as those are some of the tastiest solos in rock and roll history. We do it Sun Records style and then Scot rocks the crowd into a frenzy and Neil and I return for a finale with Scot. Crowd gives us a nice round of applause and off we go to greet them in the lobby...and then off to Chilis. Where else?
Neil Morrow and Scot Bruce

Sun Sept 7th, Buddy's Birthday

Gospel at 10:00am at the new Norman Petty museum which I can't make as I have to run to Lubbock to set up and teach a workshop/sing a long at the Buddy Holly Center for Buddy's birthday. I wish I could have attended as it fit right into what I stressed at the workshop. Gospel music. What Buddy, Elvis, Carl, Johnny, and Jerry Lee all loved and heard first really. Listening to the infamous Million Dollar Quartet recordings that Sam Phillips did (he left a tape recorder running while Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were in the studio) one can hear 4 rockabilly cats singing largely gospel music. This is the music they knew, grew up with and loved. Buddy, the very same. Can you imagine rockers from today's era getting together for an informal jam session and playing gospel music? Doubtful. I haven't done much lecturing before so am a little out of my element presenting history but have some slides and music clips to help me out. Travis Holley is in attendance and I'm of course honored he made the trouble to come out. I enjoy most getting to the sing a long and Gary and Ramona Tollet arrive just in time from the gospel session to join with me and also Jack Neal (Buddy's first radio singing partner). Jack and I sing, "Modern Don Juan" a great tune he co-wrote. Jack is the nicest guy on the planet. Funny too. I thank all for attending and we all get ready for some Buddy birthday cake and Bill Griggs leads an informative tour of the museum.
Buddy Workshop in Session.
Buddy Workshop at BH Center

Ramona Tollet, Jack Neal, Gary Tollet, John, Sharon and Bill Griggs, and Travis Holley

Final thoughts:

It's great to see the Clovis music festival reach the level it has over the years and this was due in large part to the vision of one Liz Eisenbraun. Liz "got it" as they say and has recently left the chamber and is now pursuing other interests. She will be sorely missed. From all of us with the Buddy, Roy and Elvis show and the Winter Dance Party show we wish her the very best. We have always been honored to appear in Clovis and like Buddy there's always such good folk there.

We'll see ya'll on down the line,
John Mueller
Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Don't Forget Ritchie, and the Big Bopper..

There is of course much interest in the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Winter Dance Party and as it should be. It was a monumentally tragic day in the history of rock and roll and deserves special attention. The one thing I have noticed though is a few shows, tributes, and articles sometimes overlook or give short shrift to all involved. I happened to see a press release recently stating that an evening of entertainment planned coinciding with the 5oth anniversary was a celebration of the music of Buddy Holly and his influence on current music icons. No mention of Ritchie Valens contributions nor the Big Boppers. I am not arguing who out of the three was more "important" musically or historically so far but state that all three in my mind had a vast and lasting effect on rock and roll as we know it and come this Jan/Feb 2009 all three should be equally remembered and honored in any presentation whether print, concert or film. Here's to all three and their lasting legacy and memory. Rave on Charles Hardin Holley, Richard Steven Valenzuela and Jiles Perry Richardson!