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Hear Merle Haggard Sing Buddy Holly's 'That'll Be The Day'

Feb. 3, 2020 marks the 61st anniversary of "The Day The Music Died" — the fateful day when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson perished in a plane crash outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.

Most people know at least a little bit about Buddy's unmistakable influence on rock n' roll: he's been the primary influence of countless musicians, including The Beatles (Who named themselves in tribute to Buddy Holly's band The Crickets). But did you know he was a big influence in the world of country music, too?

For starters, Holly had a huge hand in Waylon Jennings' career. Holly was from Lubbock, Texas, and Jennings was from nearby Littlefied. Buddy produced a few of Jennings' earliest cuts and hired him to play bass in The Crickets.

Jennings was famously supposed to be on the doomed plane, but instead gave up his spot to Richardson, who was sick. Prior to takeoff, Holly and Jennings joked with each other. "I hope your ol' bus breaks down," said Holly. "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes," laughed Jennings.

It was the last thing Jennings ever said to Holly, and it haunted him his entire life. "God almighty, for years I thought I caused it," Jennings would tell CMT decades later.

Read More: Country Rewind: Merle Haggard Bids Farewell to Elvis With 'From Graceland to the Promised Land'

Many country stars name Buddy as an influence, from Vince Gill and Gary Allan to Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard. In fact, Haggard lent his talents to a 2014 Buddy Holly tribute album called Remember Me.

"He was one of the people you paid attention to," Merle told a Nashville crowd at the album's 2014 announcement. "He was a big star," who wrote his own music, said Haggard. "It made a difference to me when the artist wrote the song."

Hear Haggard singing "That'll Be The Day" as a tribute to Holly below. Rave on, Buddy.

This article was originally published in 2018.

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