Post to the Host

Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.

Send GK Your Question »

Not Fade Away

February 12, 2009 | 31 Comments

Post to the Host:
Hello. In your recent show, GK said that Buddy Holly was alive and living in New York. All bio's say that he is no longer with us and passed away in the plane crash. Please inform me of the correct truth.

Thank you,


I am sticking to my story, Thad, no matter what the biographers say. They have been wrong before. I ran into Buddy Holly in New York in December and didn't recognize him at first because he doesn't have those big black hornrims anymore — he had Lasik surgery and doesn't need glasses — and he's put on some weight since 1959. He's 72 and in good shape for the shape he's in and retired from his pastorate two years ago. After the plane crash, he went back to the Church of Christ and went to Abilene Christian and got his degree and he's been pastor of Manhattan Church of Christ, a little church on W. 12th Street. Church of Christ is a pretty tiny minority in New York City, so he goes unnoticed — anybody who was a Buddy Holly fan is still in mourning for him, and members of the Church of Christ tended not to be rocknrollers, so he's as anonymous as can be, and he goes by the name of the Rev. Charles Holley which is spelled with an E, and so his secret is safe. He was sorry about the guy who died in the crash.
A guitarist named Elwyn Baker who was a dead-ringer for Buddy and when Buddy got the offer to go on tour in the Midwest in the dead of winter, he said "No way" and called up Elwyn and they agreed on a 50-50 split, and that's the truth. Elwyn was also Church of Christ and he was going to be a minister and he wanted a last fling as a rocknroll star and that's how he died. Doing what he wanted to do. And Buddy was shocked to read his own obituary in the papers, of course, and he was going to tell people that he was still alive but he was embarrassed about the dishonesty of sending a stand-in and then he was sort of amazed at what a commotion his death caused and teenagers weeping and making pilgrimages to the crash site and so on, and then as he thought about it, his death to him seemed like a sign from heaven that he should give his life to the Lord, which he's done. And he doesn't sing these songs anymore.


I don't know what your aim was with the story about Buddy not dying in that Iowa cornfield, but I believe you should have given some disclaimer to the story to prevent fools like me from searching high and low for the real story. It ended with the original coroner's report revealing details I'd be better off without. His body was fingerprinted and proof was obtained that, yes, it was Buddy, not someone named Elwin Baker. (google THAT name and see what you get!)I'm 65 and remember the day after very clearly. We all wore black armbands. I loved the music on your show, but did NOT think it was funny. I could go on, but space is limited. (Dylan fan also)


Mr Keillor, I only feel it fair to point out that the holiday that just passed was Groundhog's Day, not April Fool's Day.

Well I thought it was hilarious :)

I would like to submit a response to Mr. Bob's comment, if that's his real name. I mean really, Bob? In any case, please don't look to the ceiling when someone says gullible is written on it. I love all works that I hear on A Prairie Home Companion, and always will. Please, if you would be so kind, know your facts.
Thank you and I apologize if this was rude in anyway I am not as old and wise as Mr. Gramling :)

Mr. Keillor,
I just relayed your scoop to Don McLean. He was quite dejected for a moment or two, but then asked me for some happy news.

I loved the story. I love to think "what if".

I am confused about what I heard on your show on Sun. 2/8/09. I heard you saying that Buddy Holly didn't really die in the plane crash with the Big Bopper and that another "look alike" named Elwin Baker went on the tour instead of Buddy. Then you said Buddy felt so awful after his look alike died in the crash that he became a minister and used the name Charles Holley. Was this all made up? I can't find anything about this on I would like to know if this story was true, and if not ,why did you portray it this way???? I am upset about this. Please advise.

I suspect this story will do wonders for the attendance at the Manhattan Church of Christ.

I love stories like this -- so well told that you nearly believe them :)

Hey, Garrison,

do you have the real scoop on Elvis, too?
Laughed out loud at the HollEy story.

A quick search on Google for Manhattan Church of Christ turns up one by that name, but on 80th Street, not 12th. It also appears to be quite old, but a decent-sized congregation. There's another Church of Christ in Manhattan, but it has at least one extra word in its official name (Upper) and is listed as being on Amsterdam. So I'd say this is mainly GK's active imagination talking, but my search by no means was exhaustive.

I am surprised that anyone could be listening to a show by a famous humorist (curtsies to Mr K.,) and would not recognize humor when it is tossed their way. Or knowing the speaker is a great novelist, would not know a story when it is expertly spun before their ears. Although, finding one leg was suddenly longer than the other should have told them "something" was up.

Now, I want to know, what's the REAL story about Elvis? Is he really running a sandwich stand on Conney Island, or is he living in a Florida retirement village with Marilyn?

Keep doing what you're doing, because you do it so well!

Hmmmmm... this sound surprisingly like the plot from the Bruce Campbell movie 'Bubba Ho-Tep'.

Unbelievable!!! But now I see how Orson Welles was able to confuse so many people on Halloween those many years ago (and he *did* include a disclaimer, btw).

GK writes FICTION, folks; it stands to reasons his oral stories are more of the same. You tune into PHC to hear music and stories. If you want news, that's on All Things Considered.

Dear Mr. Keillor:

I think the next contest you have on PHC should be a tall-tale event. Many of your listeners (me among them) will be disappointed that, as host, you will not be able to participate, but it should be educational for the rest.

Maybe I'll tell everyone about how my granddaddy defeated the japanese naval attack on California, back in WWII.......

What? Lake Wobegon is not a real place? PLEASE

This story skirts the bounds of good taste, but then GK never really cared about that.

GK: If this is just a story about Buddy Holly you made up, you should fess up. Honestly man, have you flipped your lid? Laurie B.

I was in Ann Arbor Michigan at the U of M hospital and saw Elvis there! I wasn't alone my sister in law saw him to, we both looked at each other and laughed. This was in 1993, back when the story came out he was working at a Burger King.

So now back to this story by GK, he does this for a living folks. Just like the story of Paul McCarthy on the Sgt Pepper Band Album cover. Folks lighten up. Thanks for the great story.

I hate to admit it Garrison ... but your revelation or outing as they say ... that the great Buddy Holly is still alive forces me to reveal that I am the real Elvis ... who some say passed away way back when. When I sign my name as Elvis Presley on my credit card invoices at the check-out counter in stores, most clerks don't seem to care. A few have pointed out that I do not look like Elvis. I advise them as seriously as I can that I have been under the "witness protection act" for many years in order to protect my identity. Then they get my very best Elvis "Thank you very much" ... and I am on my way. I should tell you that credit card firms still send me my monthly statement which I dutifully pay! Apparently the Elvis name and credit is still golden! And so is mine!

Happy Valentines Day from The Real Elvis!!! Is today April First????

Hi GK. Top 'o the morn'g to yah! Love this one. Me thinks you have just a wee bit o' the ole' Blarney in yah. This was another good one of yours, but you should have waited until it was closer to St. Pattie's Day... (-: Erin Go Bragh!

Dear Mr. Keillor:

Isn't it amazing that folks could be so gullible? But I shouldn't talk. I actually fell for that story you told in the Old Scout column about Minnesota's very own Northwest Airlines disappearing after 82 years. Please, say it ain't so!

Mr. Keillor,

It seems you have thrown quite a few people into a little tizzy. Well done. Builds Character.


He hasn't said it isn't true. And he won't. Just muse.

GK, I have been trying to keep the whole Holley story secret. I signed a recording deal with Rev. Holley and we are doing a "Buddy Retrospective". This will be his official outing. Of course his voice is a little cracked now, but then again so am I and so are all those complainers who wrote you about this. I have been a fan for over 20 years ond want them all to know that Lake Woebegone is right next to the Indian Reservation of the Wheretheheckarewe Tribe.

This thread made me LOL. I love that dry MN Or as my relatives call it that Norwegian sense of humor.... ;) enjoy people!


It seemed a little like filler but the story had an interesting structure: Man supposed by many to be dead living as a minister of a church that worships another man supposed to be dead but supposed by many to live.

Dear Mr. Kellor:

I was born and raised on the flat plains of Lubbock, Texas. My older Brother and sister attended Lubbock High School with Buddy Holly so I grew up hearing of him and his music. In 1980 I became road manager for Joe Ely and his band, boys I grew up with. Many years later after I changed careers and began teaching Comedy Gym, driving to several cities in Texas each week, I would often listen to your show on the ride home to Austin. One evening you told a beautiful story of the day you and some friends heard of the plane crash in which Buddy died. You and your friends traveled to the site of the crash where you saw the broken neck of a Strocaster Matt:

Let me know about this as I will need to be prepared to deal with the powers that be. from the snowy field. I had to pull to the shoulder of Interstate 35 because I could not stop weeping I was moved so deeply. Buddy Holly meant so very much to us Lubbock boys. He showed us that a kid from the barren planes of West Texas could make an impression on the world. I have searched several times for a recording of the show I heard but, alas I have never been able to find the recording. My Lady friend, a Minnesota native has heard me tell the story many times but, I would love to play a recording of it for her so she can understand the depth of my sentiments. Please help me in this matter. Say hi to Joe and the rest of the Flatlanders for me. I see Joe often and we remain good friends.

Sam Cox

When my daughters were young, they would ask me whether the Bible story they had just learned in their school was true. I answered that I couldn't tell them whether or not the events had actually occurred or not, but there was a Truth in them to be learned, nonetheless. Sadly, many of my fellow Jews never learned that besides the Torah that is a written book, there is a Torah that is the body of revealed Truths.
I shed tears for the poor lost souls that researched this story looking for the "truth" in it and expressing outrage that it did not match what they had found. I fear that they will be similarly disappointed when they cannot find Lake Woebegon on the map, closing their ears to the many Truths Garrison shares with us. Much like the Bible, Garrison's stories reveal what makes us people, both the low and the high, and by them, brings us all closer together. Google not, for the Truth is not found there, only the facts.

Garrison Keillor is 100% correct. I had the privilege of talking to Buddy myself just recently when he visited here in Northern Bavaria and negotiated with my brother-in-law over the purchase of a prize-winning horse. In fact, he said to me, "I came to talk to you about a man with a horse."

You not only can hear this finest of all tales from Lake Wobegon, you also can watch it, if you acquire the three-DVD set called "A Prairie Home Collection."

Previous Post:
« Jeepers Creepers, Where'd Ya Get Those Peepers?

Next Post:
Deals in Stereotypes »

Post to the Host Archive

Complete Post to the Host Archive

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy