day buddy put wigan on the map

FIFTY years ago, the legendary Buddy Holly sent fans wild as he played in Wigan's most famous entertainment venue.

The 50s rock and roll star made his first and only UK tour in 1958, and graced The Ritz on March 18 that year, with his classic hits, such as Peggy Sue and That’ll Be the Day.

Buddy Holly fan Barrie Critchley, now 66, of Marus Bridge, was among the crowd and recalled the excitement of seeing the legend in the flesh.

He said: “I was only 16 at the time. It was very exciting.

“The crowd went wild. They had never heard music like that before.

“Des O’Connor was on the same show and he said we had never heard amplified music like that before – we weren’t used to it.

“It was a massive thing for Wigan.”

According to Barrie, it was fate that led Buddy Holly to Wigan, as he was supposed to be playing elsewhere.

He added: “He should have appeared in Blackburn. They couldn’t sell enough tickets, so he held it at Wigan.”

The American singer-songwriter began his career in 1956 and formed The Crickets, who had a number one hit with That’ll Be The Day.

Famous

He split with the band in 1958 and was fast gaining popularity before he died in a plane crash the following year aged 22.

Buddy’s appearance at The Ritz put the venue on the map and set a precedent for other world famous icons.

The Ritz was opened in 1938 and, at its height, was a major performance venue, with 2,365 seats, hosting popular acts such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Marc Bolan.

Even Robby the Robot, the popular fictional character from The Forbidden Planet, who has since made a number of appearances in science fiction movies, entertained crowds at the popular venue.

It was converted into a cinema in 1977, which was split in two, with a bingo hall and three cinema screens.

The venue finally closed its doors in May 1998 after a brief idea about turning the cinema into a Bollywood theatre, which never came to pass.