Buddy Holly’s original 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle

Buddy Holly’s original 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle. This treasured item was a gift to Waylon Jennings in 1979 by members of Holly’s original Crickets, Joe B. Maudlin and Jerry Allison on the occasion of his forty-second birthday. The story of how this iconic piece of Rock ?n’ Roll history came to them and the role that it played in both Buddy’s and Waylon’s respective lives is nothing short of legendary. On May 13th, 1958, three young, very exhausted, and newly successful musicians found their way to Ray Miller’s Motorcycle Shop in Dallas, Texas. They were at the forefront of creating a style of music that was rapidly redefining America’s musical tastes, combining Country, Pop, Rockabilly, and Rhythm and Blues into a new sound all its own. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were new superstars at the dawn of Rock ?n’ Roll. Having just returned home to Texas from a world tour, the trio set out to buy new motorcycles as presents for themselves to celebrate their hard work and good fortune. Upon landing in Dallas, they made a spur of the moment decision to skip their connecting flight home. They decided to each buy a motorcycle and drive back home. (Their love of Marlon Brando in “The Wild Ones” inspired their decision.) Taking a cab from Love Field into the city, they walked into a Harley Davidson dealership where they were shown the door by the proprietor who failed to recognize the young celebrities, thinking instead that they were bums. Their next stop was at Ray Miller’s Triumph and Ariel Motorcycle shop. When they walked in, both the owner and his mechanic recognized them instantly, and they were given the royal treatment. Joe Maudlin, the Crickets’ bass player, immediately fell in love with a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle and bought it. Jerry Allison, their drummer, bought a Triumph Trophy. Buddy Holly was transfixed by a dark red Ariel Cyclone 650cc in the showroom, and decided that it was the bike for him. That model, only built for that one year (1958) and with only a production number of 200, impressed Buddy as something very unique and special, and he knew that he had to own that bike. Buddy picked out the Ariel and they all paid in cash. Besides their new wheels, the trio purchased matching Levi jackets and peaked caps adorned with wings. Buddy, Joe, and Jerry rode the 350-mile trip home in a thunderstorm. The tragic event surrounding Buddy Holly’s death has become known as “The Day the Music Died,” a phrase borrowed from a lyric written by Don McLean in 1971 from his hit song, “American Pie.” In this portion of his song, McLean referred to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) on February 3, 1959. Buddy assembled a new band for his “Winter Dance Party Tour”, consisting of Tommy Allsup on guitar, Carl Bunch on drums, and fellow West Texan and friend Waylon Jennings on bass. Buddy and Waylon had become the best of friends when they were both heavily involved in the music scenes of Lubbock and Littlefield, Texas some years before. Despite being a guitar player, Buddy gave Waylon two weeks to learn bass guitar and young Waylon accepted. . The tour was to run from January 23rd, 1959, beginning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was scheduled to end in Springfield, Illinois on February 15, 1959. By the time February 3rd had rolled around for the show held near Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy and the band were exhausted, cold from the bitter winter weather, and some were sick with the flu. They were all looking for some relief and any extra free time that they could manage. Buddy had decided to charter a small plane that night to get them to their next performance in Moorhead, Minnesota to escape the freezing tour bus. Waylon and Tommy Allsup were asked by Buddy to join him on the plane. Earlier that evening, The Big Bopper approached Waylon asking if he would possibly consider giving up his seat on the plane, as The Bopper had been sick, wrestling with the flu. Waylon told him that as long as it was okay with Buddy, it was okay with him. At the same time, Ritchie Valens was trying to make a similar arrangement with Tommy Allsup. The two flipped a coin, and Ritchie Valens won. Valens had now secured the remaining seat on the plane. Buddy teased Waylon, accusing him of being too scared to get on the plane. Waylon justified his decision saying he thought it best that The Big Bopper should go instead of him. Buddy then said to his friend, “Well, I hope your damn bus freezes up again,” and Waylon snapped back, “Yeah, well I hope your ol’ plane crashes.” The next morning, the news poured in from every outlet: the plane had crashed in the snow. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and the pilot, Roger Peterson, were all dead. Waylon was devastated, and he actually believed in his heart that what he had said to Buddy the night before inadvertently caused the plane to crash. Waylon had lost his closest friend, and for years after carried with him the guilt that he was to blame. He gave up playing guitar and performing for two years, eventually leaving Texas for Arizona in hopes that he might find his way again. After Buddy’s death, the Ariel motorcycle stayed with the Holly family. The bike was barely six months old when Buddy died, and his father kept the Ariel well-maintained in memory of his son. In 1970, the Holly family decided to sell the motorcycle, transferring ownership to Mr. W. Sanders of Dumas, Texas. Five years later, Mr. Sanders sold the Ariel to Joe Waggoner of Austin, Texas. (Joe Waggoner retained ownership of the motorcycle until June of 1979. He recounted, at that time, that the Ariel had barely over four thousand miles on it, and except for replacing the tires and new exhaust pipes, the motorcycle was totally original and untouched.) Mr. Waggoner decided to sell the Ariel after being approached by Jerry Allison, Joe Maudlin, and a third member of the Crickets, Sonny Curtis. They told Joe Waggoner that they wanted to buy Buddy’s Ariel and give it to Waylon Jennings as a birthday present. Once again, fate played its hand and Buddy Holly’s Ariel Cyclone found its way to Buddy’s closest friend, Waylon Jennings, on his forty-second birthday. When Waylon returned to his hotel room after a show, he found the motorcycle sitting in the middle of his room. Recounting his reaction to the gift, Waylon said, “What else could I do? I swung my leg over the seat, stomped on the kick-starter, and it burst, roaring to life on the first kick. It was midnight and it sounded twice as loud as bouncing off the walls of the hotel room. I knew Buddy wouldn’t mind!” This 1958 Ariel Cyclone with a high compression 650 cc headmaster engine bears engine number CNLF 4510, chassis number CAPR 1069. Waylon kept the motorcycle in the den of his Brentwood, Tennessee home lovingly nicknamed “Southern Comfort.” It was always a conversation piece, as well as a surprise to those seeing it for the first time. People were shocked, and often exclaimed, “You’ve got a motorcycle in your house!” The Ariel remains beautifully preserved and symbolic of a pivotal time in American music history, still with just over four thousand original miles and not having been ridden for over twenty years

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1 Comment to Buddy Holly’s original 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle

  1. by hkraemer

    On October 8, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Guernsey’s Auction House Press Release:

    Guernsey’s Auction House will resurrect the aura of outlaw country megastar Waylon Jennings on October 5 at
    the majestic Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix with an auction of more than 2,000 of the country legend’s personal belongings.

    The centerpiece of the spectacular collection is the limited edition 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle that originally belonged to Jennings’ best friend and mentor Buddy Holly, and that was given to Jennings in
    1979 after Holly’s death.

    The Ariel is beautifully preserved with just over 4,000 original miles and has not been ridden in over twenty years, serving as a symbol of a pivotal time in American music history.

    Behind Holly’s Purchase:

    On May 13th, 1958, three young and newly successful musicians – Buddy Holly, Joe Maudlin and Jerry Allison found their way to Ray Miller’s Motorcycle Shop in Dallas, Texas. They had conceived a style of music redefining America’s tastes, combining Country, Pop, Rockabilly, and Rhythm and Blues into a new sound all its own.

    Having just returned home from a world tour, Buddy Holly and the Crickets each bought new motorcycles to celebrate their hard work and good fortune. Joe Maudlin, the Crickets’ bass player, immediately fell in love with a Triumph Thunderbird motorcycle. Jerry Allison, their drummer, bought a Triumph Trophy. Holly was transfixed by a black Ariel Cyclone 650cc and purchased the limited edition model – one of only 200 that were ever built. To go with their new wheels, the trio purchased matching Levi’s jackets and peaked caps adorned with wings and rode the 350 mile trip home in a thunderstorm.
    Fatal Plane Crash:

    In the winter of 1958, Holly assembled a new band for his Winter Dance Party Tour, including Tommy Allsup on guitar, drummer Carl Bunch, and fellow West Texan and close friend Waylon Jennings on bass.

    February, the band was exhausted from months of touring and sick of the bitter winter weather. Holly decided to charter the band to their next performance in Moorhead, Minnesota. Also touring with the group were J.P “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Richie Valens.

    Richardson asked Jennings if he would consider giving up his seat on the plane, as Richardson had been sick with the flu. Jennings agreed, and at the same time, Valens made a similar arrangement with Allsup, leaving Holly on the plane with Richardson and Valens while the other band members rode the tour bus.

    The next morning, the news poured in from every outlet: the plane had crashed, killing all three passengers
    as well as the pilot in a tragic event dubbed “The Day the Music Died.”

    Jennings lost his closest friend, and for years felt that he was to blame. He gave up playing guitar and performing for two years, even leaving Texas for Arizona in hopes that he might find his way again.

    After Holly’s death, the Ariel motorcycle stayed with the Holly family until they sold it in 1 970. In 1979, Allison, Maudlin, and a third member of the Crickets, Sonny Curtis, approached the bike’s owner and put in an offer to buy it as a gift for Jennings’ birthday. Finally, Holly ’s beloved Ariel found its way to Jennings
    on his forty second birthday.

    The bike is a 1958 Ariel Cyclone with a high compression 650 cc headmaster engine bears engine number CNLF 4510, chassis number CAPR 1069.

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