Born Harold David Box, 11 August 1943, Sulphur Springs, Texas
Question : which singer-songwriter-guitarist from Lubbock, Texas, was tragically killed in an airplane crash at the age of 21? The answer is not Buddy Holly (who was 22 at the time of his death), but David Box. If his name doesn't ring a bell, you are forgiven. His vocal talents were only ever featured on five 45-rpm records during his lifetime. His music is best described as Buddy Holly meets Roy Orbison. David Box was born into a musical family (his father, Harold Box, was a western swing fiddler) in the small town of Sulphur Springs in East Texas. In 1945, the Box family moved to Lubbock, where David would live for the next 17 years. On his ninth birthday, his parents bought him an acoustic guitar. He showed great determination in his efforts to master the art of guitar playing. Having growing up with country music, David's horizons were widened with the advent of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. He became a regular spectator at Radio KDAV's weekly Sunday Party, where he watched the development of Buddy Holly, who became his role model. He was a founder-member of the Rhythm Teens, later the Ravens, a group styled on the Crickets. They cut several demos in February-April 1960. Two of these were sent to Jerry Allison (the drummer of the Crickets), which resulted in David and his bandmate Ernie Hall being invited to record with the Crickets, who were looking for a vocalist after Sonny Curtis had been drafted. On his 17th birthday, David recorded "Peggy Sue Got Married" and his own song "Don't Cha Know" (co-written with Ernie Hall) as lead vocalist with the Crickets. The two recordings (issued on Coral 62238 in November 1960) fulfilled the Crickets' contractual obligations with Coral, before they moved on to Liberty Records.
In 1961 David signed with Ted Groebl's Joed label in Big Spring, TX, first only as a songwriter. David's first solo professional recording session was on April 5, 1962, in Nashville. While there, David stayed at the home of Roy Orbison, in whom he found his next great influence. Box recorded two songs by the trio of Roy Orbison, Joe Melson and Ray Rush : "I've Had My Moments" and "If You Can't Say Something Nice", with top session musicians (Bob Moore, Pig Robbins, Ray Edenton). David thought that his big break had come. Reality was something else. Joed eventually leased the recordings to a small California label, Candix. Apart from a positive review in Billboard on August 18, 1962, the recordings received no further promotion, excellent as they were. "I've Had My Moments" (a tragic epitaph, in view of later events) is a great rocker, which David would later rerecord in a slow ballad version with strings. "If You Can't Say Something Nice" is a pleasant ballad in typical Orbison style. Roy would record the song himself in 1965 for his first MGM LP ; it was also released as the B-side of his second MGM single in October 1965 (London HLU 10000 in the UK).
Three releases on Joed, in 1962-64, also suffered from ineffective promotion. Nevertheless, two of them were released in the UK in 1964. "Sweet Sweet Day" (a rewrite of an earlier demo recording from 1961 called "Some Sweet Day"), was coupled with "If You Can't Say Something Nice" (Joed 114 / London HLU 9874). The latter was the Candix release from 1962, with overdubbed strings. The other was "Little Lonely Summer Girl"/"No One Will Ever Know" (Joed 116 / London HLU 9924). "Little Lonely Summer Girl" was his biggest seller, though it failed to make the national Top 100.
David graduated from Lubbock High School on June 1, 1962. Sensibly seeking a possible alternative to music, he enrolled on a correspondence course with the School of American Art in Westport, Connecticut. This was completed in the summer of 1964, after which he had more time for touring. He had come to realize the limitations of being signed to a small independent label that had never had a hit record. On his 21st birthday, he was able to take control of his legal affairs, cancelling his contract with Joed. Thanks to Ray Rush, Box was signed to RCA Victor, a major label. David and Ray were invited to travel to Nashville on October 24 for their first RCA session.
Meanwhile, David worked with a local band named Buddy and the Kings : Buddy Groves (vocal/guitar), Carl Banks (bass) and Bill Daniels (drums). Daniels was a qualified pilot and the quartet hired a Cesna Skyhawk 172 to take them to a gig in Harris County on 23 October 1964. The plane crashed, probably due to a defective fuel gauge. There were no survivers. After the sad news broke in Lubbock the Box's first visitors were Buddy Holly's parents. Mr Holley hugged Harold Box and said simply "It's better you should know this now; people will tell you that time heals the pain but it doesn't".
David Box didn't live long enough to reach his full potential. He took his music very seriously and although he was heavily influenced by Buddy Holly, he was extremely talented in his own right.
More info :
CD : "The David Box Story" (Rollercoaster RCCD 3024, released 2002). 32 tracks, most of them (demos and home recordings) previously unissued. A mix of uptempo and ballad material.
Acknowledgements : John Davison-White.
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