Thursday, August 24, 2006

Yearbooks detail stars' past

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In our celebrity-influenced culture, lots of otherwise common items have become collectible. Take yearbooks, for example. They're nothing special, except to alumni, unless you graduated with a rock star. Then, those yearbooks became a treasure trove of information, both trivial and important.

Over the years, my wife Sue and I have collected yearbooks from Buddy Holly, Madonna, Stevie Nicks and Elvis Presley and they reveal much about the stars who's pictures they contain.

The first annual we acquired was a 1953 "Westerner" from Lubbock High School in Texas, the sophomore year for one of rock's pioneers, Buddy Holly. His headshot depicts a casual young man, without his later trademark glasses. The name under the photo reads Buddy Holley, as his last name was spelled at the time.

We obtained the yearbook through a classified advertisement in Goldmine Magazine, a record collectors publication. A teacher at Lubbock High School ran a notice that he had found several copies of the annual in a closet on campus and was offering them for sale. In the late 80s, we invested $100 in buying the book which was already 35 years old.

Paging through, you'll notice that Buddy was a member of the "Choralaires," composed strictly of sophomores, as directed by Miss Imogene Webster. Also published in the book is a picture of classmate Niki Sullivan practicing golf at Lubbock Country Club. A few years later, Sullivan would play rhythm guitar in Buddy's band, The Crickets.

The back of the book contains advertising from local businesses. It's not impossible to think that Buddy may have frequented Wayne's Record Rack, 2421-A Broadway, and the Hi-D-Ho drive-in restaurant, the favorite meeting spot for Lubbock High School students, or so their ad claimed.

In the years after high school, Holly recorded such influential hits as "That'll Be The Day," "Peggy Sue," and "Oh Boy." Sadly, Holly perished at age 22 in an Iowa plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, along with Richie Valens and The Big Bopper.

Madonna's yearbook, meanwhile, was sold to us by a man who announced he didn't care for the star whom he went to school with in lower Michigan. Known then as Madonna Ciccone, the singer is pictured as a senior in Rochester's Adams High School publication, "The Highlander." The 1976 yearbook notes Miss Ciccone was a member of the newly formed Thespian Society.

Of course, Madonna went on to record dozens of hits including "Take a Bow," "Like a Virgin," and "Vogue," as well as starring in the motion picture "Evita."

Another diva to grace our yearbook collection is Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac fame. She graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, CA in 1966. We obtained a 25th anniversary edition of her yearbook, which featured Nicks in her rock star prime on the cover. Her high school obviously knew how to promote a famous former student and issued a limited edition of 300 numbered copies of the book.

The annual noted that as a senior Nicks appeared in the student production of "High Spirits" and was a member of the Players Club. Unfortunately, her credit for the show contains a typographical error, listing her as Stephanie Micks.

You know her name wasn't misspelled when she went on to record with Fleetwood Mac or as a solo artist registering such hits as "Talk To Me," "If Anyone Falls," and a duet with Tom Petty, "Needles and Pins."

Finally, there is Elvis. An original copy of his yearbook would be quite pricey. That's because he went to a small school and few copies of the annual were printed. But, we have a reproduction of the 1953 "Herald," copyrighted 1988, by music publisher Jerry Osborne. Still, you see the Humes High School graduation photo of Elvis, dressed in suit and tie.

Elvis had no activities listed with his picture but he did redeem himself later by recording "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up," "Heartbreak Hotel," and 148 other smashes in the United States. For a Memphis kid apparently not terribly inspired by high school, that's not a bad "record."

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