CLEAR LAKE — When Bob “Big Sandy” Williams was learning to sing, he’d “put on early Buddy Holly and I’d sing along,” he recalls.
“I’d go into the bathroom — you could get a bit of echo there,” he said with a chuckle. “It started early. I’ve always been fascinated with Buddy Holly.”
Big Sandy — his preferred moniker — has been honoring Holly and other music pioneers ever since. Big Sandy and his band, the Fly-Rite Boys, will bring their music to the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom on Friday.
It will be a first trip to the Surf, but not to Buddy Holly tributes. In 1999, the band was selected by Paul McCartney to play at a Buddy Holly tribute in New York City.
“We got to talk to him afterward — and that was a real honor,” Big Sandy said.
Band members are Joe Perez on drums, Jeff West on bass and Ashley Kingman on guitar.
The band, Big Sandy said, honors music traditions and the roots of rock ’n’ roll through rockabilly and western swing influences — the same styles that Holly wove into his work, he said.
Songs such as “Jumpin’ From Six to Six,” “Hold Me” and “I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This to You” easily demonstrate those influences.
Holly’s impact on rock ’n’ roll was extensive — far more than he is often given credit for, he said.
“Buddy and the Crickets were among the first really self-contained bands,” he said. “They played their own instruments; Buddy wrote his own music. It was the model” for bands to follow.
Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys emerged from the California music scene in 1988. They have appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, at the Grand Ole Opry and throughout Europe.
They have released more than a dozen albums; the most recent is 2011’s “Radio Favorites.”
Big Sandy said he is excited about participating in the celebration of ’50s music.
He and the Fly-Rite Boys have played on the same bill as Sid King and the Five Strings, who will also appear at the Winter Dance Party for the first time this year.
Sid King and the Five Strings represent another early Texas band “who took their roots, like Buddy,” and laid the groundwork for rock ’n’ roll.
“We usually make a point to stop and see historic music venues — but we’ve never been to the Surf,” Big Sandy said.
“We just haven’t had the chance ... we’re excited to see the Surf and to listen to the work of other artists, too.”