In a career that has spanned nearly five decades and millions of records, The Crickets are unquestionably The American Rock and Roll band. Since the group’s founding in 1957 they have influenced virtually every major rock performer in the United States and abroad – from Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles (whose name was even Crickets-inspired). Their hits “That’ll Be The day,” Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away,” “Maybe Baby,” “It’s So Easy,” “I Fought The Law“ and “More Than I Can Say” are bona fide rock classics and considered primary lessons in how rock music should be written, played and enjoyed. As Paul McCartney once put it, “If it wasn’t for the Crickets, there wouldn’t be any Beatles.”
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The Crickets were formed in Lubbock, Texas by Buddy Holly and J.I. Allison. Bassist Joe B. Mauldin was recruited shortly thereafter. They were one of the first rock and roll bands to be self-contained, writing, playing, producing and recording their own material. They were among the first rock bands, too, to utilize overdubbing and multi-track recording years before it became standard studio practice. Above all, they were the first rock musicians to make rock and roll truly accessible to their audience; their instrumental format of guitar, drums and bass spawned thousands of garage bands worldwide – including one formed by a very young John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
With the release of “That’ll Be The Day” in June of 1957 and their many subsequent hits, The Crickets became the leading rock and roll band in the world. In late 1958, Buddy Holly decided to move to New York and become more involved in the business side of music. Allison and Mauldin continued on with The Crickets, adding their old friend Sonny Curtis as lead guitarist and vocalist. Sonny had played guitar and fiddle in earlier groups with Buddy and J.I, so his joining was a welcome and seamless fit with the band’s unique sound and approach. The first Crickets’ album without Buddy Holly, "In Style With The Crickets", was recorded in the same Clovis, New Mexico studio as had all their hits, with additional sessions in New York and Los Angeles. Their classics “I Fought The Law” and “More Than I Can Say” were introduced on this album. With a new Crickets recording contract with West Coast-based Liberty Records, as well as a shift in focus from touring to the studio, Los Angeles became home base for the group for the next 15 years.
Drummer J.I. Allison soon became one of the industry’s top session players recording with Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Rivers, Waylon Jennings, Nanci Griffith, Paul McCartney and many others. His distinctive drumming style on such hits as “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly and “Till I Kissed You” by The Everly Brothers are among the most memorable drum licks ever recorded. Phil Everly has called Allison “the most creative drummer in rock and roll,” a fact reinforced by Dell/Rolling Stone’s “Book Of Lists” which ranks Allison among the top three rock and roll drummers of all times. Allison also wrote such songs as “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue” and “More Than I Can say.”
Bassist Joe. B. Mauldin, who is also ranked among the top rock bassists by the “Book of Lists,” became a recording engineer at Gold Star Studios, the legendary Los Angeles studio that became the hit factory for Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and other major 60s rock performers. While at Gold Star, Mauldin engineered many hit recording sessions including those with Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the Baja Marimba Band, Phil Spector, Leon Russell and Maureen McGovern. An accomplished writer as well as performer, Mauldin penned “Last Night,” “I’m Gonna Love You Too” and “Well All Right.” He has toured with The Everly Brothers, Johnny Burnette, Nanci Griffith and Waylon Jennings.
Sonny Curtis, also a native Texan, played lead guitar on Buddy Holly’s first Decca sessions. His fluid guitar playing style was a major influence on Waylon Jennings. In addition to his work with the Crickets, Sonny has enjoyed enormous success as a solo recording artist and as one of Nashville’s most respected songwriters. His songs have been recorded by artists from Bing Crosby to the Bear on the Andy Williams Show. Among his hit song credits: “Love Is All Around” (the Mary Tyler Moore Television Show Theme song which Sonny also sang on every opening segment of the show), “I Fought The Law,” “Walk Right Back” which was a big hit for the Everly Brothers, “I’m No Stranger To The Rain,” recorded by Keith Whitley, and many others – including his own Elektra Records hits “The Real Buddy Holly Story,” “Good Old Girls” and “Cowboy Singer.”
In the mid 70s, the Crickets moved to the Nashville area and began a long association with Waylon Jennings whom they had known since the early Lubbock days. In addition to touring and recording with Jennings, the group made frequent international tours including dates in England (where they recorded with Paul McCartney), Spain, Germany, Sweden and Ireland. It’s an annual tradition they continue to this day.
The group has also continued to record, issuing albums throughout the 80s and 90s. In April of 1995, they recorded “Not Fade Away” with Levon Helm and The Band for a critically-acclaimed musical tribute to Buddy Holly entitled “Not Fade Away” released on Decca Records. The following year, The Crickets recorded “Too Much Monday Morning” an album of all new material and which featured guest vocalist Nanci Griffith. It was released on the British label, Carlton. That year they also toured extensively with Nanci Griffith and The Blue Moon Orchestra.
Over the years, the Crickets have appeared in motion pictures and numerous documentaries, as well as top television shows including The Ed Sullivan Show, Sunday Night At The London Palladium, American Bandstand, The David Letterman Show, CNN, America’s Talking, Westwood One Radio syndicated specials, and a two-hour Nashville Network special shown worldwide.
As the millennium approached, the Crickets were again in the studio with Grammy®-award-winning producer Greg Ladanyi to record what may well be their most memorable album of all, “The Crickets and Their Buddies.” The album features 15 new tracks of the band’s classic hits with the Crickets joined by their “buddies” – Eric Clapton, Graham Nash, John Prine, Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee, Nanci Griffith, J.D. Souther, Johnny Rivers, Phil Everly, Vince Neil, Bobby Vee, Tonio K. & Peter Case, and Waylon Jennings (one of his last recordings).
It’s a fitting musical tribute to a band who literally defined rock and roll music, and who today, over 50 years later, still help set the standard of excellence by which it should be judged.
Indeed, The Crickets’ influence will not fade away. Ever.
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