Had it not been for the Crickets, there might not have been any Beatles.
At least under that name, for not only was Buddy Holly’s legendary band a primary musical influence on the Fab Four, their moniker was a direct inspiration.
“That’s what Paul McCartney told us, so we believe it,” said Crickets drummer and co-founder Jerry Allison (who prefers answering to J.I.). Allison, bassist Joe B. Mauldin, and lead guitarist Sonny Curtis were calling from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo., where they’d just settled in for a week of performances.
It’s unheard of for a rock band to endure for a half century. Yet the Crickets have done it, paying homage to their late comrade Buddy Holly while retaining their own identity. They were West Texas teens when Elvis Presley rolled into Lubbock in early 1955. “When he came through town, everybody really did turn their heads. Buddy Holly wanted to be Elvis there for a while,” said Allison. “He changed everybody around, so everybody started doing Elvis songs.
“Wasn’t any fishin’ holes. Wasn’t too much to do, so everybody stened to the radio and played music,” said Allison, born August 31, 1938 in Hillsboro, Texas. “We listened to a radio station out of Shreveport called KWKH. There was a rock and roll show, and at night we’d listen to that, Fats Domino and that sort of thing.”
“I got started real young,” said Sonny, born May 9, 1937 in Meadow, Texas, 30 miles south of Lubbock. “I loved Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. And my uncles, one of ‘em, Edd Mayfield, was a great guitar player who had a tremendous influence on me. He actually played with Bill Monroe in like ‘56, ‘57, somewhere in there. But he was a big influence on me. My two older brothers played guitar and fiddle, so I learned to play those.
“We were doing mostly country music, and of course we were all playing with various bands in various clubs and all that and whatever in Lubbock with whoever,” said Curtis. “Buddy and Bob Montgomery and Don Guess, who was the bass player at that time, and J.I. and me, when Elvis came through town, well, the next day, we started kind of doing Elvis songs. Scotty Moore played kind of a Chet Atkins lick sort of thing, and I was a big Chet Atkins fan. And I didn’t know all of his stuff, but I knew how to play that lick. So I had Scotty’s lick down the next day. And Buddy, we started playing ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ and ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ and ‘That’s All Right Mama’ and all those things.”
“I went to a football game when I was about in fifth grade, and I just thought, ‘Well, I can do that!’” said J.I. “I started playing in the school band, you know, playing marching drums and all that, so I guess that’s the basis. And I tried to copy Little Richard’s drummer in that movie The Girl Can’t Help It. I just listened to old rock and roll records. I guess everybody tries to copy somebody, but it was part of the marching band feel and high school concert band.
“Joe B. Mauldin and I met in high school, and Buddy and I met in junior high. It was sort of a little music community,” said J.I. “I played some joints around Texas that Buddy’s folks were a little more touchy about him playing, so he didn’t work those joints as much. He’d come out and sit in. Lubbock was a dry county, and you couldn’t buy booze in that county or anywhere around there. But people could come to these places and bring their own booze.
“I was playing places like that, and Buddy’d come out and sit in. And we’d just really enjoy playing together. Th