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Crickets, Comets & more needed in Rock Hall of Fame

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Buddy Holly and Bill Haley in its first couple years, but what about The Crickets and The Comets?
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The Crickets should have been inducted along with Buddy Holly

(No. 34 in a continuing series on artists who should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but are not)

By Phill Marder

Last week’s entry on the E Street Band certainly brought to the fore the question of how important a star’s supporting cast is and why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame recognizes some and not others.

On Goldmine’s Facebook page, one reader brought up just this point.

Michael Ansbro wrote, “What’s worse is The Crickets aren’t in, but Buddy Holly is. There were only two albums ever released, one by The Crickets and the other by Buddy Holly. But the Buddy Holly album actually is another Cricket’s album. It was called Buddy Holly because the music company didn’t want to release a (another) Cricket album in (such) a short time. Also, the name of the group was never Buddy Holly And The Crickets, it was always The Crickets. Buddy Holly only went solo a few short months before he died and never had any hits as a solo artist until he died.“

My thought on this is that Buddy Holly was inducted on two major factors. One, he made some incredibly great records in a short period of time. Two, he is recognized as one of the greatest songwriters in Rock history.

But just how important were The Crickets? If the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had done the slightest research, there would be no question Mr. Ansbro is right on the money. First, the records, as Mr. Ansbro noted, were released as The Crickets, though “Peggy Sue” was listed as just Buddy Holly because Holly was signed to a solo contract by Coral Records, while The Crickets, as a group, were signed to Brunswick. Still, The Crickets participation in this recording and the rest of Holly’s work cannot and should not be ignored.

Jerry Allison was one of the finest drummers in Rock & Roll, doing studio work for the Everly Brothers as well as holding down his slot in The Crickets. He and Joe Mauldin, on stand-up bass, and rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan played major roles in The Crickets’ recordings, particularly Allison, who co-wrote “That’ll Be The Day” with Holly, though producer Norman Petty also received a writer’s credit. Allison also wrote “Peggy Sue,” named after his girlfriend and future wife Peggy Sue Gerron, the record becoming a classic thanks in no small part to Allison’s unique drumming. After Holly died, Allison insisted Holly receive a writer‘s credit as well. “Well…All Right” and “Think It Over” also show Allison with a composer’s credit.

Mauldin also has a writer‘s credit on “Well…All Right“ & he and Sullivan wrote “I’m Gonna Love You Too.” Petty received writer’s credit on all these as well.

So - much as in the case of The Miracles, covered in No. 13 of this series - the contributions of The Crickets to Buddy Holly’s success have been unjustly ignored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

An argument also could be made for Gene Vincent’s band The Blue Caps, who were left out when Vincent was inducted. However, though Cliff Gallup generally is recognized as one of Rock’s early great guitarists and the rest of the group is top notch, their success paled compared to The Crickets and Vincent was the only composer in the bunch.

Bill Haley & His Comets rocked every joint in which they played

However, there are other early inductions that make no sense. For instance, how does Bill Haley get inducted without His Comets? Anyone who saw the group that effectively started it all knows that, although Haley was the lead singer, the real show was put on by saxman Rudy Pompilli and stand-up bassist Al Rex. Haley, with his band, made records that literally cracked with punch and rocked the joint.

Same can be said for famous guitarist Duane Eddy, inducted without his group, “The Rebels.” But in this case The Hall probably got it right as The Rebels were often comprised of variations of studio musicians.

If the reasoning is that the Hall of Fame’s policy at the outset was that just the main star was inducted, that policy has changed as The Attractions were inducted with Elvis Costello, the Texas Playboys made it with Bob Wills, the Pips were inducted with Gladys Knight, the Imperials with Little Anthony, the Vandellas with Martha Reeves and the Heartbreakers with Tom Petty.

So perhaps the Hall of Fame should have a special segment this year to announce the induction of The Crickets and The Comets along with The Miracles and The E Street Band.

At the same time, perhaps a committee could be formed to study the arguments concerning not only The Blue Caps and The Rebels, but also The Midnighters (with Hank Ballard), The Famous Flames (with James Brown), The Belmonts (with Dion), The Wailers (with Bob Marley), The Silver Bullet Band (with Bob Seger) and Crazy Horse (with Neil Young).

Ballard’s records were almost always with the Midnighters. In fact, he tried a go without them, but quickly reassembled them when success didn’t follow. Yes, he wrote “The Twist” (see the fourth installment of this series), but The Midnighters performed the song - and the dance. Brown was a superstar with and without The Famous Flames, but who would have been there with his cape if not for The Flames? Dion had a solid, hit-filled career after leaving The Belmonts. But Dion & The Belmonts were one of early Rock’s most successful vocal groups, and The Belmonts had a few hits of their own after Dion left.

It’s Bob Marley & The Wailers on almost all the records and live appearances. Seger formed The Silver Bullet Band in 1976, the same year “Night Moves” made him a superstar. Coincidence? The case for Crazy Horse may be the weakest. If you took out everything Young did with Crazy Horse, he’d still easily qualify for the Hall of Fame. But his off and on band did have quite an impact on his career and the sound of grunge.

Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions are in. Is Jerry Butler?

Meanwhile, maybe the Hall of Fame - or our readers - could clear up a mystery for me. Several months ago, I was preparing a segment on Jerry Butler. During my research, I found several articles indicating he had been inducted in 1991 with the Impressions. However, several other articles made no mention of this.

The biography on the Hall of Fame website mentions Butler as the lead singer on the initial hit “For Your Precious Love,” but then notes that he left the group immediately after that record. The picture shows just the three Impressions - Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash - who were responsible for the classic recordings that made them perhaps the greatest vocal group of all. Their hit streak started three years after Butler was gone.

I tried contacting the Hall of Fame with what I thought was a very simple question. Was Jerry Butler already inducted or not? Of course, I received no answer. Maybe they don't know.

If he was, he shouldn’t have been - not as a member of the Impressions. He really had nothing to do with their success. However, certainly, in my opinion, he deserves induction as a solo artist. He had a great, hit-filled career and remains a strong force in keeping early Rock & Roll alive through his work on the PBS reunion specials.

So please, someone answer this question for me. Is Butler in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or not?

Meanwhile, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…let’s start cleaning up some injustices and get some of the deserving supporting cast members inducted with their leaders.

Better late than never.