The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the L.A. area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some Los Angeles TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more peruse previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. This edition we discuss Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ The “Chirping” Crickets.
For those not up to snuff on their music history, Buddy Holly and The Crickets was an American rock ‘n’ roll band formed in Texas in 1956. At the time the material for their premiere platter, The “Chirping” Crickets, was recorded (1957) the band consisted of Holly (lead vocals and lead guitar), Jerry Allison (drums and percussion), Joe B. Mauldin (contrabass), and Niki Sullivan (rhythm guitar). Additional artist would be brought in to assist on specific tracks including The Picks–(Bill Pickering, John Pickering and Bob Lapham—on backing vocals on all but three tunes. .
Side 1 opens on the Sonny West-Bill Tilghman-Norman Petty composition “Oh, Boy!” This was the first of a couple of West songs Holly and company would cover. West had actually released this song himself but it never scored on the charts.
The second selection is a tune that Holly wrote with Petty. It featured Holly, Allison and Sullivan on backing vocals. It’s titled “Not Fade Away”. It’s got a Bo Diddley beat and is believed to be mainly a Holly song despite the shared writing credit.
The next number is “You’ve Got Love”. It was written by Johnny Wilson, the late great Roy Orbison and Petty. “Maybe Baby” follows. This is also a Holly-Petty collaboration that’s highlighted by a rockabilly beat.
Also included on this side are a cover of a Chuck Willis tune “It’s Too Late” (with Holly on acoustic guitar) and a Holly-Allison original “Tell Me How”. The flip side opens on the 1957 Brunswick version of the band’s now classic, John Wayne-inspired “That’ll Be the Day”. Ramona and Gary Tollett and Sullivan sing backing vocals while Larry Wellborn takes up the bass. (It would go on to be covered by many famous artists including Linda Ronstadt and The Quarrymen who later went on to form The Beatles.)
“I’m Looking for Someone to Love” by Holly and Petty also includes The Tolletts and Sullivan on backing vocals. Wellborn plays contrabass. “An Empty Cup (And a Broken Date)” by Orbison and Petty and “Send Me Some Lovin'” by John Marascalco and Leo Price follow here.
The band continues to demonstrate their talents with Maudlin and Petty’s “Last Night”. The album ends on “Rock Me My Baby” by Shorty Long and Susan Heather. This closing cut is also the shortest track on the record.
All in all, the final project would have a running time of over 28 minutes. It would be released in the US in November of 1957 and months later in the UK in 1958. In fact, the band was touring in England when the record hit the racks and would influence the early unnamed Beatles not only musically but in their name choice.
Commercially-speaking, the 1957 single “That’ll Be the Day” topped the charts both it the US and UK and even hit number 2 on the US R&B charts. 1958 would see the single “Oh Boy” hit number 13 on the US R&B charts, hit number 10 on the Billboard 200 and number 3 on the Brit charts.
The album itself, however, has an odd history. While it would climb to number 5 on the UK charts, it would, at one point, also be out of print for many years. It is, in fact, the only true Crickets album.
Still, truly excellent albums never die. With songs such as “That’ll Be the Day”, “Not Fade Away”, “Oh Boy”, “Tell Me How” and “Maybe Baby” it would go on to be ranked number 421 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It would also be remastered and reissued on CD in 2004 complete with bonus tracks. Indeed, although Crickets would come and go—Waylon Jennings was once one—this is the essential group with Holly leading the way with his signature vocals and impressive guitar, Allison on drums and Mauldin on standup bass. Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ The “Chirping” Crickets remains an essential part of any truly comprehensive collection.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.