Joe Mauldin, the bassist for Buddy Holly and the Crickets (bottom, right), died on Saturday morning in Nashville. He was 74.
Mauldin was born in Lubbock, TX and played and recorded with the band The Four Teens by the age of 15 in 1955. One day in 1957, he got a call to fill in for bassist Larry Welborn who had been playing with a young Buddy Holly and had recorded his first single, That’ll Be the Day. Mauldin readily stepped in and, because of Welborn’s busy schedule, ended up slipping into the position of the permanent bass player for the newly named Crickets.
The group, made up of Holly, Mauldin, drummer Jerry Allison and guitarist Niki Sullivan, soon became a trio when Sullivan decided to return to school. They went into a hectic recording and promoting schedule as producer Norman Petty decided to release the group’s music under two names with solo vocals going out as just “Buddy Holly” while songs with dubbed backing vocals would be released as “The Crickets”. The scheme allowed them to get more releases on the radio then trying to saturate the stations under one name.
Over the next two years, the band would score with That’ll Be the Day (1957 / #1 Pop / #2 R&B), Oh Boy! (1957 / #10 Pop / #15 R&B), Maybe Baby (1958 / #17 Pop / #8 R&B) and Think It Over (1958 / #27 Pop / #9 R&B) under the Cricket’s name and Peggy Sue (1957 / #3 Pop / #3 R&B), Rave On (1958 / #37 Pop), Early in the Morning (1958 / #32 Pop), Heartbeat (1958 / #82 Pop / #4 R&B) and It Doesn’t Matter Any More (1959 / #13 Pop) as Buddy Holly.
The dream came to an end on February 3, 1959 with Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a light plane accident outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.
Holly had been on the tour as a solo artist while Mauldin and Allison were in the studio with Sonny Curtis and vocalist Earl Sinks recording new Crickets music. After Holly’s death, they decided to continue as the Crickets with Sinks in the lead although he would be replaced the next year by David Box.
Their first few recordings did not score but, in 1962, their take on Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s Don’t Ever Change, with Jerry Naylor on lead, went to number 5 in the U.K. That same year, they recorded the album Bobby Vee Meets the Crickets with Vee on lead.
Mauldin left the Crickets in 1965 and moved into sound engineering, doing much of his work at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. He also occasionally reunited with Allison as the Crickets over the decades.
The Crickets, including Mauldin, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 in a special committee vote that was meant to right the mistakes made in the past of inducting lead singers without their backing bands. He is also a member of the West Texas Walk of Fame in Lubbock and the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.
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