Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ first album, The Chirpin’ Crickets, was released in November of 1957, only 15 months before his heartbreaking death. But in those 15 months, Holly recorded three studio albums, 22 singles, and countless other tracks that would be released as singles after his death. By the time Buddy died, the Crickets had gone from an obscure garage band playing the local skating rink in Lubbock, Texas to the forefathers of modern rock and roll.
Buddy Holly and The Crickets first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on December 1st, 1957, fresh off the release of their debut album. The band consisted of Niki Sullivan (rhythm guitar), Joe Mauldin (stand-up bass), Jerry Allison (drums), and Buddy (lead guitar and vocals). They all wore bow-ties and sport coats, and Buddy wore his trademark horn-rimmed glasses. The foursome played “That’ll be the Day,” the first single off their album. Buddy was hard not to like, with his goofy charisma, innovative vocal style, and a very catchy tune. The result was pure gold: the track would reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 soon after their performance on the show.
That night they also played “Peggy Sue”, a song named for Jerry Allison’s girlfriend and future wife. That song shot up the charts to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Holly’s tireless dedication in the studio led to the Crickets returning to Sullivan less than two months later, on January 26, 1958. A relaxed Holly let fly with “Oh, Boy!”, another single off The Chirpin’ Crickets, a catchy tune that subsequently reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On February 3, 1959, almost exactly a year after his last appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Buddy Holly’s plane crashed over Iowa. Only 22 years old, he was killed along with Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper.” Don McLean called it “The Day the Music Died” in his song “American Pie,” showing just how much Buddy meant to music.
Buddy Holly accomplished in 15 months what only a few artists can accomplish in a lifetime, and it is truly a shame that both his career and his life were cut so tragically short. Nevertheless, Holly lives on in his music and the influence he has had on so many other artists.
Buddy Holly was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He is one of the original pioneers of rock and roll music, and his two performances on The Ed Sullivan Show allow us to see Buddy Holly at his very best.