Archive for the ‘Rock n Roll 1957 Part 3’ Category


by Robert Seoane


Sixteen-year-old John Winston Lennon jumped into the lorry that was to take him and his skiffle group The Quarrymen to their first public performance ever. A year and a half after John heard Elvis sing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the radio and managed to save enough money to buy his first guitar, he practiced and enlisted his friends to join him. Besides John on lead vocals and guitar, The Quarrymen were comprised of Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass).

Skiffle music was popular in the UK during the fifties, pretty much at the same time that rock ‘n’ roll started to emerge in the United States. The term “skiffle” came out of African-American culture from the United States and came to mean a “rent party” where people would gather together with homemade instruments and throw a neighborhood party in order to raise money to pay the rent. The homemade instruments varied, as it was mainly whatever was handy around the house and can either make a sound or keep a beat: the washboard, jugs, the washtub bass, the cigar-box fiddle, the musical saw, and even comb-and-paper kazoos, mixed with acoustic instruments like guitar and banjo.

The first use of the term on record was in 1925 with Jimmy Bryant and his Chicago Skifflers. Skiffle records were released in the 1920s such as “Hometown Skiffle” and “Skiffle Blues”.

A mixture of jazz, blues and folk music, skiffle began to die off in the United States by the 1940s, but it emerged as a popular form of music in the UK when banjo player Lonnie Donegan, member of a traditional jazz band called The Jazzmen, played skiffle music during intervals of his Jazzmen performances.

Donegan would sing and play guitar or banjo as two others joined him on washboard and tea chest bass. Lonegan’s version of Leadbelly’s “Rock island Line” was a Top Ten hit in the UK (#6) and in the United States (#8) in 1956 and soon, the skiffle craze in the UK began.

John Lennon got caught up in that craze and, along with his love for the new sound called rock ‘n’ roll, headed for St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool on July 7, 1957 to perform with his Quarrymen.

“The entertainment began at two p.m. with the opening procession, which entailed one or two wonderfully festooned lorries crawling at a snail’s pace through the village on their ceremonious way to the Church field. The first lorry carried the Rose Queen, seated on her throne, surrounded by her retinue, all dressed in pink and white satin, sporting long ribbons and hand-made roses in their hair. These girls had been chosen from the Sunday school groups, on the basis of age and good behaviour.

The following lorry carried various entertainers, including the Quarry Men. The boys were up there on the back of the moving lorry trying to stay upright and play their instruments at the same time. John gave up battling with balance and sat with his legs hanging over the edge, playing his guitar and singing. He continued all through the slow, slow journey as the lorry puttered its way along. Jackie and I leaped alongside the lorry, with our mother laughing and waving at John, making him laugh. He seemed to be the only one who was really trying to play and we were really trying to put him off!”
–Julia Baird; John Lennon’s half-sister

One of the members of the audience that afternoon was a fellow classmate of The Quarrymen’s tea chest bass player Ivan Vaughan, fifteen year old James Paul McCartney. Paul recalls the first time he heard and saw John Lennon.

“I remember coming into the fete and seeing all the sideshows. And also hearing all this great music wafting in from this little Tannoy system. It was John and the band. I remember I was amazed and thought, ‘Oh great’, because I was obviously into the music. I remember John singing a song called Come Go With Me. He’d heard it on the radio. He didn’t really know the verses, but he knew the chorus. The rest he just made up himself. I just thought, ‘Well, he looks good, he’s singing well and he seems like a great lead singer to me.’ Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave. I remember John was good. He was really the only outstanding member, all the rest kind of slipped away.”– Paul McCartney 1995

The Quarrymen were to play again that evening at 8PM across the street in the church hall for the Grand Dance. Ivan took the opportunity between sets to introduce Paul to John, recommending him as a possible member of the band. McCartney was already in rock ‘n’ roll star mode, wearing a white coat with silver flecks and black drainpipe trousers. John and Paul chatted for a few minutes and soon Paul was teaching John how to tune a guitar properly, as John and his friend Eric Griffiths’ guitars were in G banjo tuning. Then Paul ripped into his version of Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock”, Gene Vincent’s “Be Bop A Lula” and a medley of Little Richard hits. John Lennon was duly impressed.

“I also knocked around on the backstage piano and that would have been A Whole Lot Of Shakin’ by Jerry Lee. That’s when I remember John leaning over, contributing a deft right hand in the upper octaves and surprising me with his beery breath. It’s not that I was shocked, it’s just that I remember this particular detail.” –Paul McCartney

Later that night, John, Paul and Ivan went to a bar and lied to get served liquor. After Paul left, John considered the dilemma he had just been given. Yes, Paul McCartney was damn good, which meant that John would no longer be the dominant figure in the band. He thought for days whether he wanted to be in a band where he was the main figure or if he wanted to make the band strong by admitting someone as good if not better than him. They ultimately decided to include him. Pete Shotton saw him two weeks later riding his bike and flagged him down to tell him the news. That evening, John and Paul met again. In an interview with Esquire magazine in 2013 with Matt Damon, Damon explained how Paul McCartney showed Bono of U2 exactly where this second meeting took place.

Bono’s “like, a student of the Beatles. He’s read every book on the Beatles. He’s seen every bit of film. There’s nothing he doesn’t know. So when Paul stops and says ‘That’s where it happened,’ Bono’s like, ‘That’s where what happened?’ because he thinks he knows everything. And Paul says, ‘That’s where the Beatles started. That’s where John gave me half his chocolate bar.’ And now Bono’s like, ‘What chocolate bar? I’ve never heard of any chocolate bar.’ And Paul says, ‘John had a chocolate bar, and he shared it with me. And he didn’t give me some of his chocolate bar. He didn’t give me a square of his chocolate bar. He didn’t give me a quarter of his chocolate bar. He gave me half of his chocolate bar. And that’s why the Beatles started right there.’ Isn’t that fantastic? It’s the most important story about the Beatles, and it’s in none of the books! And Paul tells it to Bono. Because he knows how much Bono loves the Beatles.” –Matt Damon

1957 was undoubtedly a vitally important year in the musical development of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As teenagers, they soaked up every record that made it to the Liverpool ports from America. They watched every rock ‘n’ roll movie that managed to play, most of the time six months after its US debut, such as “The Girl Can’t Help It”, which was in UK theaters during the time John and Paul first met. All of the aforementioned rock ‘n’ roll pioneers deeply influenced John and Paul, impressed by the Everly Brothers’ harmonies and Buddy Holly’s abiilty to write songs. The ingredients to the greatest rock band of all time were still being added to the soup in 1957 and it was still seven years away from exploding onto the world and starting a social and musical revolution that would reverberate into the 21st Century.



You can add Lubbock to the list of southern towns that grew rock ‘n’ roll music pioneers along with Tupelo, New Orleans, Memphis, Macon… and Liverpool.

Charles Hardin Holley, nicknamed “Buddy” by his family since he was a child, saw Elvis Presley play one day in 1955 when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll stopped in Buddy’s home town of Lubbock. Being musical since he was a young boy, he immediately took to Elvis’ rockabilly sound. Still in high school, he had just recently formed a duo with his pal Bob Montgomery. They called themselves… what else? “Buddy and Bob” and they played mostly bluegrass, enjoying moderate local success.

Listening to Elvis suddenly gave him a direction. It happened so fast that just a few months later, on October 15th of that same year, Buddy, Bob Montgomery and upright bassist Larry Welborn opened the bill for Presley upon his return to Lubbock. Early the following year, they opened for Bill Haley and His Comets. That’s when a Nashville talent scout was in attendance and took notice of Buddy Holly.

By February of 1956, Buddy Holly had signed a recording contract with Decca Records. The record company misspelled Holley’s name to “Holly”. Buddy liked it and kept it as his last name. The recording sessions at Decca however proved too stringent for Holly’s style and produced nothing memorable, except for a handful of songs. One of them was “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” which sounded exactly what it was: Buddy Holly playing guitar and doing Elvis.

But the rest of the songs recorded sounded tame and leaned towards the slow, country side. One particular song they had recorded that Buddy had written was a slowed-down version of “That’ll Be The Day”. The song had been inspired after Buddy went to the movies with drummer Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis to watch “The Searchers”. Star John Wayne played Ethan Edwards, a character who’s catchphrase in the film was “that’ll be the day”.


Seeing that his days at Decca were probably numbered, he decided to form a four piece band, weary of the duo and trio ensemble he had always played with. Guitarist Niki Sullivan, bassist Joe Mauldin and drummer Jerry Allison joined Buddy, who would sing lead vocals and also play guitar. Inadvertently, Buddy Holly had just laid out the blueprint for many, many rock bands to come: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums. This was a grouping that would be indelibly copied first and made famous by The Beatles. It wasn’t going to be the only lesson the Beatles and many other groups would cull from Buddy Holly.

The band members mulled over a name for their band. One of them noted that many bands were lately named after birds, so it was suggested that perhaps they should name themselves after an insect. They considered several names, including “beetles” but finally settled on The Crickets. This time it was John Lennon who came up with his own group’s name by following Holly’s insect “Crickets” theme, then added the brilliant twist of changing the double ‘e’ in “beetles” to an ‘ea” from “beat”.

By January of 1957 Buddy Holly was out of a recording contract. Decca had rescinded their offer and left him high and dry. It seemed he had missed the boat in his career and was destined to a long, dull life of being a nobody.

Holly, however, would not lay down and continued playing with his Crickets. At one point, he met Norman Petty and his career was suddenly taking off again. Petty had a recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico and charged by the song, not the hour. They gathered together to record some songs in Clovis and out came some incredible rock ‘n’ roll classics.

Buddy re-recorded a sped up version of “That’ll Be The Day” that sounded great, incorporating not only the rockabilly sound he had quickly grown to love, but also incorporating his own unique vocal hiccup style, no doubt influence by country and western vocalizations.

“We-ell, you gave me all your lovin’ and your… tu-urtle dovin’, a-all your hugs and kisses and your money too, we-ell…” “That’ll Be The Day” – The Crickets

He was faced with a dilemma because part of the clause Decca had with Holly was that he could not re-record a song he had already recorded for them. This, however was easily solved when Buddy was offered not one but two new different record contracts thanks in part to Norman Petty. Brunswick Records signed The Crickets on March 19, 1957, and released “That’ll Be The Day” under the group name instead of Holly’s, to shield him from a Decca lawsuit. Soon after, Buddy Holly signed on to Coral Records as a solo artist. He was in the unique position of having been signed by two different record companies, although the irony was that both Brunswick and Coral Records were both subsidiaries of Decca.

“That’ll Be The Day” was released as a single by The Crickets from Brunswick Records on May 27, 1957. It went to Number One in Billboard’s “Best Seller In Stores” chart and Number Two in the R&B chart. On December 1, 1957, he played the song along with another hiccup classic “Peggy Sue” on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Crickets’ appearance on the show cemented two more fashion statements into the rock ‘n’ roll world. Buddy Holly did not have Elvis’ sex appeal, but his songwriting and singing styles were so strong that it was overlooked, even down to the black frame glasses he had to wear. Glasses on rock stars would surface again, particularly with Elvis Costello but also before that with the likes of John Lennon in the later Beatle years and Elton John.

The second fashion statement The Crickets introduced to rock ‘n’ roll was inspired by the Everly Brothers. Buddy was a good friend of Phil and Don’s and he always noticed how the duo always dressed sharply when they appeared live and on TV. So Buddy insisted that the Crickets wear suits at all their appearances. This, along with the four piece band arrangement, and the fact that Holly was also a songwriter of all his tunes, were two other components the Beatles learned and from The Crickets.

Being his first hit, the lyrics of the song were prophetic and were to be echoed again in a song written fourteen years later by Don McLean as an ode to Buddy Holly.

“Well that’ll be the day when you say goodbye, yeah, yes that’ll be the day when you make me cry,
you say you’re gonna leave me, you know it’s a lie, ’cause that’ll be the day when I die…” That’ll Be The Day – The Crickets

“So bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry, and them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this’ll be the day that I die, this’ll be the day that I die…” American Pie – Don McLean



Holly’s first single with Coral Records as a solo artist was “Words Of Love”. He recorded his own harmonies and mixed them along with his lead, the first artist to ever do so. The song was released the day before summer officially began, on June 20, 1957. It was not a hit, not even cracking any of the Billboard charts, but remains today a rock ‘n’ roll classic. It became more well known after The Beatles recorded it in 1964 for their “Beatles For Sale” album in the UK, and released on the Beatles VI album in the USA.

“Words Of Love” is an exquisite song with a catchy guitar riff that accompanies the melody throughout simple, sweet lyrics.

“Hold me close and tell me how you feel-ah, tell me love is real-ah… Words of love you whisper soft and true, darling I love you…” –Words Of Love – Buddy Holly

Holly sings the song in a lower range then most of his rock ‘n’ roll tunes. When you hear The Beatles’ version, faithfully recorded and sung very much like the original with John and Paul sharing vocals, you can hear where Holly influenced Lennon’s vocal style. George Harrison’s guitar faithfully copies Holly’s version.


If “Words Of Love” felt like an arbiter of things to come, it would be very short lived. This next double A-side single was a big hit. “Peggy Sue” made it to Number 3 on the Billboard Pop chart. Here in this song, Holly epitomized his hiccup way of singing and made it a style all his own. Who else can sing the name “Sue” as if it had nine syllables? Like all his songs, the lyrics were simple and always about love. But the melodies and the beat were transcendent, and then there was the jangly guitar solo.

“If you knew Peggy Sue, then you’d know why I feel blue, without Peggy, my Peggy Sue-oo-ooh, oh well, I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue…” Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly

Although two of the other three Crickets, besides Holly, played on this single, both songs were attributed to Holly as the singer. Norman Petty along with Crickets drummer Jerry Allison were listed as sole co-writers of “Peggy Sue”. After Holly’s death, Allison insisted on including Holly as third songwriter in the credits.

It was originally to be called “Cindy Lou” after Holly’s niece. But when Buddy found out that drummer Jerry Allison had broken up with his girlfriend Peggy Sue Gerron, he changed the title of the song in order to help him get her back. They did, as Peggy Sue went on to become Peggy Sue Allison.

“Peggy Sue” has a distinctive drumming that can be attributed to both Allison and Producer Petty. Allison drummed in paradiddles, a drum rudiment that consisted of four rapid drum beats in alternating succession with the drumsticks. Norman Petty, in the meanwhile, developed an engineering technique that made the paradiddles sound as if they were drifting in and out of the song. Listen to it and you’ll understand just what I mean.

The B-Side to “Peggy Sue” was “Everyday”, a song so filled with the joy of life and happiness that it becomes instantly ingrained into your soul upon first hearing, guaranteed. In this song alone, you can hear the future of many Paul McCartney compositions with and after The Beatles. It was those joyful love songs that Paul wrote, like “Good Day Sunshine” and “All My Loving”, where you can hear the same joy of life Holly shared in “Everyday”.

Along with hand clapping, the musical instrument that opens the song is a celeste, sort of like a glockenspiel, and can also be heard in Tchaikovsky’s “Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcraker”. As a result, Holly became the first to introduce an instrument that had no roots in rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm & blues or country and western music. The idea that rock ‘n’ roll was a musical form in which you can add anything to it had not been considered by anyone else yet until this song.

The celeste was played by Norman Petty’s wife, Vi, and it makes the song sound at first like a cute children’s tune. But once Holly starts to sing, you can feel that the song, with its simple, sweet lyrics, is coming straight from his heart and into yours.

“Everyday it’s a gettin’ closer, goin’ faster than a roller coaster, love like yours will surely come my way, a hey, a hey hey…” Everyday – Buddy Holly

Besides Ed Sullivan, Buddy Holly And The Crickets were starting to get national TV exposure in 1957 as well as important bookings. On August 26, they appeared on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” on ABC TV, just four days after he first appeared at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City, spending a week playing there for a black audience, and slowly but surely turning the audience into rockabilly fans. During that time, they were the only white performers to be doing a tour of black neighborhood theaters nationwide.


The second single from The Crickets barely made it into Billboard’s Top Ten at Number 10, but that doesn’t diminish this single from being the juggernaut of a pair of rock ‘n’ roll songs, with beats and melodies that would sear itself into the brains of future rock legends and burn a line through the decades.

“All of my love, all of my kissin’, you don’t know what you’ve been missin’, Oh’ Boy…” Oh, Boy – The Crickets.

Paul McCartney was undoubtedly influenced by this song when he wrote “All My Loving”, particularly with the “kiss” and “miss” rhyme.

“Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you…” All My Loving – The Beatles

“Oh, Boy” has an undeniable burst of rock ‘n’ roll energy driving it from the moment it begins and propelling it throughout the entire song, complete with a joyful, jangly electric guitar solo that George Harrison must’ve played over and over a million times because it sounds so much like his early guitar sound with the Beatles. The beginning of “Oh, Boy” is reminiscent of the famous open from Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” but turbo charged, where Holly’s “all of my love” replaces Perkins’ “It’s one for the money” and so on, but sang much faster and with the beat landing on the last syllable instead of after it as in Perkins’ song.

The single was released on October 27, 1957. “Oh, Boy” was written by Sonny West, who recorded it a few years earlier to no success. Holly took it and made it his own.

The single’s B-Side “Not Fade Away” is credited to Charles Hardin (Buddy) and Norman Petty. Its beat is borrowed from Bo Diddley, except that the stress is on the second beat instead of the third. Drummer Jerry Allison used a cardboard box as percussion for this recording.

“Not Fade Away” is also notable because The Rolling Stones recorded it and released it as their second single in 1964. Although it didn’t crack the Top 40 in the US, it was a Top Five smash for the group in the UK. Instead of playing it Holly’s way however, the Stones sang it with the Bo Diddley beat.

The rock group Rush also recorded it as their debut single in 1973.

Like most of Buddy Holly’s songs, “Not Fade Away” has been covered by dozens of rock artists, too innumerable to mention. Suffice to say that each and every song Holly released was quickly being absorbed by the burgeoning artists across the pond in the UK, learning and honing themselves for the onslaught that was to arrive the following decade.


Buddy Holly And The Crickets released their first album on the Brunswick label around Thanksgiving of 1957. It was called “The Chirping Crickets” and contained the already released “That’ll be The Day” as well as “Oh, Boy” and “Not Fade Away”. It also contained “Maybe Baby”. That song would be released in the beginning of 1958 as the next Crickets’ single and it would make it up to Number 14 in The Billboard’s Pop Chart, but cracking the Top 10 R&B chart.

The other songs collected in this album apart from the aforementioned ones didn’t stand out as much as the singles. Most kept the same rockabilly beat and the jangling electric guitar solo that seemed to be laying down new ground in rhythm and style, but besides that, they were too derivative of the sound currently being heard at the time, whereas the Crickets’ singles were filled with originality and firmly imprinted with Buddy Holly’s style.

The last month of 1957 began with Buddy Holly And the Crickets’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on the first, then on The Arthur Murray Party on the 29th. Soon, they would embark on a tour to Australia and the UK. 1958 was to be a banner year for Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and the year where he would write the rest of his rock ‘n’ roll chestnuts.