What Happened to the Crickets After Buddy Holly's Death?

The Crickets carried on after Holly's death

Buddy Holly and the Crickets performing

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The Crickets, Buddy Holly's Texas-formed band of the 1950s, soldiered on for decades after Buddy's untimely death. Although differences in musical tastes and ambition had led Holly to split from the group just before his ill-fated tour, a reconciliation had been in the works.

Their first album, "The Chirping Crickets" was released in 1957. Together, the band released three albums before and 18 after the Buddy Holly's death in 1959, circulating in and out more than 20 band members over the course of their 40-year career.

Controversy Before Holly's Death

Little over a year after the Cricket's formation, rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan left the band to return to educational pursuits. The remaining trio (Buddy Holly on lead guitar and vocals, Jerry Allison on drums and Joe Mauldin on bass) continued touring and making television appearances.

That is until Holly moved to New York after breaking with producer Norman Petty—who had marketed the group under two separate names, Buddy Holly for solo vocal tracks and The Crickets for tracks with backing vocals. Allison and Mauldin returned to their homes in Lubbock, Texas, and continued recording songs as The Crickets with Sonny Curtis and vocalist Earl Sinks joining the band. Holly toured under his own name with Carl Bunch, Tommy Allsup, and later Waylon Jennings.

Though the two separate acts planned to meet up again after Holly's winter tour, they never got the chance.

The Day the Music Died

On February 3, 1959, a private charter plane carrying musicians Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson and Ritchie Valens crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa. The fight was a decision by Holly to transport his touring band members (including Allsup and Jennings) to their next stop on the "Winter Dance Party" tour in Fargo, North Dakota as to avoid harsh conditions of traveling via poorly-insulated tour buses. However, because Richardson had the flu, Jennings traded his seat and Allsup lost his seat to Valens in a coin toss. The plane crashed 6 miles from the Iowa airport of departure, leaving no survivors.

The day became known as "The Day the Music Died" after it was referenced in Don McLean's "American Pie" in 1971.

Back on Tour

The Crickets went on to experience moderate success. Despite the band hiring a dead ringer for Holly's vocal prowess, David Box, and recording one of Holly's last demos, "Peggy Sue Got Married," nothing really stuck with the public from the band's post-Holly Coral and Liberty label releases. Box tragically died in a plane crash on tour in 1964 at age 21, much like Holly before him.

Gradually, though, original band member Jerry Allison, along with new member Sonny Curtis—the two mainstays of the new group—ventured into touring, session work and songwriting, backing the Everly Brothers on their British tour, recording an entire album with teen idol Bobby Vee and even scoring a U.K. hit with a Goffin-King song called "Don't Ever Change."

Curtis later wrote several songs including "Love Is All Around"—better known as the Mary Tyler Moore Show TV theme. The band's first post-Buddy album—1960's "In Style with the Crickets"—eventually produced two major hits for other artists: "I Fought the Law" would become the only U.S. chart-topper for the Bobby Fuller Four in 1966 and the Clash eleven years later, while "More Than I Can Say" topped at number two for Leo Sayer in a soft rock version from 1980.

The group continued to tour and record sporadically in the 1970s, often with outlaw country legend Waylon Jennings, who had been part of Buddy's road band that fateful night but never got on the doomed plane. In 1988, Paul McCartney produced a new single for the group, "T-Shirt," which got some airplay. They also reformed in 2004 for an all-star tribute album featuring such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Phil Everly, Graham Nash, Vince Neil, John Prine, Albert Lee, Johnny Rivers, Rodney Crowell, Bobby Vee and, in one of his last recordings, Waylon himself.


The Holly-less Crickets were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, in a ceremony that also saw several famous backing bands making the cut, such as James Brown's Famous Flames, Smokey Robinson's Miracles, Gene Vincent's Blue Caps, Bill Haley's Comets, and Hank Ballard's Midnighters.

The group reunited again as "The Crickets & Buddies" in Clear Lake, Iowa, site of Holly's last concert, on February 6, 2016, with prior members Allison, Curtis, Allsup, Glen Hardin, Albert Lee, Gordon Payne, and several others joining throughout. After the show, Allison announced it had been the group's last performance.