Movies and TV in the 50's, Music in the 50's, Today We Remember

Today We Remember: January 26, 1958 – Buddy Holly and The Crickets on The Ed Sullivan Show

For this very first edition of “Today We Remember”, today we remember Buddy Holly and The Crickets’s second (and last) appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Crickets performed a total of two times on The Ed Sullivan Show. The first time was the historic event in which the World-famous Fender Stratocaster made its television debut. That was back in late ’57 when the four Crickets performed their smash hits “That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue”.

The performance was a huge success and Ed Sullivan was eager to have them back on the show, despite the Rock n Roll music genre which he generally disapproved of.

On January 26, 1958, Buddy Holly and The Crickets (now a trio, without Niki) returned for their second appearance on The Ed Sullivan show. This time, however, things took an unexpected turn.

Buddy Holly had told his friends back in Lubbock that he would do a specific song for them. Everyone was excitedly awaiting Sunday night, when Buddy and the remaining two Crickets (Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin) would appear on national television and perform “Oh Boy!” (written by Sonny West, Bill Tilghman and produced by Norman Petty.)

But Ed Sullivan had other plans. He felt that the song was way too suggestive with its lyrics and he disliked its raucous beat. Just shortly before the show, Mr. Sullivan called for Buddy and The Crickets to meet him in the dressing room for an impromptu rehearsal for a different song.

When Mr. Sullivan got to the dressing room, only Buddy was there, without Jerry and Joe.

“Where are The Crickets?” Mr. Sullivan asked.

“I don’t know,” Buddy replied. “No telling.”

So Mr. Sullivan said, “I guess The Crickets aren’t too excited to be on The Ed Sullivan Show.”

And Buddy quipped, “I hope they’re more damn excited than I am.”

Supposedly, Buddy’s snarky attitude irritated Mr. Sullivan, but the show had to go on. So without further ado, Mr. Sullivan went out on stage and introduced the musical act. With an uptight demeanor and a forced half-smile, Sullivan announced:

“Now performing ‘Oh Boy!’, Buddy Holly and his… Crickets.”

And, as the story goes, it was then that Ed Sullivan decided to get back at Buddy for his insolence. Mr. Sullivan saw to it that the power source to the microphone of Buddy’s electric guitar was cut.  (I always picture Ed himself nonchalantly kicking the cord out of the wall with his foot, but I’m fairly certain it didn’t happen that way.)

So there was Buddy Holly, in front of millions of viewers, including all his friends and family back home in Lubbock… with no audible help from his guitar.

Still, the group played out the duration of the song, Buddy having turned his Strat up full blast to compensate for the unplugged mic. When the song was over, the audience went wild. The Crickets stormed off stage with Joe last, defiantly dragging his double bass behind him.

However, Buddy was neither discouraged nor daunted by Mr. Sullivan’s actions. When Mr. Sullivan asked if The Crickets would like to be on the show again, he just smiled and said, “You can’t afford us!”

Way to go, Buddy. You tell him, baby. And props to all three Crickets for playing it off so well. The performance was widely praised by fans and the casual audience alike.

Then it was off to Jolly Ole England to play in front of future legends, who to this day, revere Buddy Holly as their finest inspiration.

Early Rebels of Rock N Roll: Buddy Holly appears to ignore Ed Sullivan in this famous 1958 photo.

Note: The basis for this story comes from good ole Wikipedia. I do not claim to have any inside information or facts pertaining to any of the aforementioned individuals. In other words, I’m just a fan.