Buddy Holly & The Crickets
The day the music came to Suffolk
By Bryan Knights
In 1958, one of the greatest early rock & roll stars Buddy Holly played at the Gaumont Theatre in Ipswich. Within a year he was dead following a plane crash in the USA.
3 February 1959 is described by Don Maclean in his song American Pie as 'the day the music died', but for this teenager March 15 1958 was the night the music came alive.
I was at the first of the three shows that the great man Buddy Holly and his Crickets performed at the Ipswich Gaumont (now the Regent) with my fellow 14 year old friend Stan.
In those days, variety was the by-word and shows rarely lasted for more than an hour and a half. But what value we got as three men filled the Gaumont with sound and there was no sophisticated amplification or lighting system.
The big man Jerry Allison sat behind what in these days would be called a mini-drumkit, little Joe B Maudlin slapped a double bass that seemed to be twice the size of him, while Buddy himself produced remarkable sounds from his Fender Broadcaster and sang in that by now so familiar voice, with every word clearly audible.
Des O'Connor and Gary Miller
There was little time for idle chat from the performer who rattled through a dozen or so hits, before leaving us wanting more. That'll Be The Day, Oh Boy, Peggy Sue, Everyday certainly featured, but my failing memory cannot be more precise!
I remember there was polite applause rather than Beatlesmania-style screaming and in those days we left the theatre to the sound of God Save The Queen.
Also on the bill were a couple of long forgotten pop acts, the Tanner Sisters and Gary Miller while the compere, who also "sang" a medley was Des O'Connor, billed as a 'talented young comedian', and still operating 50 years later!
No pictures are believed to exist of Buddy in Ipswich, but we've generously provided an image of Des from the souvenir programme!
Forty minutes was all we got of Buddy and the Crickets, but when you consider that the price of a ticket was 27 and a half pence (5/6 in the old money), the value was outstanding, and that was for the highest-priced seats.
Yes, I bought all the singles and albums, but nothing can match the thrill of seeing them live. I got the autographs, on both the programme and a publicity photo, and spoke briefly to the legend at the stage door.
Unfortunately, my trophies disappeared, presumed 'skipped' in one of our house moves. Yes, they would be worth a healthy sum, but I would never have sold them.
Less than a year later Buddy was gone, but his effect on popular music and on this teenage-turned-pensioner was enormous.
Strangely enough I was there to see Allison, Maudlin and the fourth Cricket Sonny Curtis at the Gaumont backing Nanci Griffith in 1996.
But 1958 will remain in the memory for ever. I've seen most of the greats in concert, but nobody matches the haunting sound of Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
On Tuesday 3 February, across the day, BBC Radio Suffolk will be playing Buddy Holly to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death.
(Bryan Knights is a member of BBC Suffolk's sports team.)
Tribute band Rave On performed a special gig a The Cut in Halesworth to mark the 50th anniversary of Buddy's death.
The trio are Ian Cook, Shaun Warboys and James Leggett and they popped into BBC Suffolk to perform some of Buddy's songs and to talk about the man himself.
Foz with Rave On
Stephen Foster began by asking Ian why Buddy Holly's music is so special to him:
Stephen Foster's history of the Ipswich Regent/Gaumont 'From Buddy to The Beatles' is available from all good retailers and we've put a link to the publisher on the right.
last updated: 03/02/2009 at 10:39
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