Main image L-R Sonny Curtis, Joe B Mauldin, Glen D Hardin, WB, Jerry Allison, 1997
Joe B Mauldin, bassist in Buddy Holly’s Crickets, died on 7 February. His nimble instrumental work on many of The Crickets’ hits helped to define the sound of early rock’n’roll, and he was a co-inventor of the modern, self-contained beat group, on which The Beatles and therefore thousands of pop bands based their act.
In 1997, I met with Joe B and his three colleagues, ostensibly to interview them for Mojo, although I’m not sure if the piece was ever published. Joe was friendly, modest, and easily the quietist member of the group. I sensed a certain shyness – was this really the man who toured the world at Buddy Holly’s left elbow, rocking it up night after night?
Glen D hardly said a word either, but this was more than made up for by the more dominant, talkative Crickets, Jerry and Sonny, I’m pleased to say.
So here is a brief extract from the latter part of my interview, and it’s the only section in which Joe actually uttered a word. You will see that I had to address him directly, to prompt him to speak.
Joe, when you joined [the Crickets], were you thrown in at the deep end?
Joe: Sort of, but the group I was with before The Crickets, was doing the same kind of stuff, Elvis songs. I did have to learn some things. I’d been playing maybe a year. I’d never seen an electric bass. The first one of those I saw was when we toured with Eddie Cochran. I said ‘Wow, I’ve got to have one of those!’ I got one, but it didn’t work out. When people came to see Buddy Holly and The Crickets, the stand up bass was the thing people wanted to see.
Were you conscious of the visual element?
Sonny: It didn’t affect me much. I just sort of stood there, still do. I can’t dance and play guitar at the same time!
Jerry: If you see me dancing, don’t let me drive my car!
Joe: The visual thing was important to me. I did more dancing around the bass than I did playing.
Sonny: I remember seeing y’all at the Brooklyn Paramount and you were lying down on the stage playing your bass! You weren’t trying to go to sleep either!
Joe, when you joined the Crickets, was the creative process fairly free?
Joe: Yeah, we used to get in Buddy’s car and sit in Jerry’s folks’ driveway and kick ideas around. Things changed as time went on, but I thought it was very open.
The same set of autographs captured a quarter of a century apart, with barely a pen’s quiver to differentiate the Texans’ calligraphy. Top, 1997, during my meeting with The Crickets at the Hilton, Regents Park. Below, 1972, at my local cabaret ‘nitespot’, where I also saw The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison (twice), Del Shannon, Bobby Vee, Bill Haley and The Comets, and many other rock’n’roll legends in the early 1970s.