In a sad coincidence, Buddy Holly bassist Joe B. Mauldin has died just days after the anniversary of his boss’ tragic end. Mauldin passed this morning (Feb. 7); the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer was 74.
Mauldin, who like Holly was a Lubbock, Texas, native, took over bass duties from Larry Welborn just after the Crickets recorded their initial single, 1957′s ‘That’ll Be the Day.’ The group was rounded out by Niki Sullivan and Jerry Allison, though Sullivan (who died of a heart attack at age 66 in 2004) later left to return to school.
Together with Holly, they’d release a string of hits in quick succession after ‘That’ll Be the Day’ became a chart-topping smash, including ‘Oh, Boy!,’ ‘Maybe Baby,’ ‘Peggy Sue’ and ‘Rave On’ — and that was only through 1958. “It did feel like everything was happening super fast,” Mauldin later told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Then Holly was killed on Feb. 3, 1959, along with Richie Valens and the Big Bopper (whose real name was J.P. Richardson), when his plane went down outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Mauldin, Allison and early Holly collaborator Sonny Curtis were left to continue as the Crickets, appearing with a series of replacement vocalists. The trio also backed the Everly Brothers on a 1959-60 tour. Their take on ‘Don’t Ever Change,’ featuring Jerry Naylor, saw the Crickets reach No. 5 on the UK charts in 1962.
By then, members of the Beatles had become huge fans. “It truly meant so much to me to have Paul McCartney tell me face to face, ‘If there had not been the Crickets, there never would have been the Beatles,’” Mauldin remembered.
He left in 1965 to focus on engineering, with a home base out of Los Angeles’ Gold Star Studios. There, he worked with Phil Spector, Herb Alpert, Ike and Tina Turner and Leon Russell, among others. Occasional reunions with Allison as the Crickets followed over the years — notably, a 2004 all-star album with Eric Clapton and Graham Nash titled ‘The Crickets and their Buddies’ — but little separate recognition followed. That is, until 2012 when Mauldin and the rest of the Crickets joined 1996 inductee Buddy Holly in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Mauldin wasn’t bitter. “It feels great being inducted now,” he said in 2012. “I think anytime someone thinks enough of you to induct you into their organization, you should be happy.”