BUDDY HOLLY & THE CRICKETERS

Playhouse Whitley Bay

Tribute act “Buddy Holly and The Cricketers” are touring the UK at the moment and we’ve been lucky enough to be invited along to the “Playhouse Whitley Bay” by “InNewcastle” to cover the event.

Tonight’s artist hails from the USA and had a very short recording career, but he, along with his backing group, helped shape music into what we listen too today – without them, we’d probably still be listening to the crooners who dominated the charts in the 40s/50’s.

Charles Hardin Holley, or Buddy Holly to me and you, was born in Texas (1936), he learned to play guitar along with his siblings at an early age and his style was mostly influenced by gospel and country and western type music. He soon rose through the ranks and made his first TV appearance in 1952, following this a few years later by opening for Elvis Presley, not once but 3 times in 1955.

A shift in style for Buddy and his band came soon after when they opened for Bill Haley and his Comets – now playing solely Rock and Roll brought their music to a wider audience and they were soon spotted and signed by Decca Records.

A little frustrated at being shackled by Decca, Buddy sought solace at another studio and recorded “That’ll be the day” a demo was despatched to Brunswick Records who released it under the pseudonym “The Crickets” – this went on to be a top seller and Buddy’s band now had a name.

Hit singles followed and in 1957 the “Chirping Crickets” album reached No. 5 in the UK charts generating interest further afield and leading to a tour of the UK and Australia. In 1959 Buddy toured Midwestern USA along with a host of other up coming stars, playing Rock and Roll to the masses – after a gig in Iowa, Buddy boarded a plane to Minnesota, along Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, but due to bad weather the plane never reached its destination, crashing and killing all 3 – this was the day music died.

We took our seats G9/10 with background music, of hits of the day, filling the Theatre. A good few others had taken their seats early too with the audience made up mostly of couples in their late 50’s to early 60s. There were a few older singletons, dressed for the occasion, who really stood out as dedicated Buddy fans – out for a night of singing, dancing and reminiscing. 7.30pm prompt and the band took to the stage, buddy in his trademark thick horn rimmed glasses and looking just the part in tight drain pipe trousers.

The whole band dressed to impress wearing all black evening suits with matching dicky bow ties over crisp white shirts – ploughing straight into Buddy’s first hit “That’ll be the day” setting the tone for the night. After a quick band members intro, in authentic Texas drawl, Buddy cracked straight into “it’s so easy”, and it was – mimicking his idols manor, movements and singing to perfection.

It’s certainly a polished performance with all 5 band members playing their instruments, drums, piano, lead and acoustic guitars along with a huge double bass, in perfect unison.

Other hits followed, interspersed with an interesting old story or two, then Buddy, taking a back seat, left the Crickets (sorry Cricketers, nearly got stumped there) to perform a song that was penned by themselves, “I fought the law – and the law won”. A track I’d never associate with Buddy or the Crickets, or even the 50’s – I only remember it as a huge hit for the punk group “The Clash”. Still, a canny rendition that hit middle wicket and bowled out the appreciative audience (ok, enough of the cricket puns).

The Cricketers then stepped back into the shadows and left Buddy alone on stage, lit only by a single white down-lighter, take the spotlight with a fantastic solo rendition of “Smokey Joes Café”. Another song I’d never heard before, but with lead guitar played perfectly and the lyrics sung in Buddy-esc style – it was an instant hit with the audience.

With a long montage played next, welding several tracks together to form one, it was nearly time for a much needed interval. But not before getting everyone on their feet, and quite a few dancing in the aisles, with a brilliant version of “Peggy Sue” – Buddy’s voice perfectly alternating between falsetto and his regular voice – easily the best song sung so far.

After a quick 20 minutes in the company of John Smiths, and with ice cream drips taken care of, it was now time for one of Buddy’s mates, “The Big Bopper” to have a turn under the spotlight. The double bass player, now dressed in an oversized black and white, leopard spotted, dinner jacket had an attempt at “Hello Baby – Chantilly Lace” and completely nailed it, in total Big Bopper style.

Things slowed down a little next with requests for aisle dancers, and a trio of love songs starting with “Raining in my heart”. An accomplished attempt at the song, but no dancers were brave enough to venture forward towards the aisles, the request again falling on deaf ears.

Time for one of Buddy’s friends to steal the limelight again – “La Bamba” was left to the acoustic guitar player who took on the task of singing the “Ritchie Valens” hit – and knocked it clean out of the Theatre. Fast lyrics just got faster, but the Cricketers didn’t have any trouble keeping pace – another audience favourite in the bag.

At 9.25pm, with a crowd pleasing “Oh Boy” it was time for the last song “Here we go” – with apt lyrics, I can see why it was chosen. With the song sung, an empty stage and Theatre in darkness, a few folk prematurely made their way to the exits – Buddy and his Cricketers ran back on stage, jackets off, sleeves rolled up and ready for action again.

Not content with a single song encore, Buddy and the Cricketers went on to perform 8 more classics that were more than well received by the noisy audience, who were getting noisier by the second.

The early leavers were now stuck at the doors and couldn’t get back to their seats due the whole lot of dancing going on in the aisles. “Tutti Fruiti”, “Twist again”, Great balls of fire” and “Wipeout” were all covered finishing with a fantastic energy sapping version of “Johnny B Goode” – the whole band putting a shift in, especially the Double Bass player who ended up on his back strumming his Bass upside down – just for the fun of it. The piano only just survived too, with crazy “Jerry Lee Lewis” antics and being played to within an inch of its life – this had the desired effect and brought anyone still seated, to their feet…..Then it was all over.

I normally wouldn’t have chosen tickets for Buddy Holly, as it’s a little before my time – but sometimes the unknown comes up trumps and it certainly did tonight. All in all another fantastic night was had at the Playhouse.