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Niki Sullivan 4/2004

NikiSullivan-1958April 6, 2004 – Niki Sullivan (Buddy Holly and the Crickets) was born June 23rd 1937 in South Gate, California. During the summer of 1956, the 19-year-old Sullivan first met Holly, by way of his high school friend Jerry Allison, at a jam session in Lubbock, Texas. Holly was impressed by his guitar-playing talents and offered him the chance to join both of them, as well as Joe B. Mauldin in a band. Sullivan readily accepted the offer, and thus the Crickets were born.

While trying to record “Peggy Sue” after many unsatisfactory takes, Sullivan ended up kneeling next to Holly while he played, and when cued flipped a switch on Holly’s Stratocaster, allowing him to break into the now-famous rhythm guitar solo. He also helped sing on back up and arrange the music to “Not Fade Away” (which he helped write), “I’m Gonna Love You Too”, “That’ll Be the Day” and “Maybe Baby”. It was around this period that he also wrote and produced the single “Look to the Future,” which was recorded by Gary Tollett and The Picks, who often did back-up vocals for the Crickets.

Since he had a slight resemblance to Holly in his skinny posture and spectacles, he was often called “the other guy in glasses” by critics in their reviews. He and Holly were related, being third cousins, but it is not known if they were aware of this relationship. After their December 1, 1957 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the group briefly went on hiatus to plan their next recordings. In early 1958, Sullivan formally announced that he had left the band for good. Exactly why he chose to do so remains in debate today.

He died of a heart attack on 6 April 2004 at the age of 66.

In 2012, Sullivan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Crickets by a special committee, aimed at correcting the mistake of not including the Crickets with Buddy Holly when he was first inducted in 1986.

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