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‘Maybe Baby’: How Buddy Holly And The Crickets Called On The Air Force

Buddy liked the acoustics of the Air Force club in Oklahoma, so the group recorded there after playing locally in the Show of Stars ’57 package.

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Crickets Maybe Baby

Whether they were credited to Buddy Holly or to the Crickets, the all-too-brief run of 45s by the seminal outfit from Lubbock, Texas have long been synonymous with rock‘n’roll’s joyful first flourish. On the night of September 28, 1957, just days after the group had learned that they were No.1 in America for the first (and, it turned out, only) time with “That’ll Be The Day,” they were recording one of their key singles of the following year, “Maybe Baby.”

After that initial smash, November 1957 brought real chart domination in the form of simultaneous hits by Holly, supposedly solo, and again with the Crickets. He was listed in just his own name for “Peggy Sue,” via his deal with Decca Records, while the group as a whole were credited on “Oh, Boy!” as their next Brunswick release. By the new year, both were in the top ten of Billboard’s Top 100 Sides chart.

“Maybe Baby” (pictured in the lead image in its German release on Coral) was another gently rocking anthem of young love, as infectiously simple and heartfelt as all of the Crickets’ catalog. It was composed by Holly, writing under his real first two names as Charles Hardin, and producer-manager Norman Petty. The song was recorded at Tinker’s Officers’ Club on Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, with background vocals added later at Petty’s studios in Clovis, New Mexico.

Air Force acoustics

Holly and the Crickets went to the club after playing a gig that September night at Oklahoma City Municipal Auditorium, as part of the Show Of Stars ’57 line-up. Buddy found the acoustics of the club just right for the song, and its creation there on that night was re-confirmed in 2008 by Holly historian Graham Pugh of Choctaw, Oklahoma.

The base’s own website reported that Pugh returned the original plaque commemorating what’s thought to be the only big US pop hit recorded on an Air Force base. The plaque had previously been thought lost, but a Tinker club worker had saved it from being discarded and loaned it to the historian.

Holly played lead guitar on “Maybe Baby,” which also featured the Crickets’ Joe B. Mauldin on bass, Niki Sullivan on rhythm guitar, and Jerry Allison on drums. Backed with “Tell Me How,” the single entered Top 100 Sides at No.76 on March 3, 1958, in the same week that Danny and the Juniors debuted with “Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay.”

Big in Britain

The Crickets’ single climbed to No.17 in late March, but made proportionately more impression in the UK, spending six weeks in the Top 10 and peaking at No.4. It thus continued a hot transatlantic streak that had seen “That’ll Be The Day” hit No.1 and “Oh, Boy!” reach No.3, while Holly reached No.6 with “Peggy Sue.”

Numerous covers of “Maybe Baby” included one by Bobby Vee in 1963, while the Crickets teamed with Waylon Jennings to revive it as part of a medley of Holly’s hits in 1978. The Hollies, the prolific UK hitmakers whose very name they owed to the star, cut the song in 1980, and other remakes ensued by fellow fans such as Don McLean, Hank Marvin and Brian May.

“Maybe Baby” is on Buddy Holly’s Gold compilation, which can be bought here.

Follow the 50s playlist, starring Buddy Holly along with Chuck BerryLittle Richard and many others.
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