Spectropop remembers

NIKI SULLIVAN (1937 - 2004)

An original Cricket

Niki Sullivan, former guitar player for the legendary Buddy Holly & The Crickets, has died at age 66. He had no previous health problems and in fact was out for a game of golf earlier in the day. Sullivan, raised in Lubbock, Texas, toured and recorded as a member of Buddy Holly's band during their climb to stardom in 1957. He met Buddy and Jerry Allison, the group's drummer, at a jam session in Lubbock in the fall of 1956.

His name will forever be associated with many of Holly's hits, including 'That'll Be The Day', for which he sang back-up vocals and played rhythm guitar. On 'Peggy Sue', after many attempts, Niki knelt at Buddy's side and flipped the switch on his guitar, enabling Buddy to achieve that masterpiece guitar break. In addition to playing rhythm guitar, Niki also did backing vocals on 'Not Fade Away' and the early, cha-cha version of 'Maybe Baby'. He is listed a writer on Buddy's classic 'I'm Gonna Love You Too' which became Holly's third solo Coral single issue. Niki's composition of 'Look To The Future' was recorded in 1957 by the Picks (who also did backing vocals for the Crickets) and Gary Tollett. When the Crickets started touring in early August, 1957, Buddy developed laryngitis and Niki took over the lead vocal honors. Niki was with the Crickets when they made their historic appearance at the famed Apollo Theater in New York City. He was also featured on the cover of the group's 'Chirpin' Crickets' LP on Brunswick as well as the famous 't-shirt' publicity photos used to promote the group. He also appeared with the Crickets when they were on the Ed Sullivan Show. After their appearance on that show, Niki left the group in a situation still shrouded in mystery.

He cut one solo single in 1958 'It's All Over' which failed to chart but remains very popular with collectors today. He teamed up with Gene Evans to form the Hollyhawks in 1960 that produced one 45 'When Came The Fall'. The single was produced by Norman Petty who got the career of the Crickets going in 1957, and the Hollyhawks were managed by L. O. Holley, Buddy Holly's father. Shortly after he formed Soul Incorporated, before retiring from the music business in 1966 upon meeting and marrying his wife Fran. He stated that this marriage was the most rewarding experience of his life and considered his wife "his best friend". His father Matt passed away in 1974 and his mother Kathy in 1998. Niki made his living in the electronics business and just recently retired. Over the years, Niki granted many interviews regarding his days with the Crickets and even reunited with Jerry and Joe Mauldin at a 1978 Buddy Holly convention. Sadly, this turned out to be a one time performance. Niki also made numerous appearences at Buddy Holly gatherings in both Lubbock, Texas and Clear Lake, Iowa (where Buddy Holly gave his final show) and made himself assessable to the fans both by phone and mail.

Sullivan leaves behind his wife, Fran, twin sons Marty and Eryn Sullivan, a granddaughter, Holly Sullivan, and a sister, Renetta Kay Jeans.

Adapted from an obituary at www.angelfire.com

Niki Sullivan, musician and songwriter: born June 23, 1937 - died April 6, 2004