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Articles - Diaries > 1957: Buddy Holly & The Picks

The Picks - Bob Lapham, John Pickering, Bill PickeringBy 1957, Bill Pickering had renewed old acquaintance with childhood friend Norman Petty at the newly built Norman Petty 7th Street Recording Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Norman, who had first recorded the Pickering Family on acetate at his upstairs studio apartment in 1947 (Clovis Campfire; KVOO, Tulsa, Oklahoma), had built the studio mainly to record the Norman Petty Trio, following their national hit recording of “Mood Indigo”.


Word was getting around that Norman had the best state-of-the-art studio, with the best sound south of New York City. With the latest Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorders, Petty had already engineered and recorded hits for the Norman Petty Trio, Roy Orbison and others. He’d just finished recording a couple of songs for Lubbock’s Terry Noland. Background voices were needed, so Bill called John at Lubbock, and John called friend Bob Lapham.  A trio was formed a few months prior to John’s graduation (BS Petroleum Geology) from Texas Tech. The trio would be called “The Picks” (as in Pickering). Bill Pickering (high tenor), John Pickering (lead and tenor) and Bob Lapham (baritone) backed Terry Noland, then another group or two, and it was obvious to Norman and anyone who listened that “The Picks” had a commercial sound.


On July 13, 1957, the trio drove to Clovis to record with young Ramona Locke in a “live” session, and afterwards, Norman Petty asked the group to stay awhile. When the studio cleared, Norman said, “Listen to this!”, and the trio stood and heard Buddy Holly’s solo versions of “Oh Boy” and “Peggy Sue” for the first time.  Buddy had recorded them 10 days before, and Norman seemed merely to want an opinion of which song should be the next Cricket’s release. Everyone agreed that “Peggy Sue”, with the echo/drum effect, was great as a solo, but that “Oh Boy” needed additional vocals. Then Norman surprised the group by asking “Do you think you boys can give it a “Crickets” sound?” The Picks finished adding voices to it that evening, and the second Crickets hit was ready for release. Upon seeing the new 45 RPM Brunswick release (John bought a copy at a Lubbock music store), The Picks were surprised and disappointed that neither Buddy Holly nor “The Picks” were mentioned on the Brunswick label (Brunswick 55035; 10/27/57). Just “The Crickets” (Vocal Group With Orchestra). This was unlike “Elvis Presley (With The Jordanaires)” on Presley releases.


On October 12-14, 1957, the trio, assured that the mistake would be corrected, returned (John then living at Corpus Christi, Texas) to finish a planned “Crickets” group-sound album, and were assured that the association would greatly enhance their careers. As before with “Oh Boy”, Buddy Holly and The Crickets were performing elsewhere, and John and Bill arranged the vocals. “The Picks” again overdubbed Holly solos with vocal harmonies for a Crickets group sound on “Maybe Baby“, “It’s Too Late”, “Tell Me How”, “Rock Me My Baby”, “Send Me Some Loving”, “An Empty Cup”, “Last Night” and “You’ve Got Love”. (With “Oh Boy”, that amounted to 9 of the first 12 Crickets’ releases).


The result was the first and only vocal group-sound album released while Buddy Holly was alive: “The Chirping Crickets” (BL 54038; 33 1/3 LP; 1957). This album is one of five greatest rock’n’roll albums of the 50s. This time Buddy was introduced as lead singer and guitarist, and the instrumental Crickets were also named. But The Picks (for 9 songs) and the Tolletts (for 2 songs) were not credited on label nor liner. The singers on this album won the award for “Best” or “Most Promising” Vocal Group of 1957 in both the USA and Great Britain, but only Buddy Holly (all songs) and Niki Sullivan (3 songs) of the singers were there to accept the award. And as of now, neither “The Picks” of 1957, nor the later group “The Roses” of 1958 are mentioned on the wall of the Buddy Holly Museum at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, Texas.