Passing Through : Memories of The Crickets ©1999JCMarion

The Crickets were from the Bronx, New York who had a way with a ballad in the early nineteen fifties. In the fall of 1952 they were introduced to record producer Joe Davis, one of the real pioneers of the R & B independent label movement in the New York area. He had run his own recording company Beacon Records from the early forties until 1948 when he went to work for a major label MGM, who was trying to break into the R & B field. He liked what he heard and so in January of 1953 he signed The Crickets to the MGM label. In a few weeks their first record was released. It was MGM # 11428 - "Milk And Gin" / "You're Mine". The ballad side got some good reaction in the East and the group had a promising outlook. Behind the distribution and promotion of MGM, the record makes an impact on the national charts also. In June the second Crickets release for MGM is out on #11507. This pairs "For You I Have Eyes" and " I'll Cry No More". In less than three months the recording of "You're Mine" sells more than one hundred thousand in the Northeast, which is a heady figure for an R & B record in the early fifties. However, the lack of effort by MGM on the second release (in Davis' opinion anyway) is a prime reason for him to leave the label and start his own company again-this time to be called Jay-Dee Records. Davis brings to his own label those artists with which he has personal contracts with such as The Blenders, Paula Watson, and The Crickets.

In July the Crickets make their debut at Harlem's Apollo Theater on a bill with Ruth Brown and the Sonny Stitt jazz combo. In August the first Crickets release for Jay-Dee comes out. It is #777 and is "Dreams And Wishes" and "When I Met You". Nothing much becomes of this release and in October the boys try again and the result is more of the same - #781 "Fine As Wine" / "I'm Not The One You Love" get very little airplay and little in the sales charts. During 1953 wholesale changes took place in the personnel lineup of the group. The one constant was lead singer Grover (Dean) Barlow. Robert Bynum, William Lindsey, and Joseph Diaz replaced original members Harold Johnson, Gene Stapleton, Leon Carter, and Rodney Jackson. In January of 1954 the Crickets record a cover of the pop tune "Changing Partners" which was a hit for Patti Page and Bing Crosby among others, and the reverse was the song "Your Love" on Jay-Dee #785. Once again sales and airplay elude the quartet. A quick following release comes in mid February on Jay-Dee #786 - "Just You" and "My Little Baby's Shoes". Shortly thereafter Jay-Dee #789 - "Are You Looking For A Sweetheart?" / "Never Give Up Hope" is out. In October the final Jay-Dee release by The Crickets is produced #795 - "I'm Going To Live My Life Alone" and "The Man In The Moon". It is quickly forgotten as are many of the previous recordings by the group.

That November in 1954, Davis for some reason, perhaps just looking for a change in fortunes, decides to reactivate his previous label Beacon for the first time since 1948. He will use The Crickets as the performers on the very first record on the new/old label, numbering it #104. The ballad side is called "Be Faithful" and was backed with "Sleepy Little Cowboy" by The Deep River Boys. On "Be Faithful" the label lists the group as Dean Barlow & The Crickets. As the story goes, Joe Davis did not like the name Grover, and so Grover Barlow became Dean, lead singer for the Crickets. Finally the group sees some success, just as the history of the group as a recording act came to a close. As sales continued to increase for the record, Barlow was now groomed as a solo singer for Davis and his records were to be released on Jay-Dee Records adding to the confusion. "Be Faithful" got extensive airplay on New York radio from Alan Freed and Doctor Jive, and the record became the biggest selling record in the entire existence of both The Crickets and Dean Barlow.

The success of the Crickets record seemed to rub off on the Barlow solo effort as his first for Jay-Dee on #799 "I'll String Along With You" a remake of a pop song from the thirties, had decent sales and airplay (the flip side was the tune "It Doesn't Happen Every Day"). The followup solo records "Forever" / "Don't Leave Me Baby" on Jay-Dee #803, and #805 - "True Love" / "My Life Is Empty Without You" were not nearly as successful. Barlow has a number of other solo efforts on a third Joe Davis labels Davis Records. "As God Is My Judge" on Davis #444, "My Life Is Empty Without You" / Truthfully" on #446, and "True Love on #450. With the demise of the Crickets and the lowered expectations of his solo career, Barlow later recorded with The Bachelors with Bill Lindsay, Bill Baines, and Waldo Champen) "Dolores' / "I Want To Know About Love" on Earl #101, and "Baby" and "Tell Me Now" on Earl #102 and The Monterreys (same members as The bachelors) "Dearest One" / "Through The Years" on Onyx 513. In October of 1957 Joe Davis dusted one from off the shelf and he released "The Man From The Moon" and "I'm Going To Live My Life Alone" on Davis #459. An additional side for Onyx - "Tell Me Why" and "Angel" by The Monterreys was not released for twenty years.

Dean Barlow continued to record as a solo performer in the late fifties - early sixties for UT, Warwick, Seven Arts, Lescay, and the Rust labels without any enduring success. A strange version of "Be Faithful" was issued in the early sixties that has a morn modern musical backing re-recorded along with the original vocals. This seemed to be an unusual postscript to an interesting career.

Dean Barlow certainly had one of the most expressive lead voices during the R & B era. My two enduring memories of him were his great vocal on "Be Faithful" one of my all time ballad favorites, and his solo version of "I'll String Along With You" which was one of the very few records during the "Moondog" era that my Father could stand. He really liked that record. For some unknown reason, that Barlow solo record was a local hit in Oklahoma City during late '58-early'59 where I happened to be at the time during military service. It was like welcoming back an old friend for a little reunion. The Crickets were another of those vocal groups that were never trend setters, never style makers, never earth shakers. What they were was a competent, accomplished R & B vocal group with a mellow style that never seemed to disappear from the scene. And they definitely added to the enjoyment of the musical times, and still provide wonderful memories of days passed.

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