#1191: I’m Not A Bad Guy by The Crickets

Peak Month: May 1962
7 weeks on CFUN chart
Peak Position #17
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

The Crickets became a rock ‘n roll/rockabilly group in 1957. They are credited with influencing a whole range of recording artists including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. In fact, the Beatles got the idea for their name as a riff off of another insect, cricket, just going up one letter of the alphabet from C to B for Beatles. Paul McCartney once told the press, “If it wasn’t for the Crickets, there wouldn’t be any Beatles.”The Crickets were initially the backing band for Buddy Holly and among their hits are “That’ll Be The Day,” Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away,” “Maybe Baby,” “It’s So Easy,” “Rave On,” “I Fought The Law” and “More Than I Can Say.”

It was in Lubbock, Texas, that guitar player Buddy Holly and drummer J.I. Allison first met to discuss forming a rock ‘n roll band. They got bass player, Joe Mauldin to be a third member of the band. The three were capable of writing, playing, producing and recording their own records. They were also skilled at over-dubbing in the studio years before it became a standard feature of studio recording. “That’ll Be The Day” climbed to #1 in the spring of 1957 establishing The Crickets as a part of the vanguard of rock ‘n roll at a time that many music critics predicted its demise and regarded it as a “music fad.” While The Crickets were not acknowledged on the record label credits for “Peggy Sue,” many DJ’s knew that Buddy Holly’s band was playing on the record.

With the release of “That’ll Be The Day” in June of 1957 and their many subsequent hits, The Crickets became the leading rock and roll band in the world. In late 1958, Buddy Holly decided to move to New York and become more involved in the business side of music. Allison and Mauldin continued on with The Crickets, adding their old friend Sonny Curtis as lead guitarist and vocalist. Sonny had played guitar and fiddle in earlier groups with Buddy and J.I, so his joining was a welcome and seamless fit with the band’s unique sound and approach. The first Crickets’ album without Buddy Holly, “In Style With The Crickets”, was recorded in the same Clovis, New Mexico studio as had all their hits, with additional sessions in New York and Los Angeles. Their classics “I Fought The Law” and “More Than I Can Say” were introduced on this album. With a new Crickets recording contract with West Coast-based Liberty Records, as well as a shift in focus from touring to the studio, Los Angeles became home base for the group for the next 15 years.

Drummer J.I. Allison soon became one of the industry’s top session players recording with Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Rivers, Waylon Jennings, Nanci Griffith, Paul McCartney and many others. His distinctive drumming style on such hits as “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly and “Till I Kissed You” by The Everly Brothers are among the most memorable drum licks ever recorded. Phil Everly has called Allison “the most creative drummer in rock and roll,” a fact reinforced by Dell/Rolling Stone’s “Book Of Lists” which ranks Allison among the top three rock and roll drummers of all times. Allison also wrote such songs as “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue” and “More Than I Can say.”

Bassist Joe. B. Mauldin, who is also ranked among the top rock bassists by the “Book of Lists,” became a recording engineer at Gold Star Studios, the legendary Los Angeles studio that became the hit factory for Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and other major 60s rock performers. While at Gold Star, Mauldin engineered many hit recording sessions including those with Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the Baja Marimba Band, Phil Spector, Leon Russell and Maureen McGovern. An accomplished writer as well as performer, Mauldin penned “Last Night,” “I’m Gonna Love You Too” and “Well All Right.” He has toured with The Everly Brothers, Johnny Burnette, Nanci Griffith and Waylon Jennings.

Sonny Curtis, also a native Texan, played lead guitar on Buddy Holly’s first Decca sessions. His fluid guitar playing style was a major influence on Waylon Jennings. In addition to his work with the Crickets, Sonny has enjoyed enormous success as a solo recording artist and as one of Nashville’s most respected songwriters. His songs have been recorded by artists from Bing Crosby to the Bear on the Andy Williams Show. Among his hit song credits: “Love Is All Around” (the Mary Tyler Moore Television Show Theme song which Sonny also sang on every opening segment of the show), “I Fought The Law,” “Walk Right Back” which was a big hit for the Everly Brothers and many others. Curtis had a Top Ten hit in Vancouver in 1964 titled “A Beatle I Want To Be” and a number of hits on the US country charts including “The Real Buddy Holly Story” and “Good Old Girls.”

The Crickets charted four singles  with Buddy Holly in the late 50’s. These were “That’ll Be The Day,” Oh Boy!,” “Maybe Baby” and “Fool’s Paradise.” The Crickets returned to the Vancouver pop charts on three occasions in the early 60’s. Today’s song review, “I’m Not A Bad Guy,” was the B-side to the Gerry Goffin-Carol King single release “Don’t Ever Change.”

I'm Not A Bad Guy by The Crickets

Go ahead and try to cause trouble for me,
spread it around ’til everyone can see that I’m a bad guy,
say I go around making girls cry,
they won’t believe it, it’s a lie.

If making me feel bad makes you feel good,
I wouldn’t try to stop you if I thought I could,
I’m not a bad guy, I never ever made a girl cry,
I never told a girl a lie.

You’re telling lies, you’ll realize,
you’ll hurt yourself more than anyone else.
Don’t be surprised.

If people turn away and won’t listen to you,
nobody likes to hear a lot of things that aren’t true,
I’m not a bad guy, I never ever made a girl cry,
I never told a girl a lie.

You’re telling lies, you’ll realize,
you’ll hurt yourself more than anyone else.
Don’t be surprised.

If people turn away and won’t listen to you,
nobody likes to hear a lot of things that aren’t true,
I’m not a bad guy, I never ever made a girl cry,
I never told a girl a lie. (fade).

“I’m Not A Bad Guy” is a song about being on the receiving end of another person’s gossip. The gossip is spreading lies about a guy they know, alleging he makes girls cry and lies to them. The song’s lyrics don’t explicitly suggest that the gossip is a girlfriend or an ex-girlfriend. They could be a “friend.” Nowhere in the lyrics does the guy express the view that he loves the person who is spreading lies and just wants them to stop gossiping. So the gossip could plausibly be someone who’s just decided that for whatever reason they want to ruin this guy’s reputation. Every high school can be a laboratory for odd interactions with other classmates who, in some cases, instantly dislike us. Whoever this gossip is, the guy on the receiving end of the gossip suspects the gossip’s motivation to try to make him feel bad is ’cause it makes the gossip feel good. But since the guy is confident about who he is, he tells the gossip he’s not going to try to put a stop to them from spreading lies. He trusts that people around town know the kind of person he is and won’t believe the smear. And he warns the person spreading these false rumors that they’re only going to end up hurting themselves.

While the word gossip has at times in past centuries had a less negative association, in the 20th Century to gossip about someone is almost universally understood to be damaging, anti-social behavior. Gossips spread rumors of dubious veracity, and are often considered the very opposite of what a friend should be. That certainly was the view of the person spreading lies in “I’m Not A Bad Guy.”

In 1965 an album was released in the UK titled A Collection which included “I’m Not A Bad Guy.” Interestingly, the A-side to the song, “Don’t Ever Change,” was a track on two studio albums prior in 1963 titled Something Old, Something New, Something Blue, Something Else!

In the mid 70s, the Crickets moved to the Nashville area and began a long association with Waylon Jennings whom they had known since the early Lubbock days. In addition to touring and recording with Jennings, the group made frequent international tours including dates in England (where they recorded with Paul McCartney), Spain, Germany, Sweden and Ireland. It’s an annual tradition they continue to this day.

Over the years, the Crickets have appeared in motion pictures and numerous documentaries, as well as top television shows including The Ed Sullivan Show, Sunday Night At The London Palladium, American Bandstand, The David Letterman Show, CNN, America’s Talking, Westwood One Radio syndicated specials, and a two-hour Nashville Network special shown worldwide.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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