KC-Area Resident Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Niki Sullivan (far left) was the rhythm guitarist for the Crickets, Buddy Holly’s backup band. After retiring from the music business, Sullivan relocated to the Kansas City area, where he lived until he died in 2004.

The late Niki Sullivan, the original rhythm guitarist in Buddy Holly’s backup band the Crickets, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in mid-April.

The Crickets were inducted with several legendary backing bands, all of whom were excluded when their stars were inducted.

In addition to the Crickets, other bands inducted were

  • The Blue Caps (Gene Vincent)
  • The Comets (Bill Haley)
  • The Famous Flames (James Brown)
  • The Midnighters (Hank Ballard)
  • The Miracles (Smokey Robinson)

Sullivan was born in California and grew up in Texas. He met Holly at a jam session in Lubbock and joined the band soon after. Sullivan played on most of Holly’s recordings with the Crickets and is credited with co-writing Not Fade Away.

His most famous contribution is to a record on which he didn’t even play, Peggy Sue. During those sessions, Sullivan stood beside Holly and flipped the pickup switch to his Fender Stratocaster, changing the tone and allowing Holly to play the solo break.

After retiring from the music business, Sullivan eventual relocated to Sugar Creek, Mo., just east of Kansas City. He lived there until his death in April 2004.

Sullivan is the fifth person with ties to Kansas City inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The others are:

  • Gene Clark –  one of the co-founders of the Byrds, and its co-lead singer and main songwriter, Clark grew up in the Kansas City area.
  • Jesse Stone – the pianist/arranger grew up in Atchison, Kan., and was a fixture in the KC jazz community. He later wrote Shake, Rattle and Roll for Joe Turner, as well as such classics as Flip, Flop and Fly and Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ but Trash.
  • Joe Turner – the legendary R&B singer was born and grew up in Kansas City. He got his start singing in the clubs along 12th Street.
  • Jerry Wexler – the legendary producer at Atlantic Records attended what is now Kansas State University in the mid-1930s. He regularly drove to Kansas City to listen to the city’s musicians, including Turner.
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