Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BUDDY HOLLY'S ARIEL CYCLONE

The Crickets and their new Britbikes; Joe B.Mauldin on this Thunderbird, Jerry Allison on his TR6A Trophy, Holly on his Cyclone
I hadn't seen this home movie of Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets with their new motorcycles.  It's long been known that Holly and his musician pals were motorcyclists, including the tale of how he came to purchase an Ariel twin in Dallas, Texas, in 1958.  The band were experienced motorcyclists, Holly having owned a Triumph previously (and received a citation for riding without a muffler!), and while their hometown was Lubbock, TX, the boys decided that Dallas would have a much bigger selection of machines.
Jerry Allison's receipt for his TR6A Trophy, engine #011972...who has it now?
After being snubbed as 'bothersome teens' at several motorcycle dealerships along Main and Elm Streets - the dealers not realizing these were wealthy musicians, with a #1 hit on the charts ('That'll be the Day') - they lads were actually kicked out of the Harley dealership (you can imagine their horseplay from the film), and took a cab to Ray Miller's Triumph and Ariel dealership at 3600 W. Davis St, out in the Dallas suburbs on old Highway 80. 
Jack McCormack from importer Johnson Motors congratulates Ray Miller on the opening of his new Triumph/Ariel dealership.  McCormack's story is worth retelling; he left Johnson two years later to become Honda's sole importer in 1961, selling a phenomenal 17,000 units, after spending literally half the combined ad budget of the entire US bike industry ($150k) on a series of pages in Life magazine.  Honda refused to raise his salary after making them a household name, so he set up Suzuki US in '63.  In 1967 he founded American Eagle, which offered a wide range of re-badged Laverda, Kawasaki, Italjet, and Sprites.
Ray Miller had only opened his shop the previous year, in the summer of 1957, having moved from El Centro CA; he and his wife must have watched the Ed Sullivan Show, for they recognized the lanky boys (Holly was just under 6' and weighed 145lbs), and gave them the red carpet treatment.  While Holly chose the rare 650cc Ariel Cyclone (only 21 were noted in factory record - it was the high-compression, 40hp version of the more sedate Huntmaster), bassist Joe B. Mauldin chose a Triumph Thunderbird, and drummer Jerry Allison bought a Triumph TR6A Trophy...all paid with cash on the spot.  They each bought the 'biker' hats shown in the photo, too!

Later in 1958, Holly 'went solo' and moved to NYC, and played under his own name with Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, and Waylon Jennings, who purchased Holly's Ariel after the 'day the music died' plane crash.  The Jennings family still owns the Ariel; what became of the two Triumphs is a mystery.
Holly's 1958 Ariel Cyclone, in Waylon Jennings' home

12 comments:

GuitarSlinger said...

I'm loving the part about the H-D dealership kicking Buddy and his crew out the door !

Good to know some things ( H-D dealers arrogance ) never change !

Rock On Paul !

Great article !

Anonymous said...

Guitar Slinger,

It gets better: as the legend goes, Buddy's trio then rode back over to the H-D dealership on their new Brit bikes and did burn-outs in the parking lot as a snub!

-JZ

GuitarSlinger said...

@ JZ

Too funny . Thanks , you made my morning today . Can't say my last experience with H-D dealers have been quite as dramatic , but suffice it to say another brand got my money as well as my loyalty that day : as well as H-D , in one fell swoop ending what was then a 70 year family history ( since 1926 ) with ' The Motor Company ' thanks to said H-D dealer .

Anonymous said...

Paul, Great find, cool stuff.
Ron Peck

Mingh said...

is that the same Jack McCormac who founded American eagle, using badge engineered laverdas and other makes?

The Vintagent said...

Wow, thanks for the heads up; he is the same fellow!
http://americaneaglecollector.smugmug.com/American-Eagle-History/Founder-Jack-McCormack-and/5732318_2epRU#353966845_Ut9AX

Anton said...

In 1971-72? I went to the biggest HD importer/specialist in the Netherlands with a couple of fisherman, just turned 18 from a nearby village. I had to arrange sales and dealer-discount for my boss, the guys wanted to see what they were going to buy.
Yes; maybe they looked kind of scruffy in their wooden clogs and working cloths. It was on a Friday they just arrived ashore after a full week on sea. The guys both wanted a HD now they had their license. One a Sportster, the other one a full dressed Electra Glide, with all the options.
But it all changed when we walked into the shop. Laughed about when asked to talk to a salesperson. "no time for kids" They did not take them serious and were almost shoved out. At the door one of the guys reached in his pocket, turned around and showed about 50 notes of one thousand Gulden and said ''this COULD have been YOURS...''
Fishing was quite lucrative back then, they shared the profit wich made them rich for a 18 year old.
After this incident, both bought loads of bikes, several BMW's, Laverda's a Norton etc. Sometimes changed bikes in 3 months time.
But never an HD.
My boss was very happy with them.

macfly said...

What a great story, as always.
Your research is aconstant joy, thanks, and keep it up!

daveinnola said...

i was talking to a guy who hAD A EX WORKS 250CC GP HARLEY FOR SALE AND THE PEOPLE FROM THE HARLEY MUSEUM IGNORED IT WHILE LOOKING FOR ARTIFACTS FOR THE MUSEUM AT HIS BOOTH

The Vintagent said...

I think the lesson is, next time a goofy kid takes a shine to your machine, take a deep breath, and give them a moment of your time; you may become their hero.

I was speaking with an old friend with a bike shop yesterday, about the need to bring youngsters into 'the fold' of old bikes...he laughed at how often older enthusiasts brushed him off as a pain in the ass, which he admits he was! Young, naive, and ignorant...but today he is a major enthusiast.

Matt said...

great video find. It's really cool to get a glimpse of Buddy and the Crickets just being "themselves". This could be any of us hanging out with our friends when we were in our late teens early 20's. It makes the legendary Buddy Holly a human we can all relate to. This is like a little portal in time. Very cool.

Love that they did burnouts in the HD parking lot on their new bikes.

wadeschields said...

Buddy Holly has alway been an idol to me . If I listened to music while ridding my Brit bikes it would be Buddy.... But I dont wanna drown out the music of that parallel twin or BSA single