There were two Crickets, of course. One was Buddy Holly's group from Lubbock, TX, and there was also a vocal group of Crickets from the Bronx, NY. Though these Crickets were never trendsetters, they did manage to capture an accomplished R&B sound led by the mellow vocal stylings of Grover (Dean) Barlow. The other original members were Harold Johnson, Gene Stapleton, Leon Carter, and Rodney Jackson.
The Crickets were signed to MGM Records in January 1953 by pioneering record producer Joe Davis, who had previously operated his own recording company, Beacon Records, and his own management company, from the early '40s until 1948. As MGM was trying to break into the R&B market at the time, Davis produced their first single: "Milk and Gin" b/w "You're Mine" (MGM 11428). The ballad A-side was well received in the East, and in less than three months "You're Mine" sold more than 100,000 copies in the Northeast, a heady figure for an R&B single in the early '50s. A second single failed to score enough airplay or sales for the Crickets, and Davis left MGM shortly thereafter to start another record company, Jay-Dee Records. He brought to his label a few of the artists he had worked with before, including the Blenders, Paula Watson, and the Crickets.
In July 1953 the Crickets made their debut at Harlem's Apollo Theater on a bill with Ruth Brown and Sonny Stitt's jazz combo. They saw the release of two additional singles for the Jay-Dee label, neither of which did much to propel the act further. By this time, under Davis' watchful eye, the group began making their first personnel changes in the lineup. Lead singer Barlow had quite a few new faces to accompany him by year's end: Robert Bynum, William Lindsey, and Joseph Diaz replaced original members Johnson, Stapleton, Carter, and Jackson. In January 1954 the Crickets recorded a cover of "Changing Partners," a hit for Patti Page and Bing Crosby, among others, but once again, sales and airplay eluded the quartet. Three more Crickets efforts for Jay-Dee came and went, but Davis believed that they still had a hit in them.
In November 1954 Davis reactivated his Beacon label again and moved the Crickets over to the roster of the "new" label, releasing their ballad "Be Faithful" (Beacon 104) with a song by the Deep River Boys on the B-side. (In addition to acts like the Crickets and the Deep River Boys, Davis also released early efforts by the Red Caps, Southernaires, Blenders, the Sparrows, and Lillian Leach & the Mellows.) For "Be Faithful," the single was credited as "Dean Barlow & the Crickets." The name change (Davis did not like the name Grover, apparently, and so he began using the name Dean for the group's lead singer) brought the Crickets a bit of luck. "Be Faithful" got extensive airplay on New York radio -- Alan Freed and Doctor Jive both spun the 45 constantly -- and the record became the biggest-selling record in the entire existence of both the Crickets and Dean Barlow, who by now was being groomed as a solo performer.
Barlow's first solo effort for Jay-Dee under his own name (which may have initially added to the confusion whether he was the featured act, or the band the Crickets were) was "I'll String Along with You," a remake from the '30s that received decent sales and airplay. Two follow-up singles weren't nearly as successful, however, and Barlow continued on as a solo artist, recording occasionally with other acts, including the Bachelors ("Dolores" b/w "I Want to Know About Love," Earl 101; "Baby" b/w "Tell Me Now," Earl 102) and the Montereys ("Dearest One" b/w "Through the Years," Onyx 513).