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Crickets' show at Clear Lake's Surf Ballroom was their last

CLEAR LAKE — Another chapter in rock ’n’ roll history was composed Saturday night at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.

The largest-ever reunion of Crickets band members was held as part of the annual Winter Dance Party. The Crickets then announced to the sellout crowd that Saturday night’s performance was their last — the end of an era dating to 1957.

The Winter Dance Party is held every year at the Surf to celebrate the music and era of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.R. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, who died in a plane crash near Clear Lake shortly after performing at the Surf Feb. 2, 1959.

The Crickets were formed in Lubbock, Texas, by Buddy Holly and J.I. Allison. Stand-up bassist Mauldin was recruited shortly after, and Saturday night’s reunion was a tribute to him, commemorating his passing Feb. 7, 2015.

Among performers at the Surf was original Cricket Allison, along with Albert Lee, Glenn D. Hardin, Tommy Allsup, Tonio K., Gordon Payne, Keith Allison and The Killer Vees.

The Crickets have appeared at the Surf numerous times, especially during the Winter Dance Party.

Jeff Nicholas, president of the Surf Ballroom board of directors, called Saturday night “one of the most magical nights at the Surf.”

“This was rock ’n’ roll history,” he said. “To have the Crickets play their final show at the Surf Ballroom leaves us with mixed emotions. We were honored and happy to have been chosen as their last show, but it was sad to see the ending of an era.”

Allison called it a “fantastic night.”

“Rock ’n’ roll is here to stay,” he said. “We love the Surf Ballroom. The people of Iowa are too cool.”

The Crickets were one of the first self-contained rock ’n’ roll bands, writing, playing, producing and recording their own material. They were also among the first to use overdubbing and multi-track recording. And they were first to make rock ’n’ roll accessible to their audience with their format of guitar, drums and bass.

Mauldin was ranked among the top rock bassists by the “Book of Lists” and became a recording engineer at the legendary Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles.

Herb & George's closes in Mason City after 77 years

MASON CITY — In 1938, North Iowans were listening on their radios to President Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats, to Orson Welles’ broadcast of “War of the Worlds” and to the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs in the World Series.

Radio was an essential item to have in the household in those days — and in North Iowa, the place to purchase a radio or have it repaired was at Herb & George, which opened for business that year.

Herb & George changed locations several times over the years, and transitioned into the television and satellite business to keep up with the times.

But the times finally caught up with them.

Last month, owner Daryl Miller decided it to call it a day after 77 years. He closed the business and sold the building that had become a landmark at 12th Street and North Federal Avenue.

The big box stores crippled the little guy in television sales and there hasn’t been the need for a TV repairman like there was 40 or 50 years ago, said Miller.

“We live in a throw-away society today,” he said. “When it breaks, you don’t repair it. You throw it away.”

Herb Kuhlmeier and George Miller, Daryl’s father, opened the store in 1938 at 9 Second St. S.W. as a radio repair shop. It moved a few times after that and had been at its present site since 1969.

Miller began working for his father when he was 14 years old, eventually taking over ownership and staying with it for the next 69 years. He learned the electronics end of the business through taking correspondence courses and watching co-workers, he said.

“In the early days, it was mostly tube stuff,” said Miller, 83, recalling how the business drew steady customers needing simple repairs on their radios and TVs.

When the big-box stores became popular, it was difficult for the little independent stores to compete.

“They’d be selling 42-inch, $1,400 televisions for $300 or $400. We can’t compete with that,” said Miller. “First it was Kmart and then Best Buy really hurt us.”

The big sellers in the old days were RCA, Zenith and Toshiba, said Miller. “And when a repair was needed, people would bring the set in or we would go to their home. We made house calls.

“In recent years, we were doing warranty work for several different companies but we still had a few people coming in with repair work,” he said.

“At first the satellite business was good. That’s what paid the bills for a long while, but it reached a saturation point,” said Miller.

He said he enjoyed his career of nearly 70 years but puts his retirement in perspective these days as he sits in his living room and watches TV.

“It was just time,” he said.