Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly’s Drummer and Co-Writer of ‘Peggy Sue,’ Dies at 82

Allison named the hit 1957 song after his then-girlfriend

Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly and the Crickets
Jerry Allison, Joe B. Mauldin, and Buddy Holly (Getty Images)

Jerry Allison, the drummer of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, who co-wrote hits “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day” with the legendary singer, has died at age 82.

The song “Peggy Sue” was originally named after Holly’s niece, Cindy Lou, but, at Allison’s request, was renamed to win back his then-girlfriend and future wife Peggy Sue Gerron after a breakup.

In her 2008 memoir, “Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?” Gerron said she was “so embarrassed, I could have died,” when she first heard the song live.

A message shared to the Buddy Holly Facebook page on Monday read, “Our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Jerry ‘JI’ Allison, drummer in The Crickets, one of Buddy’s very closest friends, and the inspiration to drummers for decades since, who passed away today at the age of 82.”

The note continued, “JI was a musician ahead of his time, and undoubtedly his energy, ideas and exceptional skill contributed to both The Crickets, and rock n’ roll itself, becoming such a success. Buddy is often heralded as the original singer-songwriter, but JI, too, wrote and inspired so many of the songs that would go on to be eternal classics. There’s more to be said and posted here in the coming days. For today, we think about his family and friends and wish JI to rest in peace.”

Allison was born on Aug. 31, 1939 in Hillsboro, Texas. He and Holly were a duo at first, later adding bassist Joe B. Mauldin to form the Crickets. Mauldin died in 2015 at the age of 74. Holly, as every music fan knows, died tragically in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22.

Allison also had a solo vocal hit with the first studio recording of Johnny O’Keefe’s “Real Wild Child” in 1958, which hit the Billboard Hot 100 at number 68. The song has been covered by several music acts, including The Runaways and Iggy Pop.

In 2012, the Crickets were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Allison was also a popular studio musician who worked with J.J. Cale and Johnny Rivers.