Jerry Allison Dies: Crickets Drummer Who Co-Wrote Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” Was 82

Jerry Allison, the groundbreaking early rock & roll and rockabilly drummer who, as a member of The Crickets with Buddy Holly, co-wrote landmark songs such as “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day,” has died. He was 82.

According to a post on the Buddy Holly Facebook page, “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.”

Allison, one critic wrote, “knew how to get an incredible variety of percussion sounds, given the limitations of equipment in the era, sometimes working with as little as one snare, a cymbal, and a bass drum (if that).”

His work on “Peggy Sue,” for instance, involves the use of a paradiddle, a drumming rudiment that combines single strokes with precisely placed double strokes. He also contributed the title; “Peggy Sue” was originally titled “Cindy Lou,” after Holly’s niece. Allison effected a name change in favor of his girlfriend at the time and later wife, Peggy Sue Gerron.

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On other tracks, Allison’s creative contribution ranged from slapping his hands on his knees or clapping his hands to a modal plainness of cymbal drumming or playing only tom toms.

Those skills were crucial to the formation of the band. Before the Crickets, a teenaged Holly (on vocals and guitar) and Allison (on drums) honed their skills as a duo at the Lubbock Youth Center, in Lubbock, Texas, where they grew up.

While “Peggy Sue” peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard chart in 1957, “That’ll Be The Day,” which Allison co-wrote with Holly, went to No. 1 that same year on the Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart.

After Holly was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1959, Allison became a guiding force of the Crickets. The band had a number of lineups, and later collaborated with artists such as Nanci Griffith, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Johnny Rivers and Waylon Jennings.

Allison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of the Crickets.

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