Allison, a pioneer in rock drumming, played and co-wrote songs with his childhood buddy Buddy Holly, and Holly’s future bride inspired the timeless song “Peggy Sue.” Allison is considered to be an architect of rock drumming.
The legendary rock drummer Jerry Allison, who co-wrote songs with his childhood pal Buddy Holly and whose future wife inspired Holly’s signature tune “Peggy Sue,” has passed away. He was 82.
A representative for Gold Mountain Entertainment, which administers Buddy Holly’s former backing band The Crickets and confirmed Allison’s death on Wednesday. Information about the manner of his death was not immediately available.
Allison and Holly, both from Hillsboro, Texas, met in junior high school and began performing together in roller rinks and at Lubbock’s The Cotton Club in the early ’50s, long before the rise of rock music. A statement said by John Wayne in the classic Western The Searchers inspired one of the many hits the two youngsters recorded together.
Joe B. Mauldin and Niki Sullivan were also members of The Crickets when they found success in 1957 with the single “That’ll Be the Day.” Subsequent hits included “Oh, Boy!” and “Maybe Baby.” The song “Peggy Sue,” on which Allison plays one of rock’s most famous drum parts—a rolling pattern called paradiddles—was named for his high school sweetheart, Peggy Sue Gerron, whom he eventually married.
John Lennon and the Beach Boys were only two of the many artists who record their own versions of “Peggy Sue,” and the song was also referenced in “Barbara Ann” and elsewhere. Next up for Holly was “Peggy Sue Got Married,” which was eventually made into a film starring Kathleen Turner and directed by Francis Coppola.
The sound of The Crickets was frequently reduced to the rock and roll essentials of guitars, bass, and drums, with Buddy Holly providing the “hiccupping” vocals. But they also enjoyed experimenting in the studio with multi-tracking and overdubbing, and they inspired generations of musicians, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other rockers who were a part of the British Invasion. Holly was the inspiration behind the name of the band the Hollies.
The inventiveness of Allison’s work can also be seen in “Every day,” in which he forgoes the use of percussion in favor of keeping the song’s tempo by slapping his knees. On the track “Well… All Right,” Allison only plays the cymbals of her drum set.
Holly relocated to New York in 1958, but the band remained in Texas even as it gained more notoriety and became more successful. Holly was only 22 years old when he his away in an aircraft crash in February 1959, the same month that fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, commonly known as the Big Bopper, also perished in the crash. The incident served as the inspiration for the hit song “American Pie” that Don McLean released in 1972.
After Buddy Holly passed away, The Crickets remained as a band to tour and record together for decades. During this time, they made the initial recording of “I Fought the Law,” a song written by Sonny Curtis that was later covered by The Bobby Fuller Four and became a hit for that group.
They became well-respected session players who worked with artists such as Bobby Vee, Eddie Cochran, and Johnny Burnette after providing backing for the Everly Brothers and touring with Waylon Jennings, among other notable artists.
Holly was a member of the inaugural class of artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, but the Crickets were only admitted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Sullivan died in 2004 and Mauldin died in 2014. In the end, Allison and Gerron decided to go their separate ways. Gerron died in 2018