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Jerry Allison, the drummer for Buddy Holly and The Crickets who is credited as a co-writer for “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day,” has died. He was 82.
The musician’s passing was confirmed on Wednesday by a spokesperson for Gold Mountain Entertainment, which manages Holly’s one-time backing band The Crickets, of which Allison was the last surviving original member. Further details of his death were not immediately available.
Allison was born on Aug. 31, 1939, in Hillsboro, Texas. He attended the same middle school as Holly in Lubbock, Texas. However, the pair didn’t become friends until high school when they formed a band and began playing gigs at roller rinks and The Cotton Club in Lubbock.
They formed The Crickets with bassist Larry Welborn, who was subsequently replaced by Joe B. Mauldin, as well as rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan. They scored their first hit with “That’ll Be the Day,” which was recorded in 1957. The song was inspired by a line from John Wayne in the 1956 Western “The Searchers.”
The Crickets went on to woo fans with songs such as “Maybe Baby,” “Oh, Boy!” and “Think It Over.” The track “Peggy Sue” was named after Allison’s then-girlfriend and future wife Peggy Sue Gerron. It features Allison playing one of rock’s most celebrated drum parts. It went on to be covered by numerous artists, including John Lennon and the Beach Boys.
Holly followed up “Peggy Sue” with “Peggy Sue Got Married,” which would later become the title of a 1986 film by Francis Coppola starring Kathleen Turner as a woman who travels back in time.
The Crickets’ sound was often stripped down to rock ‘n’ roll basics: guitars, bass and drums behind Holly’s “hiccupping” vocals. But they also liked experimenting in the studio with multi-tracking and overdubbing and inspired generations of musicians, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other British Invasion rockers. One band, the Hollies, named themselves after Holly.
Allison’s innovative work is also apparent in “Everyday,” where he ditches the drums and keeps time in the song by slapping his knees. On “Well… All Right,” Allison is drumming just on the cymbals.
As they skyrocketed to fame, the band stayed behind in Texas, while Holly moved to New York in 1958. Tragedy struck in February 1959 when Holly was killed at age 22 in a plane crash along with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, also known as the Big Bopper. The catastrophic deaths inspired Don McLean’s 1972 hit “American Pie.”
After Holly’s death, The Crickets continued as a band. They toured and recorded together for decades, including recording the first version of “I Fought The Law,” a Sonny Curtis tune that was a hit later for The Bobby Fuller Four. They backed the Everly Brothers and toured with Waylon Jennings, and they became well-respected session players who worked with Bobby Vee, Eddie Cochran and Johnny Burnette.
The Crickets were voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, while Holly was inducted in 1986 in the first class of inductees. Sullivan died in 2004 and Mauldin died in 2014. Allison and Gerron eventually divorced. She died in 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.