It was 57 years ago today that Buddy Holly died in a plane crash at the young age of 22. He made a big impact in his short life, however, releasing three albums and a string of hits like “Oh, Boy,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Rave On,” and, of course, “Peggy Sue.”
Though it’s one of Holly’s most famous tunes now, “Peggy Sue” was almost an entirely different song. Originally called “Cindy Lou” after his baby niece, Cindy, and his sister, Patricia Lou, the beat had a calypso feel and was stylized like a Harry Belafonte song. It wasn't quite coming together as the band had envisioned, but after a few changes, things started to gel. While they were making tweaks, drummer Jerry Allison (far left in the photo above) suggested one that would change music history.
“I had a girlfriend at the time named Peggy Sue, so I talked [Holly] into changing it to ‘Peggy Sue,’ and then we finished it off with a different feel,” Allison said. With a few additional lyric adjustments, the song became the classic it is today.
The first time Peggy Sue Gerron herself heard the song was when Allison invited her to see the band play live at Show of Stars in Sacramento. She was enamored—and so was the rest of the world. “Peggy Sue” hit No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart, and Gerron married Allison. They honeymooned in Mexico with Holly and his new wife, Maria Elena, in 1958.
Sadly, it wasn’t a happy ending for Jerry Allison and his Peggy Sue. Though Allison avoided the fateful plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa—Holly was using a different band at the time—his marriage to Peggy Sue didn’t last. They divorced in 1965.
“She was impressed [with the song] at the time,” Allison said in 2012. “But I think she’s gotten over it.”