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Jerry Allison, last original member of Buddy Holly's Crickets, dies

Buddy Holly drummer Jerry Allison dies aged 82 as tributes pour in for Crickets legend
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Jerry Allison (at drum set) co wrote some of Buddy Holly and the Crickets' biggest hits.

If Feb. 3, 1959 was “The Day the Music Died,” then Aug. 22, 2022 might be its last reverberant echo. Jerry Allison, the last surviving member of Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets, died Monday. The announcement was made on the official Buddy Holly Facebook page.

Allison was born in Hillsboro, Texas on Aug. 31, 1939, and moved to Lubbock when he was 10 years old. He met Holly in high school, and a few years after graduation the two decided to get into rock ‘n’ roll after seeing the movie “The Girl Can’t Help It.” The film featured musical performers by top acts of the day like Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Gene Vincent. Allison told Texas Music magazine in 2019 that Little Richard’s drummer, Charles Connor, was a major inspiration on his sound.

Inducting The Crickets into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, singer Smokey Robinson called them “the original rock and roll band,” and indeed, their lineup of two guitars, bass and drums became the default standard for countless bands formed around the world.

On drums, Allison eschewed extravagant fills and licks, which he found distasteful. His unique style included playing on cardboard boxes or rolling on tom-toms instead of crashing cymbals. His drumming helped propel “Peggy Sue” to number three on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 1957. It was a song he co-wrote with Holly, changing the beat from a cha-cha to a steady paradiddle pulse. Allison’s young romancing also changed the name of the song, which was originally called “Cindy Lou.”

“I had a girlfriend at the time named Peggy Sue,” Allison told NPR in 2000. “I talked [Buddy] into changing it to ‘Peggy Sue,’ and then we finished it with a different feel.”

Allison’s other songwriting credits with The Crickets include “That’ll Be the Day” and “Think It Over.” He was the featured vocalist on the 1958 single “Real Wild Child,” which peaked at number 68 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. On that release, Jerry Allison was credited by his middle name, Ivan.

After Buddy Holly’s death in 1959, Allison continued to perform with The Crickets. Their final show took place in 2016 at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, also the site of Buddy Holly’s last performance.

Allison had moved to Tennessee later in life. He was 82 years old.

Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.” He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.