Jerry “JI” Allison, the drummer for Buddy Holly and the Crickets (a.k.a. The Crickets), who is credited as a co-writer on influential rock ‘n’ roll hits “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue,” has died at age 82, according to a post on the Buddy Holly Foundation’s 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,” the post reads. “Buddy is often heralded as the original singer-songwriter, but JI, too, wrote and inspired so many of the songs that would go on to be eternal classics.”
Born Aug. 31, 1939, in Hillsboro, Texas, Allison attended the same middle school as Holly in Lubbock, Texas, but the two didn’t become friends until high school, when they formed a band and began playing gigs at roller rinks and other local venues. Alongside bassist Larry Welborn (subsequently replaced by Joe Mauldin) and rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, they later found success as The Crickets, scoring their first hit with “That’ll Be the Day,” recorded during a February 1957 session with songwriter and producer Norman Petty in his Clovis, N.M., studio (a country-leaning version of the song had previously been released by Decca during Holly’s short-lived stint in Nashville).
Co-written by Allison, Holly and Petty, the 1957 version of “That’ll Be the Day” was released by Brunswick Records and slowly picked up steam on radio before hitting the peak of the Billboard Top 100 (the progenitor of the Hot 100) in September of that year. Though they never scored another No. 1 hit, The Crickets followed “Day” with a string of successful singles including “Oh, Boy!”, “Maybe Baby” and “Think It Over” (the latter co-written by Allison). “Peggy Sue,” on which Allison was also credited as a co-writer and which was named after his then-girlfriend and future wife Peggy Sue Gerron, hit No. 3 on the Top 100 later that year as a solo single for Holly. Allison himself scored a modest solo hit with “Real Wild Child” — a cover of Johnny O’Keefe’s “Wild One” — which was released under his middle name, Ivan, in 1958 and peaked at No. 68 on the Billboard singles chart.
Following Holly’s death in a plane crash in February 1959 alongside fellow rock ‘n’ roll pioneers Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (a.k.a. The Big Bopper), Allison continued recording and touring as The Crickets with a rotating cast of band members including Mauldin, Sonny Curtis, Glen Hardin, Earl Sinks and Jerry Naylor. “More Than I Can Say,” a 1960 Crickets single co-written by Allison and Curtis, later became a No. 2 hit on the Hot 100 for Leo Sayer. Over the ensuing decades, Allison also became an in-demand session player, recording with such artists as Bobby Vee, Eddie Cochran, Waylon Jennings, Paul McCartney and Nanci Griffith.
— Jon Wurster (@jonwurster) August 22, 2022
— Austin City Limits (@acltv) August 22, 2022
Sad news . https://t.co/3exj32XMj1
— Clem Burke (@clem_burke) August 23, 2022