Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue

Buddy Holly and The Crickets on the Ed Sullivan show - 'Peggy Sue' The multi-million selling 'Peggy Sue' was originally issued in America on Coral 61885 and reached No.3 in the US charts on November 11th 1957, although it did take a while in reaching that position as it had been released in late September, the same month 'That'll Be The Day' had topped the American charts. On December 1st Buddy appeared on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' where he performed That'll Be The Day' and 'Peggy Sue'. 'Peggy Sue' was also to reach No.6 in the British charts in January 1958.

Due to contractual problems with various record companies, 'That'll Be The Day' was credited to The Crickets and 'Peggy Sue' was issued under the single name 'Buddy Holly'. Following an unfortunate experience recording for Decca Records, Buddy Holly was seeking a record company that would allow him to record the style of music he wanted to play. With Decca, he'd been labelled a country artist. He didn't have much money at the time, which probably discouraged him from travelling as far as Memphis to approach Sun Records. He'd heard of an independent producer in Clovis, New Mexico, a town that was only a distance of 90 miles from Buddy's home in Lubbock, Texas. The producer was Norman Petty. Petty had agreed to give Buddy and his backing band autonomy over the production of the records, which is why Buddy was quite happy to agree to co-credits for Petty on his own song-writing works.

Petty (below, left) also became the group's manager and Buddy and Jerry Ivan 'J.I.' Allison, a drummer who had been with Buddy for some time, were joined by Joe B. Mauldin and Niki Sullivan and called themselves 'Buddy Holly and The Crickets. The Crickets were signed to Brunswick and Buddy's releases went through Coral. The quartet made their first record 'That'll Be The Day' with Norman Petty, in Clovis, on 25th February 1957. Petty doubted that the song had potential, but it went to No.1 in the charts. The next single 'Peggy Sue' was to be issued on Coral, which is why Holly was the only artist credited. Buddy had nearly completed the song in his room at home when Jerry Allison dropped in to see what he was doing. Holly had originally written the number under the title 'Cindy Lou', which was the name of his young niece but when Jerry requested that the name be changed to that of his girlfriend Peggy Sue, Buddy agreed.

Of the recording, Allison recalls "I messed it up the first time through, and either Buddy or Norman said, 'Ok, if you don't get it right this time, we're going to change it back to 'Cindy Lou'. But the second time we got it, and it stayed 'Peggy Sue'." Funnily enough, it was Allison himself who had got the name wrong on the first recording! On the number, Buddy displays his familiar hiccupping style, which was actually an effect common to many vocalists with a country music background at the time.

The Coral executives actually picked 'Everyday' as the A side as they didn't believe that 'Peggy Sue' had hit potential. Common sense prevailed and 'Everyday' went on the B side - although the number was strong enough to be issued as an A side single in its own right. Apart from the stylised Holly vocal hiccup, the number is also distinguished by Allison's rapid, accented drumming and Buddy's guitar style. Commenting on Buddy's guitar work on the number, Allison said, "I've never seen anyone since who plays it that way. Every other guitar player strums it back and forth with his pick - down-up-down-up-down-up-down-up, like that. But Holly did it with just down strokes - down-down-down-down-down-down-down-down." It was sixteen to the bar and Buddy was singing at the same time.

Due to the fact that Petty had insisted on being credited for songs written by Buddy, Holly didn't receive a proper songwriting credit for the number. Norman Petty claimed that Holly came to him with the tune one morning during a recording session at Clovis and that he wrote the lyrics. However, Jerry Allison was to confirm that Petty's only contribution was the chord alteration in the bridge of the song.
Only Allison and Petty were listed as writers of the song until after Buddy's death, after which Jerry insisted that Buddy be given credit and that royalties of the song be more fairly distributed. He said, "After Buddy got killed, we all went to New York to straighten things out. So the contract on 'Peggy Sue' said Norman and me, and I said, 'Right, Buddy did write part of 'Peggy Sue', and he might be gone and all that, but I'm not gonna sit here and say he didn't." Petty said, "Well you can say what you want to, or you can look at the contract." Allison told him, "Well, the estate can just take my half now." It ended up with Allison getting just 10 per cent.
Buddy Holly and The Crickets
Buddy Holly and The Crickets: Niki Sullivan, Joe Mauldin, Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison

Norman Petty in the Clovis studio 'Peggy Sue' became the first female heroine of a rock'n'roll song and her name lived on in other artists' compositions, including Bobby Darin's 'Splish Splash' and 'Queen Of The Hop' and Richie Valens with 'Ooh My Head?' Jerry Allison actually married his Peggy Sue, although they were later to be divorced. Buddy's father then suggested the title 'Peggy Sue Got Married' to Buddy as a possible sequel to 'Peggy Sue'. Buddy was living in New York at the time and on January 22nd 1959 he began taping the last of a series of songs as demo's in his apartment. Among them was 'Peggy Sue Got Married', which was released posthumously after being overdubbed by New York musicians. Buddy Holly's career flashed past like a shooting star in the firmament.

He was born Charles Hardin Holley on September 7th 1936 and died tragically in an air crash on February 3rd 1959. He was only 22 years old. Despite that, in his all-too-brief career, he wrote and recorded songs that have stood the test of time. Apart from 'Peggy Sue' they include 'That'll Be The Day', 'Everyday', 'Rave On', 'True Love Ways', 'Heartbeat', 'Oh Boy', 'Not Fade Away', 'Listen To Me', 'It's So Easy', 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore', 'Raining In My Heart', 'Moondreams', 'Mailman Bring Me No More Blues', 'Reminiscing', 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man', 'Maybe Baby', 'Love Is Strange' and several others.




Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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