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Peggy Sue Gerron, Who Inspired Buddy Holly Classic, Dead at 78

“Peggy Sue” namesake went to same Lubbock high school as rocker, married Crickets drummer Jerry Allison

Peggy Sue Gerron unveils her new book "What Ever Happened to Peggy Sue" during a press conference in Tyler, Texas, Friday Jan.  11,2008. (AP Photo/Jaime R. Carrero,Tyler Morning Telegraph)

Peggy Sue Gerron, the woman who inspired Buddy Holly's 1957 classic, "Peggy Sue," has died at the age of 78.

Jaime R. Carrero/AP

Peggy Sue Gerron, the woman who inspired Buddy Holly’s 1957 hit song “Peggy Sue,” died Monday at the University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports. She was 78.

Gerron met Holly in Lubbock in the mid-Fifties when he was a budding musician and she was still a high school student at Lubbock High (Holly’s alma mater). As Gerron recalled, their first encounter occured when Holly, running late for a gig, accidentally knocked her over. “He ran over to me, guitar in one hand, amp in the other, and said, ‘I don’t have time to pick you up, but you sure are pretty’, before he ran off,” Gerron told the BBC in 2013. “So another girl came and helped me pick up my books and she said, ‘Do you know who that was? That was Buddy Holly.'”

Several weeks later, Gerron was on a date with her future husband, Crickets drummer Jerry Allison, when they ran into Holly and his date. “[Holly] started laughing, Jerry asked him what was so funny, and he said ‘I’ve already overwhelmed your Peggy Sue,'” Gerron remembered.

As for how Gerron ended up as the namesake of “Peggy Sue,” there are several versions of the legend. In one telling, the track was first titled “Cindy Lou,” after Holly’s niece, but Allison convinced his bandmate to change it in order to impress Gerron. In another version, Holly changed the title to placate Allison after their producer, Norman Petty, forced him to play in the studio’s reception room because his snare was too loud.

Gerron first heard Holly and the Crickets play “Peggy Sue” at a concert in a packed school auditorium. “I was just delighted, I thought it was a fascinating song,” she told the BBC. “It’s really hard to stand still when you’re listening to ‘Peggy Sue.'”

“Peggy Sue” peaked at Number Three on the Billboard singles chart. Holly even wrote a sequel to the track, “Peggy Sue Got Married,” which was posthumously released in 1959 after the rock legend died in a plane crash.

The real Peggy Sue did marry Allison, and the couple stayed together through much of the Sixties. Gerron even spent some time on the road with the Crickets as they continued to tour and perform after Holly’s death. After Gerron and Allison divorced, Gerron returned to California — where she’d been born — went back to college, became a dental assistant, remarried and had two children. According to the bio on her website, she even became the first licensed woman plumber in California after her husband started a plumbing business.

Gerron returned to Lubbock in the mid-Nineties to care for her ailing mother. In later years, Gerron became a devoted ham radio enthusiast, and in 2008 she published a memoir, Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue? During her BBC interview, Gerron spoke about the peculiar nature of her place in rock and roll history and what it’s like to encounter Holly fans.

“I think they have me frozen in time, I think when most people think of me, it’s as a young woman frozen in an era that has long passed,” Gerron said. “But it hasn’t limited me. You have to be you, and I couldn’t stand up and say, well, no, that’s not me.”

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