Jerry Ivan Allison

Welcome into the Buddy Holly Educational Foundation as an honored friend, Ji. As Maria Elena says, “Buddy would be so pleased”

After watching the movie starring John Wayne, The Searchers, Buddy and Ji start writing a song based on a phrase used in the film, and a Rock & Roll classic is born.

First recorded at Owen Bradley’s studio in Nashville, it is re-recorded at Norman Petty’s studio, Clovis, NM and he is included as co-songwriter.

This version was released on the Brunswick label May 27th 1957, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jerry Allison’s first professional recording can be heard on a 45-rpm disc of another local legend named Hal Goodson and the Raiders. This very rare recording was named “Who’s Gonna Be the Next One Honey”. It was also performed at the Norman Petty studio in Clovis, New Mexico, about six months before “Peggy Sue” was recorded.

In their early days at the Lubbock Youth Center, Buddy Holly’s vocals and guitar were backed only by Jerry Allison’s drumming, allowing for some of Holly’s best guitar work.

Over time, Jerry Allison’s rhythm backup ranged from slapping hands-on-knees or hand-clapping the beat to a modal plainness of cymbal drumming. His snappy cracks at the snare drum gave power to the songs released under the name “The Crickets”. Later songs, released under Buddy Holly’s own name, were softer in tone and filled with innocence and longing. On these, Jerry Allison played only tom-toms in keeping with the sound of the vocals. His work on the Crickets’ recordings gave the records much of their distinctiveness and has influenced subsequent generations of rock and roll drummers.

Norman Petty, the manager, often manipulated song-writing credits and Jerry Allison, although credited with another recording to which he contributed little, helped to compose the music for some of the famous songs, notably “That’ll Be The Day” and “Peggy Sue” (Jerry Allison later married Peggy Sue Gerron, the namesake of the latter song who, in her biography quotes Jerry Allison admitting he did not write Peggy Sue, “Buddy did”). “That’ll Be The Day” was originally recorded by Holly before he started working with Petty, so the latter’s appearance on the songwriting credits for the later version by the Crickets illustrates the point about manipulation of the credits. Jerry Allison has referred in several published interviews to his role in composing “Not Fade Away”, whose credits show Norman Petty/Charles Hardin – the first and middle real names of Buddy Holly (Charles Hardin Holley).

Although Jerry Allison did not sing on the Crickets’ records made with Buddy Holly – despite misleading credits for the band’s recordings as “vocal group with instrumental accompaniment” – in 1958 he did release the single “Real Wild Child” – having heard Johnny O’Keefe play the original during the Crickets’ brief visit to Australia that year – which he recorded under the pseudonym Ivan, with Buddy Holly on guitar and backing vocals. It was a minor chart entry in 1958 and the first studio recording of the song that would become a rock standard. Jerry Allison also sang on a few later releases by the Crickets, both singles and album tracks.

Jerry Allison also worked as a session musician. For example, he played on the studio recording of The Everly Brothers’ “(Till) I Kissed You” in 1959.

After Holly’s death in 1959, Jerry Allison continued his musical career. He retained control of the band’s name, and has toured and recorded with a regularly changing group as The Crickets. The most consistent members of this band have been bassist Joe B. Mauldin who was in Buddy Holly’s Crickets, and guitarist-singer Sonny Curtis who played with Holly before The Crickets were formed in 1957, and rejoined shortly after Holly’s death. Others who have been in and out of the band include Glen D. Hardin, also associated with Elvis Presley’s live band; Albert Lee, also once part of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band; and assorted lead vocalists including Earl Sinks, David Box, Jerry Naylor, and Gordon Payne.

The band’s last recordings for the Coral label included several singles which were incorporated in the 1960 album In Style with The Crickets. The rock classic “I Fought the Law” written by Sonny Curtis, first appeared here, and tracks from singles released after Holly’s death included their version of Holly’s “Love’s Made a Fool of You”, a chart entry for them in the UK in late 1959, and the Jerry Allison/Curtis composition “More Than I Can Say” which was later recorded by Leo Sayer and other artists.

Jerry Allison switched the band’s contract to Liberty Records in 1960, after they had supported The Everly Brothers on a UK tour. He moved his base to Los Angeles, where an old Texas friend Snuff Garrett was installed as a senior producer at Liberty. Jerry Allison, with Sonny Curtis and another former Holly sideman, Tommy Allsup, became effectively members of the core the Liberty house band, working with Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette and others. In this period they also played as backing musicians on tracks by Eddie Cochran and, according to some reports, Conway Twitty. Both Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis were drafted at different times in this period, limiting any possibility of continuity in the make-up of The Crickets. Sonny Curtis also began to establish a significant solo career as a songwriter and singer/guitarist.

In the late 1970s, the band toured for a period with Waylon Jennings, another one-time Buddy Holly sideman. In more recent years, The Crickets have put out albums including collaborations with many artists who recognize their influence in early rock ‘n’ roll. These include Nanci Griffith, with whom they have also toured, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Johnny Rivers, Waylon Jennings, Bobby Vee, and many others.

In 2007, Jerry Allison was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN as a member of the Crickets.

In 2012, Jerry Allison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Crickets by a special committee, aimed at correcting the mistake of not including the Crickets with Buddy Holly when he was first inducted in 1986.

With the death of Crickets bassist Joe B. Mauldin in 2015, Jerry Allison became the only surviving member of the Crickets from their late-1950s heyday.

Nokie Edwards
Graham Gouldman