Oh, Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh, well, I love you gal
And I need you, Peggy Sue
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Peggy Sue Gerron
The song was a hit and is still admired today. But what inspired it? And where did it all come from? It all began with a collision. Buddy Holly and the Crickets were a popular band in the late 1950s. They had not reached worldwide hit status, but were on the road to international stardom.
The band had a gig in a gym at a high school in Sacramento, California. Holly was late. A young female student was carrying her books from class. Crash. The star and the student bumped into each other with the books flying in all directions. Fortunately, Holly's guitar and amp were not injured.
The singer apologized and ran.
Later, Jerry Allison, the drummer in Holly's band, introduced his girlfriend to Buddy Holly. The singer laughed out loud and reportedly said, "I've already overwhelmed your girl." The girl was the teenager in the great Sacramento smash.
Sacramento is a small but major city in California. Small in that it has only about half a million residents, but major in that it is the capital city of California. We know much about San Francisco and LA, but not so much about Sacramento. It's steeped in history, has marvelous old buildings, and a fabulous Mediterranean climate. Lovers of history and architecture will love Sacramento.
The arts, too, are big in Sacramento, which has one of the largest collections of small theaters in the country. Its larger ballet, opera, music theater, and drama companies have outstanding international reputations. The education facilities are first class and it was in one of its public high schools that a chance meeting was responsible for the creation of this hugely popular song.
The girl in the story – there is always a girl - was Peggy Sue Gerron. She was attractive and became the inspiration for one of Buddy Holly's most enduring hits. She was not only the inspiration for the song; it was actually named after her.
Gerron's 2008 memoir, Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?
It's more than half a century since the untimely death of Buddy Holly, tragically killed in a plane crash at the tender age of 22. But two things have remained alive and well in the last 50 years: the popularity of his music and the real-life inspiration for his song, "Peggy Sue."
Peggy Sue Gerron is now a grandmother and almost a septuagenarian. Her marriage to the musician didn't last and she married again and went from a drummer to a plumber. Not Joe the Plumber. He's young enough to be Peggy's son.
At the time it must have been heady stuff for the young Ms. Gerron. Her name was being heard by millions around the world. People fell in love with Peggy Sue and it didn't take long for her identity to become known.
Peggy Sue Gerron had a lot more than her fifteen minutes of fame. Try fifteen years or more. Even today people stop and ask her about the song and her part in its creation. One wonders what might have happened had Buddy bumped into Dropya Book or Freda Pong.
And Peggy the person didn't just have her school mates and family gossiping about her status. Oh no. She got the full stretch limo treatment. She made many public appearances, including one on the Dick Clark TV chat show. And all because she wasn't looking where she was going. Just goes to show you shouldn't always listen to your folks.
Gerron smiles when she sees some reactions today. Strangers meet her, discover who she is, and can't quite imagine the pretty teenager as an elderly plumber's wife. But then, that's showbiz in Sacramento.
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