RIP Jerry “J.I.” Allison

Retro Dee is a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.

Well, folks I knew this day would come. On August 22, 2022 we said goodbye to the best drummer who ever lived, one of the very first Pioneers of Rock N Roll, Jerry “J.I.” Allison.

Jerry Allison in 1958

Jerry Ivan Allison was born in Hillsboro, TX on August 31, 1939. He attended Lubbock Senior High School with Buddy Holley and the two started a band. Their music was based on Rhythm and Blues, something not often heard in their hometown.

Jerry was The Crickets drummer before they were even called The Crickets, and so he remained for the rest of the band’s life.

In 2005, Jerry Allison told The Sunday News of Lancaster, PA. the story of how The Crickets got their name. Despite rumors that The Crickets were named due to a cricket stuck in the wall of Petty Studios, the real story goes something like this:

Buddy and Jerry were over at the Allison house one day, when Buddy (inspired by a group called “The Spiders”) suggested they name their new band after an insect. They began going through the insect listings in the encyclopidia. They actually rejected The Beetles as a name. Why? Because people step on beetles! So Jerry suggested “The Crickets” because crickets make a happy sound.

And so, Rock N Roll history began.

The Crickets in 1958: Joe B. Maldin, Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison

Jerry graduated from Lubbock High in 1956. By 1957, The Crickets had their first charted Number One, “That’ll Be The Day”, which Jerry co-wrote with Buddy Holly. Jerry is also credited for writing the classic hit “Peggy Sue”, however he later stated that Buddy Holly should be credited with writing the song. The name, “Peggy Sue” was changed from “Cindy Lou” when Jerry asked Buddy to change it in honor of the girl Jerry was trying to win back, Peggy Sue Gerron. The song peaked at Number 3 on the charts in the US at the end of 1957. On July 22, 1958, Jerry Allison married Peggy Sue Gerron. He was just 18 years old on his wedding day.

The Crickets at practice: Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison and Joe B. Maldin ca. 1958

The following year, at the age of 19, Jerry lost one of his very closest friends. Buddy Holly perished in the infamous plane crash of February 3, 1959. Jerry was one of the pallbearers at Buddy’s funeral which took place in Lubbock, TX on February 7, 1959.

For the decades to come, Jerry Allison remained a loyal friend to Buddy Holly. Not only did he remain performing in the band, he corrected any misinformation which stemmed from rumors and Hollywood biopics, and helped those of us who came after to learn about Buddy and The Crickets and their amazing journey together as bandmates and friends. Jerry’s friendship and loyalty to Buddy was perhaps one of the finest things about the man who played the drums in the Best Band Ever.

Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison. 1958.

J.I. Allison was inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame with The Crickets (Joe B. Mauldin, Niki Sullivan and Sonny Curtis) in 2012, 26 years after Buddy Holly was inducted with the first group of Pioneers when Rock Hall’s doors first opened.

Jerry Allison’s death comes just 8 days before what would have been his 83rd Birthday. A long, charmed life, but we as fans are never ready to hear that it ends. The date, August 22, 2022 is nearly one year to the day of Don Everly’s death on August 21, 2021.

You could say that the original four Crickets and The Everly Brothers are all together again, if you believe that sort of thing. Not exactly sure I do. Upon finding out about Jerry’s death on the morning of August 23, 2022, my initial reaction was anger. I shouted out loud: “No, no, no! UGH!!” and slammed my lap top shut. Jerry was always the one who was still around; the constant light in a darkening world, the Living Bridge to the everlasting brightness of Buddy Holly’s Star. Jerry was a part of this world, our world, and when you have a legend like that on Earth, there’s never a right time to say goodbye.

Forced to face reality regardless, I wondered what I should do next. I’d already written my post for the upcoming week, but I knew it would have to be changed. So I went through my downloaded pictures of the band. I imagined all four of them together again as they were in one of my favorite photos, taken on Jerry’s 18th Birthday, on August 31, 1957.

Jerry, Joe, Niki and Buddy. August 31, 1957.

Then I set out to run the planned errands for the day. When I stepped outside of our condo, the construction workers and maintenance people were on their daily jobs… but above the noise of the workers, I heard some shrill chirping. There were crickets singing in the bushes.

“Now that’s just eerie,” I thought. And I couldn’t help but smile at the symbolism.

The Crickets perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. December 1, 1957. L-R: Niki, Buddy, Jerry and Joe

Rest in Peace, Jerry. We love you. Thanks for everything.

J.I. Allison young and old
Jerry “J.I.” Allison (1939-2022)

Thank you for reading this post. You can also follow Retro Dee on Twitter @RealRetroDee and on Instagram @mariepascal82

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