Jerry Allison, Drummer and Songwriter for Buddy Holly, Dead at 82

Jerry “JI” Allison, the drummer best known for his work alongside Buddy Holly in the band the Crickets, has died at the age of 82.

“Our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Jerry ‘JI’ Allison, drummer in the Crickets, one of Buddy’s very closest friends, and the inspiration to drummers for decades since, who passed away today at the age of 82,” noted a message posted to Holly’s official Facebook page. “JI was a musician ahead of his time, and undoubtedly his energy, ideas and exceptional skill contributed to both the Crickets, and rock n’ roll itself, becoming such a success. Buddy is often heralded as the original singer-songwriter, but JI, too, wrote and inspired so many of the songs that would go on to be eternal classics.”

Born in 1939, Allison began collaborating with Holly in the mid-‘50s. Initially the two worked as a duo, but in 1957 they linked up with bassist Joe B. Mauldin and rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan, forming the Crickets.

The group’s debut album, The “Chirping” Crickets, arrived in November 1957. Single “That’ll Be the Day” — penned by Holly and Allison — became the band’s first hit, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

An unusual quirk meant Holly had two recording contracts at the time — one as a solo artist and one with the Crickets. Allison was involved with material for both, and contributed to 1958’s Buddy Holly album. The drummer played on all of the LP’s songs and also co-wrote two of the tracks: “Look at Me” and “Peggy Sue,” the latter of which became a rock classic.

Holly moved to New York in 1958, but Allison and the rest of the Crickets opted to stay in their home of Lubbock, Texas. A year later, Holly died in a plane crash, a tragedy commonly referred to as “the day the music died.”

After their frontman’s death, the Crickets continued to record and tour. The band released a total of 13 studio albums between 1960 and 2005, with Allison playing on every LP. The rocker also worked with other notable artists, including Eric Clapton (on the guitarist’s 1970 self-titled album) and Paul McCartney, who produced, played piano and sang back-up vocals on the Crickets 1988 single “T-shirt.”

Allison was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Crickets in 2012.

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