To watch and listen to Peggy Sue, please click and paste the link below!
The plane crash that spawned the song American Pie happened 60 years ago, taking the lives of Buddy Holy, Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, and that of the pilot. Here is a story about Buddy Holly's best known hit and its inspiration. It is from April 3, 2006.
I'm not sure how I came across the interview, probably looking up Knute Rockne's plane crash for an entry. That topic brought up websites devoted to Buddy Holly, the rockabilly pioneer from Lubbock, Texas who, like Rockne, was killed when a small plane went down in a Midwestern field. A description of a website dedicated to Holly mentioned a girl named Echo McGuire. My brain functions poorly mathematically and technically but it's a steel trap when it comes to names. I knew Echo McGuire was a student at York College, the same small Christian school in Nebraska I attended. Don't ask me how I knew. Maybe I saw it in an alumni bulletin or directory but I knew that unique name. I googled Echo McGuire. Sure enough, she was a York College student, graduating in 1958, and married to another Yorkite, Ron Griffith. So, why was the beautifully named Echo McGuire on a Buddy Holly website? The two were a couple for five years during high school and she retains a collection of Buddy Holly memorabilia. One lead on my Google search was an interview with Peggy Sue Gerron. Sound familiar? Buddy Holly's arguably most famous hit was Peggy Sue which led to the sequel, Peggy Sue Got Married, which led to the movie of the same name. The thing was, Peggy Sue was supposed to be Cindy Lou. Holly penned a song based on the name of his niece. His drummer, Jerry Allison, needed to impress his girlfriend. He asked Holly to switch the title to honor that girl, the lovely Peggy Sue Gerron. Holly agreed IF Allison could drum the song in paradiddles, an extremely fast beat. Holly was sure Allison couldn't do it but to his amazement, the drummer pulled it off. Fifties' music history was altered, as it always has been, by a boy trying to impress a girl. Jerry and Peggy Sue got married in real life. Peggy Sue, now sixty-six, never received a dime for the use of her name.
Did changing the title of the song make any difference in its ultimate popularity? Maybe, especially if we consider the name change was accompanied by a much faster beat. Peggy Sue sounds just right. Cindy Lou is just slightly off. Name changes represent milestones in our lives. Marriage and adoption both carry the option of a new moniker. (I wish I had a dollar for every female student over the years who, on her quiz, wrote her name linked with a certain young man!) The Bible records several name changes as well. Abram, Sarai, and Jacob became Abraham, Sarah, and Israel. Those three saw the directions of their lives altered as the Lord saw fit to rename them. It was always important when the Lord rechristened one of his children. The redirection of those three lives is the overriding factor in the family tree of Jesus Christ. Maybe Abraham did what Abram could never do. Maybe Sarah was a more fitting name for a mother-to-be and Israel sounds better for the name of a nation than Jacob. And maybe, Peggy Sue soared to musical heights while Cindy Lou would have been just another 45 rpm, not bad but not a remarkable tune of the fifties. I guess we'll never know.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Someone once asked me where I thought music would have taken Buddy. I said, 'You're asking the wrong question. Where was Buddy gonna take the music?' "
Waylon Jennings/ Country music legend who gave up his plane seat to Buddy Holly
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