Up Close with Peggy Sue Gerron
The 'Real' Peggy Sue
[Interviewer's Note: A product of the unique '50s American middle-class family that has become extinct in many ways, Peggy Sue Gerron was a typical '50s teenage girl from West Texas during a time of innocence and uncomplicated living. Peggy liked boys, wore bobby socks and Peter Pan collars, went to dances, double-dated, cruised drive-in restaurants with her friends, wanted to be liked, and, in all likelihood, had visions that one day she would marry and live happily ever after. But then she met Buddy Holly and her life changed forever.
In this featured interview with Peggy Sue, she does her best to tell it like it was while taking care not to elaborate on sensitive issues because, indeed, Peggy is not an ungenerous type of person. But her genuine replies to my questions do reveal a hint of melancholy, which most often comes with the territory of celebrity standing-in her case, for being known for having one of the most recognizable names in the world.]
[Lance Monthly] When and where were you born Peggy, and how many brothers and sisters do you have?
Peggy Sue Gerron I was born in Olton, Texas, June 15, 1940. Waylon Jennings was born up the road on June 15, 1936. I have one sister who is thirteen years older than me.
[Lance Monthly] Did you grow up in a neighborhood or in the country?
Peggy Sue Gerron I grew up in a neighborhood.
[Lance Monthly] Did any members of your birth family (including you) play a musical instrument?
Peggy Sue Gerron Oh yes! My uncle played guitar, my Aunt Peggy, whom I was named after, played drums, [and] my cousin played guitar and fiddle. I played the alto saxophone (first chair in the Lubbock High School Marching Band and Orchestra).
[Lance Monthly] What were the typical things that you did to entertain yourself during your early youth and what chores were required of you by your parents?
Peggy Sue Gerron In my really early years I played with my cat, paper dolls, and dolls. In grade school I played baseball and shot BB guns. Junior high finally came along. It was music, music, and more music, with a lot of dancing.
Chores: Cleaning house on weekends, [and the] hardwood floors had to be stripped and waxed . . . then buffed. I did a lot of the errands for my grandpa. In the summer I had to help pick and can vegetables. My grandfather lived with us. After I could drive, I did a lot of errands.
[Lance Monthly] Who were the first artists that you liked and listened to on the radio before the dawning of rock 'n' roll?
Peggy Sue Gerron Growing up in a house with a teenage sister, I mainly listened to her music. I still love [the] jitterbug [big-band] era: Glenn Miller, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Skeeter Davis, [and] some classical. Then came rock-Hank Ballard and all the rhythm and blues.
[Lance Monthly] When did you attend Lubbock High and were you living in Lubbock during that time? Did Lubbock High have a freshman class?
Peggy Sue Gerron I believe it was 1955-56 that I went into Lubbock High as a sophomore. I attended LHS almost two years. I went to girls' school in Sacramento, California, in my third year. Lubbock High didn't have a freshman class. We moved to Lubbock when I was in the sixth grade.
[Lance Monthly] What was it like attending Lubbock High and would you say that you hung out with the popular crowd? Did you get involved in a lot of school activities?
Peggy Sue Gerron It was very scary attending LHS. We only had one high school for all of Lubbock and every high-school student went to LHS until they got the new one opened in the middle of the year. I wanted to climb into my locker and lock it and hope nobody saw me. I was not in the click. I was in band, which made me a nerd. I was in marching band and symphony.
[Lance Monthly] How did the teenage boys and girls typically dress at Lubbock High?
Peggy Sue Gerron The boys wore Levis and T-shirts, or a sweater if it was winter. It seemed to me that all boys had black shoes and white socks. The girls wore extravagant can-can petticoats. My mother made mine: Peter Pan collars, white ruffles down the front of the blouse, and you either wore your poodle skirt, which was very full over your can-can, or a straight skirt with dyed to match (hopefully they matched) sweater sets. I don't know why we didn't have colored socks in high school, but I wore white bobby socks. They fold over at the top and look pretty clumsy. My shoes were white-buck oxfords.
[Lance Monthly] Was there a particular subject that you were interested in while attending Lubbock High, with the possibility of carrying that interest into college?
Peggy Sue Gerron Only music and drama and some writing.
[Lance Monthly] What were the popular teen hangouts in Lubbock and did you have a car of your own during that time?
Peggy Sue Gerron I only got to drive my dad's little Ford, which I believe was a '55. My hangout was Hi-D-Ho, which was on 19th Street and the Hi-D-Ho Junior, which was on College Ave. The skating rink was next door to Hi-D-Ho Junior, and then the movie theaters.
[Lance Monthly] You say Lubbock High was scary. Was that because you were just new to the school and really didn't know anyone? How long did it take you to settle in with the school and who was your first best friend?
Peggy Sue Gerron It was because of the caste system here in Lubbock. I knew everybody I had gone to junior high with, especially those in band, but I was Catholic and lived on the wrong side of town. My dad was civil service and not old money of Lubbock. [But] it actually didn't take me very long. Marching band started in August before school started and once it started, I made all sorts of friends.
My best friend and neighbor was Daniel Erhorn, who played baritone sax in junior high and high school with me. Jerry Hurst was my next-door neighbor. I think he played French horn. Zan Smith was also a neighbor and in the band. Those were my friends when I entered high school.
I had one terrific friend, a senior in high school, who [after taking] one look at me, befriended me-Sue Moore. She was head of band-girls' sorority and made things a little easier for me on the social side.
[Lance Monthly] Peggy, describe to our readers the usual setting of the Hi-D-Ho. Was it a typical drive-in restaurant in which all the cool cats would congregate to show off their cars, their dates, and their '50s machismo? Did you meet the owners?
Peggy Sue Gerron The Hi-D-Ho on 19th Street was in a semi-circle. You could drive all the way around it and check all the cars out or park and go in. Of course, we had carhops, too. It was a typical drive-in restaurant for Lubbock, Texas. I don't know about the rest of the world. We had a black cook-Stubbs-who did a lot for Lubbock and a lot for us kids. If we were hungry he always cooked us a hamburger. Whether you were hungry or not, Stubbs didn't let you leave hungry. I don't know if the owner knew that. Maybe he did. Stubbs continued to do a lot for the musicians who came through town.
[Lance Monthly] What was the connection and differences between the Hi-D-Ho and the Hi-D-Ho Junior? Did the Hi-D-Ho Junior drive-in become the cooler of the two at which to hang out?
Peggy Sue Gerron The Junior had wings away from the main restaurant where you could park. It had a roof that extended out over the cars. It wasn't the same design as the Hi-D-Ho. Junior was next to the skating rink, and I believe that was the one where Buddy and Jerry were going to play on the roof. The owner did not let them play on the roof, but allowed them to perform. At a later date, they played at a car lot on the roof.
Junior was in the north side of town, the old part of Lubbock, while the other was on 19th street, which at that time was considered the middle of town. The south side of town was new and [had] more affluent homes. The east side of Lubbock was [the] black community.
I assumed the owners were the same. I don't know.
[Lance Monthly] Peggy, how far did you go with your musical training and skills?
Peggy Sue Gerron I learned to read music in the seventh grade and could do a pretty good job sight-reading. By the time I graduated [from] high school, I could have probably been able to do lead sheets and that was my hope with the publishing company. [I've] always had piano in the house for my daughter, which, I too, plunk around on.
I wrote one song, "Lost and Alone," with J.I. Allison and the Crickets in - I think - 1964, [which was] recorded on Liberty records. When I was invited to be on the 7th Street Legends and be [a] part of George Tomosco's Fireballs' CD, [and] to get to be any part of Robert Lindville and David Bigham (The Roses) was a great thrill, not to mention Gary and Ramona Tollett ("That'll Be the Day" back-up singers). When you see me up there on stage there is no talent-just me having a great time!
[Lance Monthly] Under what circumstances did you meet Buddy Holly? Did he share a similar high-school class with you? Was he introduced to you by someone, or did you meet him at the Hi-D-Ho?
Peggy Sue Gerron Buddy had graduated in '55, before I started high school that year. He came back to Lubbock High School, I guess to play, in an assembly. [While] I was going out the back door to the band room and Buddy was coming in carrying a guitar and amp, [he] knocked me on my tush and came over and said, "I'm very sorry. I don't have time to help you up, but you sure are pretty." Even then he was good at selling! I went, "yeah, right." I stood up, brushed myself off, picked up my books, and a girl came by in the hallway and I said, "Who was that?" She said, "You don't know who that is!" "No, who was he?" "That's Buddy Holly!" I said, "Good for him."
A couple of months later, Jerry Allison had asked me to double date with his best friend. I said okay. Jerry picked me up on [a] Saturday night and I walked to the car and there sat this young man and his date; he was dying laughing and I started to laugh. Jerry got in the car and said, "What's so funny?" Buddy said, "I've already overwhelmed your Peggy Sue," meaning that he had knocked me down physically. I laughed and said, "You certainly have."
[Lance Monthly] What were the circumstances around your first meeting with J.I. and when did that occur? In addition, what was it about his demeanor that impressed you?
Peggy Sue Gerron I met "Jivin' Ivin" when I was in the seventh grade and he was in the ninth. He played drums in the ninth-grade band. He was funny and could make me laugh. J.I. always had something to say in class. He had the personality of Fonzy in Happy Days. It wasn't unusual to see J.I. with his collar turned up or his hairstyle changed. I thought he was cute, but he was too short and he thought I was fat. In high school everything changed. He was taller and I was tall and thin.
[Lance Monthly] Peggy, you and I are about the same age and we teens cruised Central Avenue (Albuquerque's main street) during the late '50s, visiting the two or three drive-ins along this main drag in our customized 1949 to 1956 Fords, Mercurys, or Chevrolets. Customization in those days was removing all chrome (the holes being filled in with lead), lowering the back with six-inch shackles, adding loud mufflers, and dressing the car up with extended-chrome exhaust pipes, including the employment of moon or Oldsmobile flipper hubcaps. If you drove any car brands other than what I mentioned and if the engine had fewer cylinders than eight, you were considered a big-time square. And, of course, color was everything: It had to be either pink, purple, or bronze. How does this car description compare to that of the vehicles driven by the Lubbock teens in the late '50s? Any similarities?
Peggy Sue Gerron To tell you the truth, I did good to talk my Mom and Dad out of our little Ford to cruise between the two Hi-D-Ho's. J.I. drove a little black Chevy sedan that belonged to his parents. On special occasions, they let him drive a new Pontiac that was pale blue and white. I wasn't paying attention to the cars. If it looked clean, it got my vote. Did I answer this question like a girl?
[Lance Monthly] When you and J.I. double-dated with Holly and his girl friend, do you recall who Buddy's date was, and did you go to a drive-in theater? Also, was the general conversation during the date mostly about Buddy Holly and J.I.'s future music plans?
Peggy Sue Gerron Buddy's date that evening was Echo McGuire, and, no, we did not go to a drive-in theater. We went to a movie downtown-I think the State Theater. I remember I was impressed with Buddy and Jerry because I had not been to the new theater.
Yes, we did discuss music and this is where it gets a little tricky. We did not discuss their plans, but we discussed music. We had many music differences and that's putting it lightly. Echo McGuire's religion did not believe in music. "It was the devil's workshop." I, on the other hand, hated country music. At that time, all the artists sounded like they had their mouths attached to their noses.
We did talk about the records that I was getting from Dallas. My brother-in-law had a friend that changed the jukeboxes out for all the cafes. I had all the early rhythm and blues records. My thing was learning to dance. As I remember, the car was a little quiet after Echo expressed her opinion and I expressed mine. Echo didn't dance either due to her beliefs.
[Lance Monthly] What stood out in Buddy's personality that you liked and disliked?
Peggy Sue Gerron I cannot think of anything that I didn't like about Buddy. He was quiet, not shy. He didn't mind giving his opinion, but you would have to ask him. The very best thing about him was the fact that he was not a snob. He would talk to anybody. He would take the time to make you feel comfortable. If I got quiet when all of us were out doing something (entertainers tend to be on all the time), Buddy would find some way to make me talk.
[Lance Monthly] In the late '50s in Albuquerque, a teen was either a cool cat, a pachuco, a stomper (one who dressed in formed fitted western shirts, stovepipe cowboy boots, and large belt buckles), or a square. Were these terms familiar to you in Lubbock during that time?
Peggy Sue Gerron We used the terms cool and square a lot, and we had lots of cowboys around here. We called them cowboys. They were not square, and if we had called them square they would've stomped us in the ground. They were always tougher than we were.
[Lance Monthly] Going back to your double-date, I take it that Holly hadn't yet achieved his breakout rock 'n' roll success and that he and J.I. were still playing country music, right? In addition, do you recall some of the artists of the records you talked about and if Echo made any reference to the kind of music she liked?
Peggy Sue Gerron They were playing country, and maybe some of it was early rockabilly, but they were playing in country clubs here in Lubbock. I believe one of the artists we talked about was Hank Ballard. Most of my records were all black rhythm and blues. Echo McGuire didn't give a particular music preference. I know that her church did not allow any instruments and she did not dance. Buddy took her to his senior prom but they did not dance.
[Lance Monthly] In your opinion, what was it that attracted Buddy to Echo McGuire and did you and she become friends to some degree?
Peggy Sue Gerron Echo was a very nice girl, and very good looking. That, of course, attracted him. Also, there was parental approval because their parents were already acquainted. She was about the same size as Buddy's mother (I bet a size three or five) and had dark, curly poodle-style hair, as I recall. What I remember is her dark hair framing her face. She was a pretty girl. I always thought it was interesting that Maria Elena reminded me of Echo. We did become friends [and] were out socially on double dates two or three times, until she broke up with Buddy.
[Lance Monthly] When Elvis Presley came to Lubbock, did you see him perform? Did you become a die-hard fan?
Peggy Sue Gerron My mother would not let me go to see Elvis. She felt that it wasn't at a proper venue. Also, she had heard many things about him. (He wasn't that famous then.) She had a friend who was a relative of Elvis' and she wasn't letting her kid go, so I couldn't go either.
I did become a die-hard fan without even seeing him. I never missed a movie. When I moved to Hollywood in the '60s, Elvis was doing movies there. He had a white limo and I saw it drive down Hollywood Blvd one day. I was thrilled! I was all of maybe twenty at the time. I finally made it to Graceland in 2003 and loved every moment of it. If you have not been there I recommend you go!
[Lance Monthly] Do you believe that Elvis was the catalyst for the birth of West-Texas Rockabilly, and do you recall how Buddy and J.I. felt about Presley when they first saw him perform in Lubbock? How excited were they?
Peggy Sue Gerron Yes, I do. I think Buddy and Jerry were just blown away when they met him, and I think it was the birth of rockabilly for West Texas. He played Lubbock, San Angelo, and Midland-Odessa. Out of that came rock and roll's royalty. We had Buddy Knox, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Jerry Naylor, Glen Campbell, and Waylon Jennings. I think we can truly say rock was born.
Carl Perkins used to say: "Buddy Holly didn't give birth to rock and roll, but he sure rocked the cradle." You can obviously tell from that lineup of stars that everybody was impressed with Elvis Presley; that's why we called him the King. However, as far as musical talent, Elvis didn't write songs or music, BUT his aura was magnetic.
[Lance Monthly] When did you meet Bob Montgomery and what was your first impression of him?
Peggy Sue Gerron The very first time I met Bob Montgomery was after Jerry and I were married. He was living in Clovis, New Mexico, and working with Norman Petty. He was on the reserved side and always very pleasant. When I was in junior high, Bob's mother and daddy owned a hamburger stand in Lubbock, and you would see Buddy and Bob riding Bob's little green motor scooter carrying a bag of hamburgers to go practice. Sometimes Buddy would be holding a guitar case while Bob held onto the bag of hamburgers.
[Lance Monthly] Do you remember the day when Buddy broke up with Echo, and did he try to get you to help patch things up between the two of them?
Peggy Sue Gerron No, I don't remember the day they broke up. I was probably in Sacramento going to school at the time. But Buddy did talk about Echo to me. If he tried to [get me to] patch it up, I'm not aware of that. I am aware of the fact that he was very hurt. Buddy told me that he did not believe that God intended him to give up his music, and that he could not live without his music or without God. He did not believe music was a sin. She did. She wanted him to give up his music. He was still talking about that in June of 1958. I'm not sure when they broke up.
[Lance Monthly] Coincidentally, I turned eighteen when you married J.I. on July 22, 1958. Where did you get married and was it a big wedding? Did The Crickets jam at your reception and did Norman and Vi Petty attend?
Peggy Sue Gerron We eloped to his uncle's house, who was a Methodist minister in Honey Grove, Texas. No, it was not a big wedding; it was a house wedding. No one was at our wedding but Mr. and Mrs. Allison and Jerry's aunt and uncle. His uncle was the one that performed the ceremony. His parents just kind of showed up. I regret not having my parents there, also.
[Lance Monthly] Did you hear "That'll Be the Day" before it was released? What was your overall impression of the song and were you convinced that it would be a hit?
Peggy Sue Gerron I didn't hear it before it was released. I heard it afterward. I loved it. I was sure it would be a hit. I came home to visit sometime during that year and everybody in Lubbock was talking about it.
[Lance Monthly] When "That'll Be the Day" became a smash hit, did you and J.I. believe that riches were just around the corner?
Peggy Sue Gerron I don't remember us thinking about riches being around the corner. The focus was a big deal with Jerry and Buddy. They didn't want to be a one-hit record or one-hit [wonder] band. What I recall was feeling some of the stress.
[Lance Monthly] How tough was it for you when J.I. was on the road, and would you say that this was the principal reason for the breakup of the marriage?
Peggy Sue Gerron It certainly did not help the marriage. There seemed to be a lot of distance between Jerry and I. There were other factors involved in the marriage [that were] not working.
[Lance Monthly] You said that you recall feeling some of the stress in The Crickets' breakout success. Did that have anything to do with how Norman Petty was handling the band's affairs? In addition, how well did you get along with Norman and Vi?
Peggy Sue Gerron The stress that I recall stems from a couple of things that happened. I should say that this is my opinion and what I felt through that period of time. I was not in there listening to the closed-door meetings that Buddy, J.I. and Norman had. What I got was their feelings when they came out of the meeting. I will always feel very sorry that there was so much confusion for all three of them.
Norman was always very pleasant to me, but definitely an authority figure. If I wanted to buy a washing machine and dryer, he picked it out. Vi, on the other hand, was my friend. We did girl things and I would help her with her hair and make up. We did a lot of cooking for the guys at the studio. At midnight we would be in the kitchen making butterscotch pies while the guys recorded. We spent time with Norman and Vi in New York after losing Buddy. They stayed with us in our apartment in Hollywood when they came out to do business.
[Lance Monthly] I know you've told this story a thousand times, but maybe you could add some detail that you haven't expressed before: Why did J.I. want Buddy to use your name in the hit song, "Peggy Sue" and what was your reaction upon hearing it?
Peggy Sue Gerron I think when Buddy started to do the song over, J.I. suggested my name because he wanted to impress me. I think Buddy liked it because he knew me, also. As J.I. always said, "Peggy Sue rhymes with everything." The night I heard Buddy and The Crickets perform the new song, I was delighted; it was and is a great song.
[Lance Monthly] Peggy, your website says that you toured with The Crickets after Holly's death in 1959. Could you elaborate on your on-the-road experiences for our readers? What were the positives and negatives (if any) and did you perform with the band?
Peggy Sue Gerron I did not perform with the band. I counted tickets at the gate because we were paid on ticket sales. We had a long list of loading and unloading the trailer and keeping all our equipment together and keeping their uniforms looking clean. I did a lot of driving. They sat in the back, wrote songs, and drank beer.
The positive side was the people and the crowds. They were great. For some reason, they always included my name on the billing, which I think gave J.I. consternation. I worked with the bookers to make sure we got there on time and tried to keep up with the receipts. The negative is there [was] always 300 miles to the next place and living out of a suitcase.
[Lance Monthly] Did you receive any royalties for the use of your name in "Peggy Sue" and "Peggy Sue Got Married?"
Peggy Sue Gerron No, I did not, nor was I offered any. I still do not get any today when people use my name in any form.
[Lance Monthly] After Buddy's untimely death, what recording session(s) did you personally attend and what studio(s) were used. In addition, did you at any time personally record your voice and employ any backup musicians in your finished tracks?
Peggy Sue Gerron The first recording session we had after Buddy Holly was killed was a Cricket album that had to be released because a contract had been signed that it would be made. Sonny Curtis, JI, Joe B, and, I believe, Earl Sinks were the musicians. One of the songs that Sonny wrote at the last minute was "I Fought the Law." It was a studio in New York. I don't recall the name, but it was upstairs and we had a difficult time getting all the equipment upstairs. I don't remember the name of the recording studio in NY.
Barbara Tomsco of the Fireballs and I did one demo with Jerry Allison and George. It was never put out. Other than the 7th Street Legends, I have done nothing. Thank you for asking.
[Lance Monthly] When you said you felt sorry for the boys because of their frustration after their closed-door meetings with Norman, was that strictly financial in nature?
Peggy Sue Gerron No, it was not so much the money as the direction Buddy wanted to go in, and Norman was trying to mediate the situation because Jerry didn't want to go to New York. They were trying to [find] a solution.
[Lance Monthly] Do you recall the events that led up to Buddy's falling out with Norman, and do you think Buddy was justified in wanting to leave him?
Peggy Sue Gerron Yes, I recall the events. I will name only a few as I have gone into great detail in the book I am writing and it would take too long for the magazine article. To put it simply, problem one: The contract on Peggy Sue was wrong. Why Norman had left Buddy Holly off the writer's contract is something I will never understand. The only writers listed were Jerry Allison and Norman Petty.
Another event was that Buddy wanted to be on TV-Dick Clark, etc.-from L.A., and be in movies. Norman was totally against that move because Norman did not know anything about L.A. at that time.
The third event was that Buddy Holly wanted his own publishing company, in New York, and at a later date wanted his own label. I believe all these things could have been worked out had it not gotten so emotional.
[Lance Monthly] Many of the Holly bios said that Norman tried to turn the rest of the Crickets against Buddy after Holly's move to New York, saying in part that The Crickets can do just fine without him. Do you think Norman was successful in convincing the Crickets that they could continue successfully without Buddy Holly?
Peggy Sue Gerron I have never felt that was a true statement because it was Jerry Allison who had gone to Norman Petty and confided in him.
[Lance Monthly] Did Norman ask you and J.I. to pick up the famous Apartment Tapes in New York City, and did you and J.I. listen to them on Holly's Ampex recorder?
Peggy Sue Gerron No, Norman did not ask us to pick them up. We had all been in New York settling up the final estate on Buddy. I had spent the night with Maria Elena and she took me over to see her and Buddy's apartment. I was alone with Maria when I heard the tapes. Maria returned them to Mrs. Ella Holley at a later date and it was she that gave them to Norman, with a cry of help.
[Lance Monthly] A couple of things were heard on the Apartment Tapes that have always been confusing: One was when Maria Elena said something like "Are you going to play this for Tina when she gets back?" The other was a name that was mentioned that sounds something like "Jack Negreen." Do you know who Jack and Tina are?
Peggy Sue Gerron I never knew who Jack and Tina were. I only assumed they were friends of Maria Elena.
[Lance Monthly] When you say Norman was looking for a solution to Buddy's new direction with The Crickets, do you recall the final straw that broke the camel's back, which caused the permanent split between Petty and Holly? In addition, how did the rest of the members of The Crickets react? Did they think that the days of The Crickets were numbered without Buddy?
Peggy Sue Gerron No, I don't know the straw - as you put it - that broke the camel's back. But, in my opinion, I think that it was like a storm the wind started to blow and it never stopped until the plane crash. The arguing between Maria and Buddy started right before the last tour that they took across Canada [which included] the Roses, JI, Joe B, and Tommy Allsup. I know that Buddy called Norman to meet him for a private meeting while they were on that tour.
This is what I think is the truth: Buddy asked Norman for help as he had made some hard decisions. I met all of them in New York after the tour. I think The Crickets were stunned when Buddy Holly took the new Crickets on the road on that last tour, as he had every right to do.
[Lance Monthly] You say that it was Allison who confided in Norman. Could you elaborate on this for our readers? Did Jerry vent his frustrations to Norman about Buddy's new direction?
Peggy Sue Gerron There were many meetings with just Norman and JI, [and] Joe at the studio. I'm sure that JI told Norman what he thought, [but] I was not in the meetings.
[Lance Monthly] Why do you say that Mrs. Ella Holley gave the Apartment Tapes to Norman with a cry of help? Was this financial in nature?
Peggy Sue Gerron No. That was not the motivation. She was responding to the fans and they wanted what ever was there of Buddy's to be put out so they could have it. "Peggy Sue Got Married" had been done once by Corral (?) and she thought it was so bad that it needed to be done again. Norman Petty, after many conversations with Ella, said he would try. Norman only worked with Buddy's parents and they assured him they had control at that point. Ella Holley told me that Maria had nothing to do with the music at that time.
[Lance Monthly] Again, this has been asked of you many times, but can you describe what you and J.I. were doing when you heard of Holly's tragic death?
Peggy Sue Gerron Jerry, Sonny and I had come over to Lubbock from Clovis, [which is] only [a distance of] about a hundred miles. Jerry and I had spent the night with his parents. To tell the truth, I don't know who told us. I could not believe it. I thought it had to be a mistake.
To back up a bit, I had a dream that kept reoccurring for five months. I had told Jerry and Buddy, don't fly a small plane. Buddy just tried to talk me out of it. I saw the plane with Buddy sitting in the front next to the pilot and two men in the back seat. I thought they were Jerry and Joe B. The plane took off and was making a circle and [then] went straight down into the snow. I saw the body of the plane crushed and mangled. All of us had the conversation many times about my dream.
My only thought at the time was that they, Jerry and Joe B, were not dead too.
[Lance Monthly] What caused The Crickets to finally throw in the towel, so to speak, after Holly's death? Was it due mainly to a growing disenchantment with Norman or did the boys finally realize that, without Buddy, they really couldn't maintain the same mainstream popularity as before?
Peggy Sue Gerron I don't believe for one second that Jerry Allison didn't think he couldn't continue after Norman Petty, Jerry Allison, and Maria Holly settled the estate and the rights to who wrote the song "Peggy Sue." Jerry Allison went back to Norman Petty to record at a later date. I think that Jerry Allison wanted to go to Hollywood. Snuff Garrett and Bobby Vee were a great influence on his thinking.
[Lance Monthly] Were Buddy and Maria's arguments centered mostly on her distrust of Norman's business relationship with Buddy? How did she get along with the other members of The Crickets during that time and did she want Buddy to go on his own?
Peggy Sue Gerron In my opinion, Maria is about control and money. I think to be the center of attention may be the root to that attitude. I never heard a cross word spoken to her by The Crickets in front of me. I understand from her that she had a few words for Jerry Allison on the last tour before my meeting them in New York; however, if that really took place, I don't know. My personal feeling is that she wanted everything moved to New York without Norman Petty.
[Lance Monthly] You and J.I. both moved to Los Angeles in the early '60s, right? How long did you live there and what did J.I. accomplish musically while in that city? In addition, what are your thoughts about Los Angeles as a whole for an aspiring artist?
Peggy Sue Gerron Yes, we moved there in the sixties, [but] I don't remember the date. J.I. and I lived there off and on until we separated and finally divorced. It seemed for a while that we might be able to go forward. I thought Jerry Naylor was different from Buddy and gave some new excitement to their performances. J.I. played a lot of [studio] session [work,] which [was] a good income. He started Cricket Music and was writing with Sonny Curtis and anyone else. He very much liked Snuff Garrett, as he was our A&R producer. Liberty Records could have been a nice base for The Crickets. We had a nice office in downtown Hollywood, but it didn't last long.
Jerry Allison did accomplish a great deal while in L.A. The Crickets had singles and albums in the top ten in England: "Don't Ever Change" went to number two or three as a single. At the same time, "Bobby Vee Meets the Crickets" album was climbing up the charts. "My Little Girl" [charted at] number ten and so [did] "Little Hollywood Girl" and "Tear Drops Fall Like Rain." One of my favorites [that charted] was "La Bamba" with Jerry Allison singing. So there [were] many accomplishments that were happening. My favorite, because my name is on it, was "Lost and Alone."
The thing I liked the best about living there is [that] all our friends would end their tours there and we would get to see them: Buddy Knox and his wife Glenda, Roger and Leah Miller, Waylon Jennings, and the list goes on. My favorite neighbor was Lou Adler. Phil and Don Everly didn't live that far from us [and neither did] Glen Campbell, so it was never boring. When you are 19 years old and living off Sunset Blvd, it's exciting.
My thought about living in La La land is that it is an armpit. It literally smells. You might be good enough to get that contract or have that hit record and even get that golden movie contract; but, unless you are mature and you really have yourself together and you are the so-called star, there is someone there who will take you down the wrong road-mainly for [his or her] career, not yours.
[Lance Monthly] Did you and Maria Elena become good friends and do you still stay in contact with her?
Peggy Sue Gerron Maria and I were never friends. Friends share things and accept each other. Buddy and I were friends. I could never manage to have a two-way conversation with her. It was always about her-what she thought, what she wanted, and how it was going to be. I have not kept in touch with her, even though Maria [tries] to be pleasant when we are at the same functions, and I do the same thing.
[Lance Monthly] Many of Buddy Holly's fans of today blame Maria Elena for being uncooperative in making available much of his product to the public. What are your thoughts on this?
Peggy Sue Gerron Well, I find that Maria will sell anything for the right price. Of course, that would be her price. Here again, if she can't have control of the project, she does not cooperate with anybody. If you are talking about the record releases, I don't think I will see them out in my lifetime. I have to agree with the fans; they know.
[Lance Monthly] Your replies seem to be very sympathetic toward Buddy Holly. Do you feel that some of the important players in his breakout success should have been more supportive of his creativity?
Peggy Sue Gerron My sympathies are with Buddy.
[Lance Monthly] In a Lance Monthly interview with leading Buddy Holly historian, Bill Griggs, I asked him if he could dispel the rumor that Buddy is the father of a son or daughter born out of wedlock. Bill couldn't rule that report out, as his sources have led him to believe that it might be true. Being as close as you were with Holly, can you add anything to this mystery?
Peggy Sue Gerron No, there is nothing that I have to say right now about that question. I think that deep personal things that happen in our lives should have the proper forum. I also think, unless there is solid proof, then to speculate [on] it only becomes cheap gossip.
[Lance Monthly] After you and J.I. divorced, where did you move and what did you do for a living?
Peggy Sue Gerron I moved to Sacramento, California, as I had a sister who lived there. I divorced J.I. from Sacramento. I was a CDA, so I went to work for a dentist. I later married and started a family business. It was a plumbing service, 24-hours-seven-days a week. I had two great children. I now have five grand children. I was divorced again after 24 and a half years.
[Lance Monthly] Do you still have an amicable relationship with J.I. and remain in contact with him? What about the other living members of The Crickets? In addition, do you still remain in contact with Echo McGuire?
Peggy Sue Gerron I am very sorry to say that J.I. and I do not remain in contact. We do walk pass each other and smile when we happen to be at the same function. I am sorry that it is that way, because I am his friend.
As far as the other Crickets, I e-mail Sonny Curtis every now and then just to make sure that everybody is well and happy, or at least well. I see Echo at some of the advents that we have here, like [the] BHCenter. She is always pleasant and upbeat.
[Lance Monthly] Is "Gerron" your maiden name or did you remarry for a third time?
Peggy Sue Gerron Gerron is my maiden name, and no, I have not remarried. To add a little note to that, I don't see me in another marriage. I won't say that it never could happen, but I would be the most surprised if it did.
[Lance Monthly] You have become quite the celebrity. Please tell our readers what keeps you busy in reference to your celebrity status and what you have in the offering.
Peggy Sue Gerron I don't think of myself as a celebrity. Believe it or not, the things that I have done have just come to me. If I tried to plan these interviews, nobody would talk to me. That's just the way the media is. If they want me, they can find me. I do have some things coming up, thanks for asking. I am going to do some historical interviews or [a] documentary this summer. I have been asked [and] I think I will do them.
Right now I am trying to get a publisher for my book. I know that people think that if they were me, it would be easy to have these deals rolling in. Take it from me, it's not easy being Peggy Sue Gerron. I am at 63, trying to figure out how to make a living. If any body has some suggestions please write!
[Lance Monthly] You were not in the "Real Buddy Holly Story" documentary. Were you ever considered and offered a fee for your contribution? In addition, did you meet Paul McCartney and John Beecher? If so, what was your take on their demeanors?
Peggy Sue Gerron I was omitted. To answer your question about being paid, that has never happened on any of the documentaries or any other place they have used my name. My expenses have been paid, but the rules have now been changed and they can't lump it under news.
I have never met Sir Paul, but I almost met John Beecher. He came to a promotional the BBC was having that Donna Fox and I were in, but he never walked over to meet me. I called him later, as someone in the productions said he had been there. I thought it strange that he did not introduce himself. He was very pleasant on the phone when I called him from my hotel in London.
Speaking of London, the BH play is something else that I was not paid for either. I don't think it very honest when you use people's names and likenesses and don't even ask for permission.
[Lance Monthly] What are your thoughts on the 1979 Buddy Holly Story in which most of the principal characters, including Norman Petty, were left out? Do you think Maria Elena had anything to do with that?
Peggy Sue Gerron I think that Maria had everything to do with it. That film is what Maria wanted her life to be. The writers didn't just make up the plot; it had to come from her. I wondered when I talked to Mrs. Ella Holley (she was so hurt by the story of the film) why Buddy's parents were not consulted before the finished product. Mr. and Mrs. McGuire (Echo's Mom and Dad) were with them the night it premiered. The Holley's were terribly hurt over the film and embarrassed.
[Lance Monthly] Peggy, what are your thoughts on today's mainstream music?
Peggy Sue Gerron If you mean the mainstream music [such as] Eminem, Janet Jackson, and all [of which] falls in that notch, I think we have really lost a lot in the industry. I find myself playing the old favorites. There are many groups that I enjoy today, but I have learned to like some country. I guess that I am rockabilly. I have always played the classics and still like them. It depends on what mood I am in. I get so thrilled when I hear a new song such as "What Ever Happened to Peggy Sue" by Bobby Vee and Tim Rice, and another that I hope will be out soon-a song called "Caprock" by Jim Ratts.
[Lance Monthly] Thank you Peggy for your visit with me. Your replies have been fascinating, to say the least. What are your final thoughts?
Peggy Sue Gerron I would like to thank you for having me. I have enjoyed being able to give my thoughts to everybody that reads your magazine. I would like to say to your readers that these answers are what I think and some of them [are] what I feel. I am very grateful that I have the friends I have and have been able to do really fun things like The Seventh Street Legends [project]. I am honored to be part of the music.