AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Peggy Sue Gerron, whose name has echoed in the annals of rock ‘n’ roll history for six decades as the crush in the Buddy Holly classic song “Peggy Sue,” has died at the age of 78 in Lubbock, Texas, where she and Holly went to high school, officials said.
The 1957 song from Holly and his band the Crickets was an anthem of the early days of rock ‘n’ roll and inspired a sequel tune from Holly called “Peggy Sue Got Married,” which was also the title of a 1986 movie.
Holly and Gerron first met at Lubbock High School, where he knocked her down while running through the hallways with a guitar in his hands, Gerron said on her website Peggy Sue Online.
The song was originally title Cindy Lou, with Cindy being Buddy’s niece.
But Crickets drummer Jerry Allison, whose percussion helped set the tone for the tune, asked Holly to change the name. He had just broken up with Peggy Sue and was hoping the love song would help him win Gerron back.
“After much prodding, Buddy agreed,” said Jacqueline Bober, curator at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock, adding that “the song helped set the tone for early rock ‘n’ roll songs for its instrumentation.”
Allison and Gerron married soon after she finished high school.
Gerron said she first heard the song during a concert in California when Holly played it after “That’ll Be the Day.”
“I was just shocked,” she said in an interview posted on her website. “It was a great surprise.”
Gerron and Allison eventually divorced, and Peggy Sue went back to school and studied to be a dental assistant at Pasadena Junior College in California, according to her website.
She later remarried and joined her new husband in the plumbing business. Her website said she was the first woman to become licensed as a plumber in California, a claim Reuters could not independently verify.
She sang backup vocals in a band, published an autobiography called “Whatever Happened to Peggy Sue?” and used her shortwave radio license to talk to people around the world.
Gerron returned to Lubbock in 1995 to care for her mother, the website said.
Peggy Sue Gerron died on Monday, according to her family, which did not specify a cause of death.
“She worked hard at keeping the joy of the ‘50s alive,” her son-on-law Tom Stathos told local TV broadcaster KCBD.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio