Peggy Sue died this week. She was 78.
Sixty years ago, her name was the title of what would become one of the most memorable songs in rock music history.
It almost didn’t happen. According to several news reports, music icon Buddy Holly initially called the song “Cindy Lou.”
Sing it: Pretty-pretty-pretty-pretty Cindy Lou.
Doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely, does it?
Peggy Sue was the girlfriend of Buddy Holly’s drummer, Jerry Allison. The two were later married, then divorced.
When the members of Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets, were working on the song, Jerry wanted to impress his girlfriend, so he asked Buddy to change the name from “Cindy Lou” to “Peggy Sue.”
It may have been because Buddy was a good friend and loyal bandmate, or maybe it was because he was a great songwriter and knew that “Peggy Sue” sounded a lot smoother, but for whatever reason, Buddy made the change.
So the course of history may have been altered because of the hormones of two teenagers.
That’s nothing new. Young people — and their hormones — have always ruled the world.
Buddy Holly, of course, died in a Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash in Iowa that also killed Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. It was “The Day The Music Died,” and it is memorialized at the Surf Ballroom in nearby Clear Lake, which was the site of the last performance of those great musicians.
I haven’t been over there yet. I’ve seen the photos of the big Buddy Holly glasses out front. My wife has penciled in a visit on our to-do list.
Holly wrote several other popular songs, including “That’ll Be The Day” and “Maybe Baby.” He also penned the song-sequel “Peggy Sue Got Married.” His songs and his life inspired many other songs, several books and a handful of movies.
That young man was just 23 when he died, and by that time, he had already charted more than 20 hit songs — all of which had been written by him. It’s amazing to me how someone could have tuned his craft so finely at such a young age.
I caught a movie on cable some time ago about Hank Williams. No, not Hank Williams Jr., but his daddy, who died on New Year’s Day in 1953. I never did catch the title of the film, but it was about the last two days of his life. It was a sad and interesting story.
I was struck by the fact that Hank Williams wasn’t even 30 years old when he died. At 29, he had already recorded 35 singles that had reached the top 10 of the country music chart — and 11 of those had reached No. 1.
That’s something. By the time I was 29, my biggest accomplishment was being able to make an excellent sandwich.
So I’m pretty impressed with guys like Hank Williams and Buddy Holly, and this is accentuated by the fact that I actually like most of their songs.
Thinking about it also makes me feel really old.
I am well over twice Holly’s age when he died, and by comparison, I’ve accomplished next to nothing. And, I’m guessing, you’ve accomplished next to nothing as well, when compared to the likes of Hank Williams and Buddy Holly.
Tech gurus like Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, the late Steve Jobs at Apple and Bill Gates at Microsoft all come to mind when you talk about people becoming hugely successful at a young age.
If you look back at history, Alexander the Great conquered the world by the time he was 20. Another Alexander — Hamilton — was George Washington’s chief of staff when he was 22. Author Mary Shelly published “Frankenstein” when she was 20. Investigative journalist Nellie Bly began her illustrious career at the age of 16. And Mozart composed his first symphony when he was an 8-year-old.
What a bunch of show-offs. They make the rest of us look like slackers.
But I’m here to tell you old fogies like me to take heart — there are plenty of people who never found success until later in life.
Colonel Sanders, for instance, was 65 years old before he perfected his original recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken and became the biggest name in food this side of McDonald’s.
Speaking of McDonald’s, co-founder Ray Croc was still selling milkshakes at 52. Six years later, he had 200 restaurants.
Edmund Hoyle was nearly 70 when he first began recording the rules to several various card games — rules we have followed for about 250 years now.
Laura Ingalls Wilder was 75 before she started cranking out the “Little House” books. And Julia Child was 50 when her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was published (and she was 40 before she even knew how to cook.) Elizabeth Jolley had her first novel published at 56. Author Mary Wesley was 71.
Henry Ford introduced the Model T when he was 45. He created the assembly line when he was 60.
Spider-Man creator Stan Lee was 43 before he started creating his famous comic book characters. Rodney Dangerfield didn’t become a stand-up comic until he was 42. Even then, he got no respect.
At the age of 96, Harry Bernstein published his memoir “The Invisible Wall.”
So, you see? It’s never too late. There is hope for the late bloomers among us.
Whiz kids like Mark Zuckerberg might think they rule the world, but some of us old fogies still have a trick or two up our sleeves.
I’ll be coming after Zuck and the rest of them soon.
Right after I take my medicine.
And a nap.