Where did the baby name Peggysue come from in 1958?

Early rock and roll musician Buddy Holly (1936-1959)
Buddy Holly

In September of 1957, the classic rock and roll song “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly came out.

“Peggy Sue” was on Billboard‘s “Top 100” chart for 22 weeks from late 1957 to early 1958, reaching as high as the #3 spot.

Right on cue, the compound name Peggysue debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1958:

  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Peggysue [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: unlisted

The name Peggy by itself also saw a significant increase in usage that year:

  • 1960: 6,434 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 69th]
  • 1959: 7,408 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 57th]
  • 1958: 10,072 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 42nd] (peak)
  • 1957: 7,379 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 62nd]
  • 1956: 7,487 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 63rd]

No doubt many of these Peggys had the middle name Sue.

So how did Buddy Holly chose the name “Peggy Sue” for the song? He didn’t — he wrote a song called “Cindy Lou,” taking the names from his newborn baby niece, Cindy Carol, and Cindy’s mom (Buddy’s sister) Patricia Lou.

But the original song wasn’t working out, so the band experimented with it in the summer of ’57. One of the changes they made was to the name. The rhythmically identical “Peggy Sue” was suggested by drummer Jerry Allison, who was dating a girl named Peggy Sue at the time.

At the end of 1958, Buddy Holly started working on “Peggy Sue Got Married,” one of rock and roll’s first sequel songs. Sadly he didn’t finish the song before February 3, 1959 — the day that he, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

If you were having a baby girl, and you had to name her either Peggy Sue or Cindy Lou, which combination would you choose?

P.S. “Peggy Sue” was released just a few months after the doo-wop song “Deserie,” which we talked about a few days ago.


Image: Buddy Holly (Brunswick Records publicity photo)

[Latest update: Aug. 2023]

3 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Peggysue come from in 1958?

  1. Another great song! If I had to choose between Peggy Sue and Cindy Lou, I’d go with Peggy Sue. Cindy Lou is a Dr. Seuss character…I couldn’t.

    Out of curiosity, I went ahead and checked if Peggy’s popularity also increased following the movie Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), but the raw increase between ’85 and ’86 was negligible and rank still decreased. No reappearance of Peggysue then either.

  2. Haha, good point about Cindy Lou. She’s a very cute character, though.

    Thanks for checking that ’80s data. “Peggy” would have sounded pretty dated to most people by that point, so I’m not too surprised that the movie didn’t influence the charts much.

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