Sunday, September 23, 2007

50 years ago: Buddy Holly hit #1 with “That’ll Be the Day”

That’ll Be the Day

Buddy Holly & the Crickets

Writer(s): Buddy Holly, J.I. Allison, Norman Petty (see lyrics here)

Released: May 27, 1957

First Charted: July 27, 1957

Peak: 11 US, 4 HP, 3 CB, 3 HR, 2 RB, 13 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 10.46 video, 52.15 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Buddy Holly was born Charles Hardin Holley in Lubbock, Texas in 1936. He knew what he wanted to do when he saw Elvis Presley live in 1955 and secured a contract with Decca Records by January 1956. He “gets counted as a pioneer of rock and roll, but…he didn’t turn up until the genre had become fairly well established in the charts.” AH He was “arguably the most important figure of this second wave.” AH Critic Dave Marsh called Holly’s band, the Crickets, “the first modern rock band” because they were a self-contained group comprised of a basic two-guitars, bass, and drum lineup DM led by “a self-contained writing, singing, playing machine who upped the ante even further by becoming the first rocker who really didn’t look like a rocker.” DT

Holly recorded a series of sessions for Decca throughout 1956 at producer Owen Bradley’s studio. Among the songs was an early version of “That’ll Be the Day” which Holly recorded with guitarist Sonny Curtis, bassist Don Guest, and drummer Jerry Allison. It had a more country-oriented vibe than the version that would become a hit. NRR Bradley said, “That’s the worst song I’ve ever heard.” KL

The idea for the song came about as the result of a John Wayne movie. Buddy Holly and drummer Jerry Allison went to see the Western The Searchers. Whenever a character would suggest something that wasn’t likely to happen, Wayne would sarcastically proclaim, “That’ll be the day.” SF One night at Jerry’s house, Buddy suggested that it would be nice if they could record a hit song, to which Jerry replied, “That’ll be the day.” SF They turned the title into a song in which Holly used the phrase “to declare his brash confidence that his girl would never leave him.” SS

In January 1957, Holly’s career was going nowhere. His contract with Decca expired so he went to Norman Petty, who’d impressed him with his production on Buddy Knox’s “Party Doll.” FB Holly and co. re-recorded “That’ll Be the Day” on February 27, 1957. TB While it was just a demo, Brunswick label chief Bob Thiele was sold and wanted to release it just as it was. Holly, though wasn’t technically permitted to re-record the song so it was suggested it be released under a group name instead. After rejecting “The Beetles” because it sounded creepy and people would want to squish them AH they settled on The Crickets “because of their happy, chirping sound.” KL Later, the Beatles moniker re-surfaced for the Fab-Four – inspired by the Crickets, and especially “That’ll Be the Day,” since it was one of the first songs John Lennon learned. HL

Sadly, Holly was killed in a plane crash on 2/3/59, a tragedy often known as “the day the music died” because it also took the lives of fellow rock singers the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. His career was short, but with “that mean guitar, firing off dangerous staccato bursts,” DM “endearing hiccup in Holly’s voice, the bouncy rockabilly beat, [and] an intriguingly enigmatic story line” AMG the song “That’ll Be the Day” would live on as one of early rock and roll’s most classic tunes.


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Last updated 3/30/2023.

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