Het zal morgen al 65 jaar geleden zijn dat Buddy Holly de hitversie van “That’ll be the day” heeft opgenomen. De hitversie jawel, want op 22 juli 1956 had hij met zijn eerste groep The Three Tunes reeds een eerdere versie opgenomen, die echter pas werd uitgebracht nadat de tweede versie een hit was geworden.
In June 1956, Buddy Holly, drummer Jerry Allison and guitarist Sonny Curtis went to see the movie “The Searchers”, starring John Wayne, in which Wayne repeatedly used the phrase “that’ll be the day”. This line of dialogue inspired the young musicians, Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison. In 1957 Holly’s producer, Norman Petty, was credited as a co-writer, although he did not contribute to the composition.
The song was first recorded by Buddy Holly and the Three Tunes (Allison, Curtis and Don Guess on bass) for Decca Records at Bradley’s Barn, in Nashville, on July 22, 1956. Decca, displeased with Holly’s previous two singles, did not issue recordings from this session. After the song was re-recorded by the Crickets in 1957 and became a hit, Decca released the original recording as a single (Decca D30434) on September 2, 1957, with “Rock Around with Ollie Vee” as the B-side. It was also the title track of the 1958 album “That’ll Be the Day”. Despite Holly’s newfound stardom, the single did not chart.
Holly’s contract with Decca prohibited him from re-recording any of the songs recorded in the 1956 Nashville sessions for five years, even if Decca never released them. To evade this restriction, the producer Norman Petty credited the Crickets as the artist on his re-recording of “That’ll Be the Day” for Brunswick Records.
The second recording of the song was made on February 25, 1957, seven months after the first, at the Norman Petty studios in Clovis, New Mexico (again with Jerry Allison, but this time with Larry Welborn on bass and no Sonny Curtis anymore), and issued by Brunswick on May 27, 1957. This version is on the debut album by the Crickets, The “Chirping” Crickets, issued on November 27, 1957 (zie bovenstaande foto).
The Brunswick recording of “That’ll Be the Day” is considered a classic of rock’n’roll. It was ranked number 39 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The Brunswick single was a number-one hit on Billboard magazine’s Best Sellers in Stores chart in 1957. The song peaked at number 1 in the UK Singles Chart in November 1957 and stayed in that position for three weeks. In Australia it was released on 78rpm.
Ironically, Brunswick was a subsidiary of Decca. Once the cat was out of the bag, Decca re-signed Holly to another of its subsidiaries, Coral Records, so he ended up with two recording contracts. Recordings with the Crickets were to be issued by Brunswick, and his solo recordings were to be on Coral.