Day 237: “That’ll Be the Day”

When was it recorded?   Jul. 12, 1958

When was it first released, and on which album?   Nov. 21, 1995 on “Anthology 1”

Who wrote it?   Jerry Allison & Buddy Holly

Have I heard this song before?   Just the original

What my research dug up:

American musicians Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison (a session musician and eventual drummer for The Crickets) co-wrote “That’ll Be the Day.” Their record producer Norman Petty also has a credit on the track but was not actually involved in the writing process. According to Wikipedia, “This was a common practice for decades, especially among managers, label owners, and producers working with black artists.”

The lyrics actually came from the 1956 Western film “The Searchers.” John Wayne’s character catchphrase was a weary, “That’ll be the day,” which Holly, Allison and Sonny Curtis borrowed.

Holly originally recorded the song at Bradley’s Barn, Nashville, TN, on Jul. 22, 1956. This version appeared at the B-side to “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” on Sept. 2.


Due a strict contact and an attempt to loophole out of it (long story), Holly’s next version of the song was credited to The Crickets. They recorded this version at the Norman Petty studios in Clovis, NM, on Feb. 25, 1957. It was released as a single May 27, 1957.

The song was an instant success, reaching #1 on Billboard’s Best Sellers in Stores chart and #2 on the Billboard R&B chart. The track also hit #1 in the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for three weeks. The RIAA has certified the single Gold and Rolling Stone ranked it #39 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2005 “That’ll Be the Day” was added to the National Recording Registry, as it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”

Quoth Wikipedia, “In 1958, the song was the first track ever recorded by The Quarrymen, who later became The Beatles.” I recounted the recording of this song along with “In Spite of All the Danger” on Day 132. The single pressing of the record eventually found its way back to Paul McCartney. (According to Wikipedia, “Norman Petty sold the publishing rights to the Buddy Holly catalogue to Paul McCartney in 1979,” so he can now own as many versions of this song as his heart desires.)

Like “In Spite of All the Danger,” the Quarrymen’s cover of “That’ll Be the Day” appeared on bootlegs before its official release on 1995’s “Anthology 1.”

Yeah, they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it’s still pretty cool to hear essentially the first Beatles recording.




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