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That'll Be The Day

by

Buddy Holly



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Holly had been kicking around his home town in Lubbock, Texas trying to write a hit song for his small Rockabilly band since he had attended an Elvis Presley gig at his High School some time in 1955. His band in those days consisted of him on lead vocals and guitar, Jerry Allison on the drums and Joe B. Maudlin on upright bass. He and Jerry decided to get together and go see The Searchers a Western movie staring John Wayne. In the movie, Wayne keeps replying "That'll be the day" every time another character in the film predicts or proclaims something will happen when he felt it was not likely to happen. The phrase stuck in Jerry's mind, and when they were hanging out at Jerry's house one night, Buddy looked at Jerry and said that it sure would be nice if they could record a hit song. Jerry replied with, "That'll be the day," mocking John Wayne in the western. (thanks, Tim - Costa Mesa, CA)
Holly and his band The Three Tunes recorded this in Nashville in 1956, but Decca records didn't like the result and refused to release it. A year later, Holly re-recorded it with The Crickets in a studio in Clovis, New Mexico owned by his new producer, Norman Petty. Backup vocalists were brought in and the key was lowered to fit Holly's voice a little better. This version became a huge hit and made Holly a star that summer.
Norman Petty took a writing credit on this because he produced it. This meant Holly and Allison had to share royalties with him.
This was Holly's first hit, but it was credited to The Crickets, Holly's band. They worked with 2 record labels, with one releasing Holly's songs as The Crickets and the other as Buddy Holly. Both labels were subsidiaries of Decca Records.
This inspired the British 1973 movie of the same name, about a young man with dreams of becoming a rock star.
This was the first song John Lennon learned to play on guitar. American Rock stars like Holly and Little Richard were a big influence on The Beatles.
The movie that inspired Holly and Allison to write this also provided the name for the British group The Searchers in 1964.
When this became a hit, Decca records released Holly's earlier version as well.
A cover version of this classic song was recorded by the Quarrymen in the spring of 1958. A single 78rpm disc was pressed, making it the very first demo recorded by the trio of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison, plus pianist John Lowe and drummer Colin Hanton.

The Quarrymen's version was first played by McCartney during a 1985 documentary on Buddy Holly. It was eventually released in 1995 on the Anthology 1 collection.
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Comments (20):

I'm a Buddy Holly fanatic. I was 14 the day the music died. A friend told me about the crash while we were waiting for the school bus that day. I never forgot that day. It's the first thing I think of every February 3rd. I have just about everything he ever recorded, including all those outtake versions now available on-line. Check them out. That'll be the Day was my first 45. My dad put it on our Christmas tree for me, with a few other records.
I didn't read it above, but for some reason, That'll Be The Day on Brunswick , by The Crickets was the "B" side. The "A" side was Looking For Someone To Love".
- Libb, Pepperell Ma
- Bob, Pepperell, MA
Linda Ronstadt's cover of this song is awesome. Much better than ole Buddy Holly
- Laura, El Paso, TX
This was the first song The Beatles recorded in 1958, then they were known as the Quarrymen.
- Viktor, Vänersborg, Sweden
This was the first song The Beatles recorded in 1958, then they were known as the Quarrymen.
- Viktor, Vänersborg, Sweden
In the movie "The Buddy Holly Story" , it showed the three boys of The Crickets ( Buddy was the lead singer )trying to record this song in a stereo . Buddy wanted it to be a rock song for the younger generation ( the teens ) to dance to and have a good time ; but the record producer wanted it to be more like a country and western song . So when the three began to record the song again , they decided to joke around by adding the line from the gospel song "Bringing In The Sheaves" , instead of saying the line "That'll be the day when I die". The line they used was , "We shall come rejoicing , Bring in the sheaves" . Later on in the studeo , Buddy got mad at the producer for something he said ; and punched the guy out. The producer then said ( I think ) , "This is the last time you boys will ever record another album in here !" As for the part about Waylon Jennings , he was a backup guitar player for Buddy . Before Buddy , Big Bopper and Richie Valens got on the plane ; Waylon gaved up his seat on the plane to the Big Bopper . Buddy knew there was a snow storm that Febuary night , and also knew that the bus they used for touring didn't have any heat ; So he said to Waylon , "I hope you make it through the storm in one piece ." Waylon was just joking around with Buddy and said , "I hope your plane crash ." Soon after they said their goodbye and the plane took off ; it crashed in an open field . All three aboard the plane , including the pilot , were killed on impact . It wasn't until the next morning that all three bodies were found and identified .
- Mike, Franklin County, PA
Great Song ! Buddy Holly was the best of his era. He left us way too soon.
- Mike, Hueytown , AL
Foghat covered this on their album "Energized", from 1974
- David, Madrid, Spain
An old friend of mine Larry Wellborn played upright bass on this song as well as "Lookin' for Someone to Love." He and Buddy played together in a band called "Buddy, Bob and Larry" (Subtitled Western and BeeBop). The Bob was Bob Montgomery who went on to become a Nashville producer and made the Statler Brothers what they became. Larry continued to play in clubs and sessions in Houston Texas in the 70s and 80s. He would have been a member of the Crickets only he was still in high school when Buddy hit the road and his parents wouldn't let him go. So he traded positions with Joe B. Maudlin who played lead guitar with a Lubbock group called the "Royal Teens." Had Buddy lived it is a sure thing that they would have reunited.
- JOHN, HOUSTON, TX
I've heard that same version Homer, didn't know the record was a 78.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
The title of this was referenced in Don McLean's "American Pie"... I'm sure you can guess where it is...
- Tony, Topeka, KS
Amazing career for a short 18 months and a catalogue of I believe 46 songs. We'll never know what direction he would have taken rock, but like James Dean his legend grows with the passing of time.
- Alan, Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Buddy Holly was a real talent, no matter what song,it was always very good. The cover of Linda Rondstadt of this song and "It's so easy"
can be considered as a tribute to this great singer.
- Teresa, Mechelen, Belgium
"That'll Be The Day" was one of the songs featured in the 1973 soundtrack of "American Graffiti".
- Rick, San Juan, United States
Linda Ronstadt's hits included cover versions of "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" (1975), "That'll Be The Day" (1976), "It's So Easy" (1977).
- Rick, San Juan, United States
This is #38 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
- Ross, Independence, MO
he was and still truly is a legend and a great influence to many up and coming guitarist like myself his words can touch ur soul like nothin in the world his songs are just most definetly some of the greatest in the world.
- cynthia, phoenix, AZ
Not many people know, but Waylon Jennings used to ply bass for Buddy Holly.
- clarence, brunswick, GA
This song appears on the first Beatles Anthology, from a 78 RPM (ask your granparents...) recorded in the late fifties.
- Homer, Versailles, IL
Peggy Sue, It Doesn't Matter Anyomore, Rock Around With Ollie Vee, Lookin' For Someone To Love, Everyday, Tell Me How, Rave On, Well...Allright, just to mane a few more
- Alex, Syracuse, NY
Buddy Holly Had a buncha songs:
Maybe Baby
Oh Boy
True Loves Ways
Raining in My Heart
Ro name just a few.
- LaDonna, Harrison, OH
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