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This Week in Texas Music History: Norman Petty
by Stephen Becker 25 Feb 2011

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll visit a local recording studio that produced some of rock and roll’s biggest hits.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman visits a local recording studio that produced some of rock and roll’s biggest hits.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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On Feb. 25, 1957, Buddy Holly and the Crickets drove from Lubbock to Norman Petty’s recording studio in Clovis, N.M., to record what would be the first of several million-selling records for Holly, “That’ll Be the Day.” Petty soon became Holly’s manager and helped produce several more hits for the rock and roll superstar. However, Buddy Holly was not Norman Petty’s only claim to fame. He also made some of Roy Orbison’s earliest recordings and had a No. 1 hit with “Party Doll,” written and performed by Buddy Knox, from Happy, Texas. Norman Petty continued to work with a number of West Texas musicians over the following three decades to produce several more hit records.

  • Rockin Robin

    Your mention of Holly, Orbison & Knox and Norman Petty Studio was interesting! I once recorded in the same studio & you might find it surprising to know that many West Texas musicians/singers who recorded there also had national label releases during the later fifties and sixties. The list is damn near endless on labels such
    as Coral, Roulette, Decca, RCA, etc… Most of these records were however not ‘hits’ however, aside from the Fireballs, Charlie Phillips, String-a-Longs, Jimmy Gilmer, and a few others. When Petty closed his small studio in the late sixties, I don’t think he produced many (or any) top ten hits.