Norman Petty PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 11:29

Norman Petty

Born: May 25, 1927, Clovis, New Mexico, U.S.

Died: August 15, 1984, Lubbock, Texas, U.S.

Age: 57

Cause of death: Leukemia.

Notable because: Concealed his homosexuality in an arranged marriage of convenience with bi sexual Vi.  His name appears on many Buddy Holly songs - because he put it there despite not having co written the songs and in an effort to steal Buddy Holly's songwriting royalties. One of the grandest frauds of the rock and roll era.

Norman Petty was an American musician and record producer who is mostly known for his association with Buddy Holly and the Crickets who recorded in his studio.

Born in the small town of Clovis, New Mexico, near the Texas border, Petty began playing piano at a young age. While in high school, he was regularly heard on a fifteen minute show on a local radio station.

Petty and his wife Vi founded the Norman Petty Trio, along with guitarist Jack Vaughn. They landed a recording contract and were voted Most Promising Group of 1954 by Cashbox Magazine. In 1956, their major hit "Mood Indigo" had sold a half million copies and enabled Norman to expand his recording studio, considerably. In 1957, their song "Almost Paradise" hit #18 and Norman won his first BMI writers award.

Despite the success with his own records, Petty is most famous for his recording studio in Clovis. In his homespun studio, he produced successful singles for his own musical group and for Texas musicians Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, Waylon Jennings, Sonny West, Carolyn Hester, Terry Noland ... and Buddy Holly, with whom he is most closely associated in the public's mind. "Sugar Shack" and "Bottle Of Wine" by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs and "Wheels" by the String-A-Longs were recorded at Petty's studio. Petty produced a number of Canadian groups including Wes Dakus & The Rebels, Barry Allen, Gainsborough Gallery, and the Happy Feeling; all which had chart success in their homeland. Throughout the '50s & '60s era, Petty had productions on virtually every major record label in the USA and Canada.

Petty served as Buddy Holly's recording engineer and also as his first manager until late 1958. Many of Holly's best and most polished efforts were produced at the Clovis studio. After Holly's death, Petty was put in charge of overdubbing unfinished Holly recordings and demos. Norman was hired because he had access to the local musicians that Buddy Holly had worked with over the course of his short career, most of whom would not be able to spend time in a professional studio in New York City. It is a generally accepted that Norman withheld money from Holly and the Crickets. In the fall of 1958 it was documented and accepted by all involved parties, including Norman and his wife that there was roughly $50,000 in a special account designated to Buddy Holly and the Crickets that only Norman was able to withdraw money from that account. After Buddy and his wife confronted Norman about this, Norman refused to settle things with Holly. After Holly and his wife stormed out of the studio to hire an attorney, Norman remained in the studio with the Crickets and others and he was quoted by witnesses as saying, "He is not getting any money. We'll starve him to death." Following Buddy's death, his wife's lawyers sued Norman Petty. Finally Petty agreed to pay $70,000.

In addition, it is an accepted that Norman added his name to the writing credits of Holly's songs, including titles Holly had recorded in Nashville before he started working with Norman. He also gave himself co-writing credit on some of the "Apartment Tapes" that Buddy wrote and produced while living in NYC after his official break with the Crickets and Norman.

In 1963 Petty launched the FM radio station KTQM next to the recording studio; he added the AM station KWKA in 1971. Petty ran both stations until 1979, when they were sold to their current owner. Petty posthumously was named Clovis Citizen Of The Year in 1984.

Norman Petty died in Lubbock, Texas, in August 1984 of leukemia. His wife Vi died in March 1992. It was well-known that their marriage was one of convenience. Norman was homosexual and Vi was bisexual. The original 7th Street Studio is available for tours by appointment only. Vi Petty helped start the "Norman & Vi Petty Music Festival" in Clovis, NM in 1987. It featured many artists that recorded at the Studios as well as popular hitmakers. The event halted in 2002, later to be revived as "The Clovis Music Festival" which is currently held in September.

Norman & Vi were given "Outstanding Graduate Accomplishment" awards (Class of '45 & '46 respectively) by the Clovis Municipal Schools Foundation and Alumni Association in April 2011. The awards go to Clovis High School graduates based on achievement in their realm of business. Graduates are chosen because their strengths of character and citizenship serve as models to inspire and challenge today’s CHS students. The plaques were given to Vi's relative Nick Brady who turned them over to Kenneth Broad of the Petty Estate to display during Studio tours.

Songwriting credits

The following songs that are wholly or partly credited to Petty have won BMI awards:

  • "Almost Paradise" (Norman Petty), #18 US for the Norman Petty Trio
  • "Everyday" (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty)
  • "It's So Easy*" (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty) (#5 US for Linda Ronstadt in 1977)
  • "Peggy Sue" (Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly, Norman Petty), #3 US, #6 UK, 1957
  • "That'll Be the Day*" (Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly, Norman Petty), #1 US, #1 UK, 1957 (#11 US for Linda Ronstadt in 1976)
  • "True Love Ways*" (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty), #25 UK, 1960
  • "Wheels" (Norman Petty, Richard Stephens, Jimmy Torres)

Other notable songs for which Petty received a songwriting credit include:

  • "Listen to Me*" (Buddy Holly, Norman Petty), #16 UK, 1957
  • "Oh, Boy!" (Sonny West, Bill Tilghman, Norman Petty), #10 US, 1957
  • "I’m Gonna Love You Too*" (Joe B. Mauldin, Norman Petty, Niki Sullivan)
  • "Rave On*" (Sonny West, Bill Tilghman, Norman Petty), #37 US, #5 UK, 1958
  • "Think It Over*" (Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly, Norman Petty), #27 US, 1958
  • "Heartbeat" (Bob Montgomery, Norman Petty), #82 US, #30 UK, 1958

It was established in court that Norman Petty gave himself songwriting credits on some of Buddy Holly's songs, as well as numerous songs from other artists, and securing for himself a percentage of profits due to the true songwriter(s), that was undeserved. (SOURCE. Buddy Holly. A Biography. By Ellis Amburn) (SOURCE. The Day The Music Died. By Larry Lehmer)


Original Norman Petty Trio & Ensemble 1

Manufacturer: Ace Records UK
Offers - Buy New From: $18.99 Used From: $3.54
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The First Kiss (7"/45 rpm)

Manufacturer: COLUMBIA
Used From: $4.30
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Editorial Review: (a) The First Kiss (b) The First Kiss


Now Hear This! Garage & Beat From the Norman Petty Vaults

Manufacturer: Big Beat UK
Offers - Buy New From: $41.25 Used From: $43.35
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Editorial Review: Now Hear This" is the first of two volumes devoted to 1960s gems licensed from the heavily-guarded vaults of legendary producer-engineer Norman Petty. Unlike many other Americans, Petty's prior involvement with Buddy Holly (and that artist's crucial influence on the British Invasion) gave him an unprecedented sympathy with post-Beatle US rock'n'roll. He actively signed bands with chart potential and several groups featured here, such as the Chances, Cinders (featuring a young JD Souther) and Cords, were Petty-sponsored combos. Other acts such as major Canadian act Wes Dakus' Rebels specifically sought the producer out to handle their recording career. BIG BEAT 2007


Fabulous Groups Vol. 2 (Best of the Rare Doo-Wop)

Manufacturer: Regency Records
Offers - Buy New From: $15.19 Used From: $32.00
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Get Ready to Fly: Pop-Psych From the Norman Petty Vaults

Manufacturer: Big Beat UK
Offers - Buy New From: $8.95 Used From: $6.99
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Editorial Review: Get Ready to Fly is Big Beat's second volume of rarely-heard 1960s masters from the vaults of the legendary Norman Petty studios. This time the focus is on the mind-bending rock and pop sounds the producer recorded during the late 1960's.


Last Updated on Saturday, 27 October 2012 11:05

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