Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 1927, Clovis NM; d 15 August 1984, Lubbock Texas) Pianist, record producer. Played piano from an early age; played on local radio, moved to Texas '48, became part-time recording engineer, led Norman Petty Trio playing organ, with his wife Violet Ann on piano (b 17 September 1928, Clovis) and guitarist Jack Vaughn; moved back to Clovis, and established his own studio '54; the trio recorded Duke Ellington's 'Mood Indigo' for his own NorVaJak label and leased it to RCA subsidiary 'X' for a top 20 hit '54, followed by top 40 'On The Alamo', and lesser hits, using the income to improve the studio.
He recorded Buddy Knox's 'Party Doll' and Jimmy Bowen's 'I'm Stickin' With You' '56, issued them back-to-back on a small local label, leased them to Roulette and they each sold a million. (Wayne 'Buddy' Knox d 14 February 1999 aged 65; Jimmy Bowen became a big-time country music producer.) Petty invited more outside musicians to use the studio; Buddy Holly and the Crickets turned up. Petty learned to record rock'n'roll drums, while Holly was an innovator to his fingertips: Petty managed them, helping and encouraging Holly's experiments, probably helped with arrangements, took co-credit as composer on some songs (a time-honoured practice in the music business; he said he wrote lyrics, but his own hits were instrumentals. He hung on to ownership of Holly's material and his honesty was regarded as borderline.) Vi played piano (on 'Think It Over'; she also co-wrote 'Someone, Someone' with Edwin Greines Cohen, recorded by the Crickets, later a hit by Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.)
Holly split from Petty '58; Petty acquired the rights to unreleased tracks after Holly's death, overdubbed parts for release, making commercial hits from rough demos. He continued recording the Crickets briefly, and had later success with Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs ('Sugar Shack' no. 1 '63, 'Daisy Petal Pickin' ' no. 15 '64) and an instrumental group the Stringa-Longs ('Wheels' no. 3, 'Brass Buttons' top 40 '61). He sold Holly's songs to Paul McCartney early '70s, and ran the studio until his death.