Buddy Holly's secretly recorded contract negotiation with Decca

Baboomska mcGeesk sez, "In 1956, Buddy Holly traveled to Nashville to record several songs. One of the songs he recorded was "That'll Be The Day", but the producer assigned to his sessions (Owen Bradley) hated rock n' roll, and did a terrible job on the song. After that, Buddy traveled to New Mexico and re-recorded "That'll Be The Day" (the version that became the monster hit) at a different studio with his own (superior) arrangement, but according to his contract with Decca, he couldn't release it, because Decca owned all rights to his music. He decided to call Decca, to try reason with them, and he secretly taped his conversation. They refused to give him the rights to his own song, but he went ahead and violated his contract. Here is the conversation he secretly taped."

Buddy Holly - The Phone Call (Thanks, Baboomska!)



  1. Copyright laws protect the artist. Wasn’t the man from decca records trying to protect Buddy Holly?

  2. Buddy had already re-recorded “That’ll Be The Day” when this conversation took place, although he doesn’t admit it to Decca. His new version was finally released by Coral Records, which actually was a subsidiary of Decca – a coincidence which Holly would later recall with some amusement: “They kicked us out the front door, and so we went in the back door.”
    After the new version of That’ll Be The Day became a huge hit, of course Decca went ahead and released all the old songs they had sitting untouched in their vaults.

  3. From Buddy’s entry in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website:

    February 25, 1957: Buddy Holly records “That’ll Be the Day” at Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico. The single is released on the Brunswick label (a Decca subsidiary) and credited to the Crickets.

    September 23, 1957: “That’ll Be the Day” hits #1. “Peggy Sue” is released hot on its heels, reaching #3. Buddy Holly performs both songs on The Ed Sullivan Show in December.

  4. Copyright laws DO protect the artist. If he had waited 5 years like Decca asked him, he wouldn’t have become famous, wouldn’t have been on that airplane, and thus might be alive today.


  5. What exactly is the provenance of this recording? If Holly recorded it, how did it end up all over the YouTube?

  6. That was kinda heartbreaking. You can hear he’s really cut up about them owning songs they’ll never release. I was expecting him to lose it and start shouting and screaming but he kept his cool. What a gentleman.

  7. In my limited understanding of this, Decca shot itself in the foot. They didn’t much care for rock and roll in 1956, and despite Owen Bradley being an excellent country music producer, he would not let Buddy’s musicians play in Nashville, and the arrangements did not meet anyone’s sense of good music. Buddy wanted rights to rerecord “That’ll Be the Day” but could not get them. So, after recording a second version of the song with Norman Petty in Clovis, Petty released it on the Brunswick label (which was a regional label, owned by Petty and Decca, thus not “officially” violating the 5-year rulle of the contract). Had Buddy waited five years to rerecord it, and Holley’s career started with “Peggy Sue” and continued the way it did, Buddy would have been two years dead before he could have released his own version of “That’ll Be the Day.” It’s amazing to hear how tinny Bradley’s version of Buddy’s songs sound today; and how well Buddy’s songs recorded the way he wanted to hold up.

  8. Record companies have a very long history of exploiting artists and performers. It is a travesty that continues today.

    I have just finished reading the new biography of Thelonious Monk by Robin Kelley where he documents the Columbia Records practice of charging the artists for every incidental cost of recording session – including the piano tuner and sandwiches. These costs were deducted from the artists advance, which in most cases turned out to be effectively their entire payment since the collection of per copy royalties often meant a pittance.

    Today these rip offs may be reduced, but the exploitation continues. The major label promotion of “gangsta” rap creates a parade of interchangable and disposable “stars” that spew self-hating destructive anti-art – the end result is artists with no real musical skills out of work and broke. For every Ice T that crosses over to acting or Snoop Dogg, there are dozens if not hundreds who are back on the street with the pants on the ground and pockets inside out.

    Buddy Holly was a great artist and refused to go along with he stacked deck of rules in order to get his compositions and performance produced the way he wanted. With outstanding results for the audience.

    The media companies and the secret copyright negotiations are fighting with renewed vigor to protect their position as taste makers and artist breakers.

    To all those reading these lines I say – Speak out against DMCA, ACTA and media/recording company exploitation. Write/call your representatives and demand public comment on copyright laws.

  9. So polite. I kept hoping he’d snap: “Well, sir, I…I, uh, guess you…well, you know, I guess you can…uh, you can just go fuck yourself in the ass, then. Sir.”

  10. Listening to this just reinforces my belief that everyone should just pirate mp3 and write checks directly to the artist(s).

    I just wish the Music industry would die. It deserves it for how it’s ripped off artists all these years. Music execs.. get real jobs.

    …Some people should die
    That’s just unconscious knowledge
    Because, because the bigger you get
    The wider you’re spread
    You gotta depend on me
    Now your vision is dead
    The more your dream is dead
    It gets sucked from my eye
    Like an eagle’s claw…

    – ‘Pigs in Zen” – Jane’s Addiction

  11. Feb 3,1959 – The day the music died. R.I.P. Buddy Holly.

    Buddy Holly died on the night of February 2, 1959 in a plane crash. The same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly also took the lives of Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) and The Big Bopper (“Chantilly Lace”).
    The news came to most of the world on the morning of February 3, which is why it’s known as The Day The Music Died. ( faqs.org/faqs/music/american-pie/ )



  12. Buddy was so scared of Decca that the songwriting credit for That’ll Be The Day and some of the other songs he released went to “Charles Hardin” (His real name was Charles Hardin Holley). He never got sued by Decca because by some weird coincidence, Coral Records was a small-label subsidiary of Decca, where Buddy had more freedom to experiment with his recordings.

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