In which Buddy records a hit song.
“So you have a new song, Buddy?” The speaker was a pleasant-faced man around thirty years old.
“I do, Norm,” said his companion, a tall gangly young man with a sheepish but endearing grin on his face. He took off his black-framed glasses and wiped them self-consciously on his sleeve. “It’s kinda different from the other ones. D’ ya wanna hear it.”
Norman Petty nodded. “Let’s give it a whirl, Buddy,” he replied.
Buddy Holly picked up his acoustic guitar and strummed it softly. He began singing in his wistful keening tenor voice.
“Everyday it’s a-getting’ closer, going faster than a roller coaster…”
Norm Petty leaned back in his chair, chin in his hand, listening carefully. An accomplished musician with a perfect sense of pitch, he admired the unique sound of Buddy’s voice with its soaring, wistful quality, tinged with both youthful optimism and a sad yearning. The boy clearly had talent, a way with lyric and melody, and he was constantly experimenting with new sounds and styles.
Buddy’s sweet voice died away as the song came to a close. “What d’ya think, Norm. D’ ya like it?” asked Buddy in his soft drawl. The young musician hailed from Lubbock, a cattle town in the Texas panhandle. He and his buddies, Joe Mauldin and Jerry Allison had driven the ninety miles across the border to Clovis, New Mexico in search of a hit record at Norman Petty’s Seventh Street studio. They had already spent several sessions in the studio, and their first record, a song called “That’ll be the Day”, had just been released on the Brunswick label.
“Buddy, I do like it. I like it a lot,” replied Petty, leaning forward in his chair. It’s real catchy. Now, how do you think we should do it?”
“Well, Joe and J.I. and me, we been playing it with all the instruments, ya know, the Fender electric and the stand-up bass and the drums, and it just sounds like too much. It’s a soft, light, kind of airy song, like you’re floatin’ or something…” Buddy’s voice tailed off as he struggled to articulate his ideas about the song.
“Yes. I know what you mean,” said Petty slowly. “Let’s hear it one more time.”
This time as Buddy began to strum and sing, his companion, Jerry Allison, began slapping his knees in time to the song.
“That’s perfect, J.I.,” interrupted Petty, “just keep that up. It’s exactly the percussion sound we need. It’s great.”
A grin of pleasure creased the young Texan’s face as he continued slapping the denim of his knees and thighs.
“Just a little soft bass on the changes, Joe,” said Petty to the third band member. “Just light. Don’t lean on it,” he added.
“I think we’re on to something, boys,” said Norman Petty as the song concluded. “We just need a little something more. Something to offset Buddy’s voice. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Buddy Holly had wandered over to a keyboard instrument that stood at the side of the studio. The young man started to finger the keys. A series of distinctive tinkling notes rang out from the instrument. A look of surprise crossed Buddy’s face.
“Wow! That’s one strange instrument. It sure ain’t no regular piano! What’s the name of it, Norm?” he asked.
“It’s called a celeste,” replied Petty. “It plays like a regular piano except that inside, instead of the hammers hitting strings, they hit metal plates. That’s how come you get that tinkling sound. The most famous example of it is in ‘The dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from Tchaikovsky’s Nut Cracker Suite. But it’s also been used by jazz musicians like Thelonius Monk.”
“I kinda like it,” said Buddy. “Say, Norm, let’s try it on my song. It has that kind of light airy thing going on. Do you know how to play it, Norm?’
“I do,” said Petty, “But Vi would play it the best. Let me get her in here.” He jumped to his feet and went through a rear door in search of his wife. Violet Ann Petty, whom Norman had first met in high school when she was a talented up and coming classical pianist, had been part of Petty’s own band, a trio that had registered a national hit with a version of Duke Ellington’s ‘Mood Indigo’ three years previously. Now that he had made the transition from performer to producer Norman Petty relied on his wife to create and play many of the keyboard parts on recordings.
Vi Petty, a pretty woman with her light brown hair in a bouffant hair style, smiled as she entered the studio.
“Hi, Buddy. Hi, fellers,” she said. “Norm tells me you need me to play some celeste.” She sat down at the keyboard, and played a few chords and runs on the instrument flexing her fingers and getting comfortable. After hearing Buddy’s song a couple of times she nodded and said:
“That’s a real pretty number, Buddy. I like it a lot. I think the celeste would sound real nice alongside your sweet voice.”
The young Texan blushed shyly at her compliment.
“What’s the title of the song, Buddy?” she asked.
“It’s called ‘Everyday’,” replied Buddy.
“Okay, let’s get busy,” interrupted Norman Petty briskly. “Do the whole song through once, Buddy. The two verses, the bridge, and the third verse. Then, Vi, you’ll do a solo on the verse melody, and then, Buddy, repeat the bridge and the last verse. How does that sound?”
Buddy nodded, and then Vi asked:
“Do I play anything before the solo, Norm?”
“Maybe just a few notes and chords here and there to complement the voice. Nothing fancy!” replied her husband. “And Jerry, keep that knee-slappin’ going steady all through the song.”
“Gotcha! You bet!” said the grinning drummer.
After several false starts they made it through the song which included a delicate airy solo from Vi Petty, her fingers sweeping across the keyboard of the celeste.
“That’s cool, Vi,” said Buddy as the song ended. “That’s just what I had in mind – light and airy!”
“Right everybody,” declared Norman Petty purposefully. “Let’s get miked up for a take.”
Later they sat around the board and Petty twiddled the nobs, adjusting the sound levels, as they listened to the playback. Over the microphones they heard the tender voice of Buddy, gliding and soaring, and then the ethereal tinkle of Violet Petty’s celeste solo. At the conclusion of the song Jerry Allison and Joe Mauldin high-fived each other, Vi Petty smiled with pleasure, and even Norman Petty allowed his frown of concentration to shift into a warm grin.
“That’s perfect, Norm,” said Buddy. “Now I have this other song I want to do next. I really think it could be a hit. It’s called Peggy Sue.”
‘Everyday’, credited to Charles Hardin (Buddy Holly) and Norman Petty, was recorded on May 27, 1957, and was released as the ‘B’ side of the hit ‘Peggy Sue’ which was recorded three months later. The record reached #3 on the Billboard charts and #6 in the UK. ‘Everyday’ is a brief two minutes and five seconds example of the extraordinary versatility and creativity of Buddy Holly, a talent sadly snuffed out in a snowy field in Iowa in 1959. ‘Everyday’ was named #236 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is a delightful combination of confidence and uncertainty, illustrated in the lines: ‘Everyday it’s a-getting closer going faster than a roller-coaster’ over against ‘Everyone says go ahead and ask her’. It is steady and yet wistful, sure and yet somehow unsure. The simple spare production is perfect. The song was covered by numerous singers such as Bobby Vee, and provided modest hits for John Denver in 1971, Don Mclean in 1973 and James Taylor in 1985 (his version, decent and different but ‘not a patch on’ Buddy’s original, won a grammy!)
Although many of Buddy Holly’s songs are memorable, ‘Everyday’ is my personal favorite. I have always enjoyed and admired simple songs because they are easy to play and appreciate. Rock on, Buddy!