Anatomy of a Song

Gary: “While doing research for our blog, I stumbled upon some facts that I found interesting.  This post will be a bit different.  I would like to just Pop these little Posts in from time to time and if you do not find them interesting, then just blame Gary, it is 100% my idea.  When I research singers or groups, which is a large undertaking, I also research the music and this is where I am going with this Post.  Some of the biggest Hit records have interesting histories, so I will just call this segment.
Anatomy of a hit song # 1
1957 Song “At the Hop

The song was written in 1957 by David White and John Madara.  You will see Artie Singer’s name in the credits, but he was only the producer.  David White was a member of the Juvenairs, who would later be called “Danny and the Juniors”.

The original name and original recording of the song was under the name “Do the Bop”.  The Juvenairs or Danny and the Juniors where, John White, Danny Rapp, Joe Terranova and Frank Maffei.  David took the song to his coach/record producer Artie Singer.  Artie liked the song, scheduled a recording session at Reco-Art Studios in Philly and included a B side of another song David had written called “Sometimes (where we are along”.  The Juvenairs sang back up and John Madara was lead for “Do the Bop”.

John Madara was already under contract and needed another song.  His record company did not like the recording and turned it down. It was taken to other companies who also turned it down.  Artie then took the song to Dick Clark who actually liked it, but suggested a name change to “At the Hop” because the bop was loosing it’s popularity.  Artie, changed the name, some lyrics, thus he became co-writer and arranged another recording session.

The new recording session would just be the Juvenairs, with the new name Danny & the Juniors with Danny Rapp on lead and John Madara in the control booth.  Dave had this “Whole lotta shakin’ piano” idea and expressed that to the producer Emile Corsen.  Emile assembled Walt Gates on Grand Piano, Artie Singer on upright bass and Jack O’Brien on drums.  They now had a new name for both song and group, At the Hop by Danny & the Juniors and the rest they say is just Rock and Roll History.

“At the Hop” would spend 7 weeks at #1 on Billboard starting in January 1958.

danny_juniorsDanny & the Juniors
Walt Gates and John Madara (1961)
Do the Bop / John Madara & the Juvenairs 1957 /
At the Hop / Danny & the Juniors 57/58 /
I will include one more song in my first attempt at analyzing a song.  This one is tough because it is one of my all-time favourite performers and groups from the 50’s Buddy Holly & the Crickets.
That’ll be the Day / 1956 / 1957

The title of this song was predicated around a 1956 John Wayne movie called The Searchers. JohnWayn-searchers Both Sonny Curtis and Buddy had gone to the movie and Buddy was stuck on the fact that John Wayne used the phrase “That’ll be the Day”  through the entire movie.

Nashville:  Buddy signed that ill fated contract with Decca in Nashville and went there in 1956 to record.  One of the songs would be “That’ll be the day”.  Here is the Nashville line-up

(July 22, 1956 at Bradley’s Barn, Nashville)

  • Buddy Holly – vocals, guitar
  • Sonny Curtis – guitar
  • Don Guess – bass
  • Jerry Allison – drums
This was a disaster; Buddy had a disagreement with the producer and almost came to blows.  He was told he would never record in this studio again and they refused to release the recording. 
So fast forward 7 months to February 1957 and Clovis New Mexico. same song with contract problems.  The musicians where:

February 25, 1957 at Norman Petty Recording Studio)

  • Buddy Holly – lead guitar and vocals
  • Larry Welborn – bass
  • Jerry Allison – drums
  • Niki Sullivan – background vocals
  • June Clark – background vocals
  • Gary Tollett – background vocals
  • Ramona Tollett – background vocals
From what I have read about the irony this is how it went.
Because Holly had signed a recording contract with Decca, he was contractually prohibited from re-recording any of the songs recorded during the 1956 Nashville sessions for five years, even if Decca never released them. To dodge this, producer Norman Petty credited the Crickets as the artist on this new recording of “That’ll Be the Day” to shield Buddy from possible legal action. Ironically, Brunswick Records was a subsidiary of Decca Records. Once the cat was out of the bag, Decca re-signed Holly to another of its subsidiaries, Coral Records, so he ended up with two recording contracts. His group efforts would be issued by Brunswick, and his solo recordings would be on Coral.
“That’ll be the day” went to Number 1 on Billboard, August 1957 and Buddy left us February 3, 1959.
That’ll be the DayThe Crickets / Nashville – Decca 1956 /
That’ll be the Day / Buddy Holly / Clovis NM 1957 /
Sonny Curtis singing about Buddy / from the Paul McCartney Movie /
and in 2009

[Editor’s note – Thought you’d like to see this…]

Gary2013Gary – 2013

5 responses to “Anatomy of a Song

  1. Just loved listening to Sonny Curtis, especially the longer version.

    Buddy Holly was one of a kind, I have a CD which I play in the car often.

    • Hey Wally – Gary and I saw Buddy Holly (actually a very good likeness of him) at a show in Barrie called “Class of 59” – the actor was like Buddy all the way through the show, in appearance, singing, playing guitar solos and mannerisms. Buddy was definitely one of a kind.

  2. Great stories . Keep up the good work.

  3. Hey guys, thanks so much for posting both different versions of “That’ll Be the Day” by the great Buddy Holly. My Mom had the Linda Ronstadt album “Hasten Down The Wind” with her version of that song, and I happen to live in Tucson now, her hometown (I also have the vinyl record version that belonged to my Mom)!

    I also want to ask you, how do you embed your music (i.e. songs) on your blog? I’m doing a research paper and presentation that is in the process of being worked on (and is due in about 5 weeks), and it’s about narcocorridos, the controversial and popular form of the Mexican corrido.

    Just figured I’d ask, since I had a college course about the history of Country music last Spring semester (which included substantial sections covering rockabilly, early rock’n’roll, swing, jazz, and blues), which used the same type of music player for the song samples on that course. I’m a full-time NAU college student, taking online/asynchronous courses, as a Humanities major about to get my bachelor’s degree in Spring of next year (also, I’m from Flagstaff originally). I’d appreciate any suggestions on how you go about making your songs that you use on this blog so easily playable! Thanks again, Matt.

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