Norman Petty (May 25, 1927 – August 15, 1984) 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. "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.
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.
Read more about Norman Petty: Songwriting Credits
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