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Norman Petty with wife Vi
May 25, 1927,|
Clovis, New Mexico, U.S.
|Died||August 15, 1984
Lubbock, Texas, U.S.
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, record producer|
|Associated acts||Norman Petty Trio|
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, Charlie "Sugartime" Phillips, Sonny West, Carolyn Hester, Terry Noland, Jimmy & Cliff Blakley, 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 1950s and 1960s, Petty had productions on virtually every major record label in the United States and Canada with numerous regional successes, and of various musical styles.
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. Petty was hired because he had access to the local musicians that 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. The stations were sold by Curry County Broadcasting to Zia Broadcasting in 2010. Petty died in Lubbock, Texas, in August 1984 of leukemia; later in 1984 he was posthumously named Clovis Citizen Of The Year. His wife Vi died in March 1992. The original 7th Street Studio is available for tours by appointment only. Vi Petty helped start the Norman & Vi Petty Music Festival in Clovis, New Mexico, 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 and 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.
2014 saw the release of The King of Clovis, a book about Petty by Frank Blanas. A documentary is also in the works from the Super Oldies label.
In the summer of 2016, Petty's "Nor-Va-Jak" label was officially revived with authorization from Norman Petty Studios LLC with the purpose of reissuing Petty productions that had not been previously available on CD.
Petty gave himself songwriting credits on some of Buddy Holly's songs, as well as songs from other artists. This was a common practice for decades, especially among managers and label owners Irving Mills and Morris Levy being among the best known examples. Petty briefly did this in the late 1950s as he was told it was the norm in publishing, but he discontinued this practice within a few years.
- "Show 12 - Big Rock Candy Mountain: Rock 'n' roll in the late fifties. [Part 2] : UNT Digital Library". Digital.library.unt.edu. 1969-04-27. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Don McAlavy. "Buddy Holly, Norman Petty at the heart of the 'Clovis Sound', petty, norman, clovis - History - Clovis News Journal". Cnjonline.com. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Billboard - Google Books. Books.google.com. 1971-01-23. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Ellis Amburn, Buddy Holly. A Biography; Larry Lehmer, The Day The Music Died
- "Nor-Va-Jak Music" - authorized CDs of Petty Productions/discography/info
- "Almost Paradise - The Definitive History" documentary DVD
- "Norman Petty Studios/Nor-Va-Jak Music" on Facebook
- "Norman Petty". Rockabillyhall.com. 1997-03-21. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Pore-Lee-Dunn Productions. "Interview With The Fireballs". Classicbands.com. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Interview with Norman Petty in International Songwriters Association's Songwriter Magazine, dealing mainly with songwriting
- Norman Petty interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (recorded April 1968).
- BMI entry showing songs credited or co-credited to Petty