It took 2 min. 16 sec. for Buddy Holly to alter the course of rock ‘n’ roll. “That’ll Be the Day” was released in May 1957 on Coral Records and credited to Holly’s backup band the Crickets for various legal reasons. It shot to the top of the charts in the U.S. and U.K. and into the ears of two teenagers, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. “I remember hearing ‘That’ll Be the Day’ and the lyric ‘That’ll be the day-hey-hey when I die,’ ” McCartney reminisced in a 2007 New Yorker article. “Die? In a pop song? That was dark, man. We loved that.”
Holly bled country music into rock ‘n’ roll, making his voice hiccup where others would insert a twang. He drew his syllables out wildly — “That’ll be the day when you make me cry-y-y” — and played his Gibson guitar with a ferocity that few have been able to match. With that one song, Holly proved that rockin’ music could take even a skinny, geeky boy with glasses and make him sound cool.