The happy man from Happy, Texas
Buddy Knox was another singer/songwriter whose future changed when he saw Elvis Presley’s first 1955 performance in West Texas. While attending West Texas State College, majoring in psychology and business administration, Buddy put together a band with two fellow students—Jimmy Bowen on bass and Don Lanier on lead guitar. Buddy sang lead and played rhythm guitar, and the group billed themselves as Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids, because of the orchid-colored shirts they wore. They performed at local clubs for beer and food until they were kicked out for being underage. How does one go from being kicked out of beer joints to a million selling number one record within a few months?
The story begins with an “end-of-college” souvenir demo session and ends with one of the best-known and well-loved Rockabilly classics of all time —“Party Doll.” In 1956, Buddy and the other “Rhythm Orchids” were graduating from college and they wanted to give their fellow classmates a souvenir to remember them by. Buddy Knox, Jimmy Bowen and Donnie Lanier took the advice of fellow local musician, Roy Orbison, and traveled to Clovis, New Mexico to meet Norman Petty. Norman and his wife Vi performed as the Norman Petty Trio and self-produced their recordings in a makeshift studio in the garage of their small home. Orbison had heard about the little studio and told Buddy that Norman Petty may be of some help in his quest to cut a college memorial demo session. Although the Petty garage recording set up was not a professional, open-to-the-public recording studio, Norman agreed to help the boys out. The group paid Norman Petty $60 for the session which included the local Clovis drummer, David Alldred, pounding on a cardboard box filled with pillows for drums.
Out of this amazing maze of accidents, Buddy Knox and his Rhythm Orchids recorded three million-selling single records with Norman Petty that day, including “Party Doll” which has sold over fifteen-million single records and is still, fifty years later, one of the most played Rockabilly songs of all time. Buddy Knox was the first West Texas artist to write and record his own million-selling record. “Party Doll,” along with two other songs Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids recorded in that first demo session, was the very first million-selling records recorded at the legendary Norman Petty Studio in Clovis, New Mexico. Buddy Knox casually passed on the word about the Petty Studio to his friend, Buddy Holly, and one year later Buddy Holly and the Crickets would rock the world with “That’ll Be the Day,” and the West Texas dynasty was begun.
Excerpt from The Rockabilly Legends DVD Documentary 2-DVD Set.