"That'll Be the Day" had its genesis in a trip to the movies by Holly, Allison and Sonny Curtis in June 1956. The John Wayne film The Searchers was playing. Wayne's frequently-used, world-weary catchphrase, "That'll be the day." inspired the young musicians. Soon after, Holly along with Allison wrote a song centered on that phrase. They first recorded it on July 22, 1956, at the Decca Records studio in Nashville, Tennessee.
On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as "The Day the Music Died", Buddy Holly died in a small-plane crash in Iowa, a tragedy that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Ritchie Valens and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as pilot Roger Peterson.