He discovered and signed Buddy Holly

Veteran music publisher and exec Murray Deutch, who was instrumental in the discovery of rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly, died Oct. 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 90.

Deutch was a big band singer and served in the Army Entertainment Corps during World War II, appearing in Irving Berlin’s “This Is the Army.”

Following the war, after working as a song plugger, Deutch segued into publishing as general professional manager at Peer-Southern Intl. The firm repped publishing for New Mexico writer-producer Norman Petty, who recorded the Texas rock ‘n’ roll act Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

Deutch told Holly’s biographer John Goldrosen, “Norman sent me the tape of (Holly’s first hit) ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ and I went nuts for it. I didn’t know quite what it was, it was just my instinct — the song had an intonation I had never heard before.”

In 1956, the publisher brought the song to Bob Thiele, head of A&R for Decca Records’ Coral subsidiary; ultimately signed by the label, Holly and the Crickets produced a string of indelible hits.

During the ’60s, Deutch was executive veep of United Artists’ music division, where he oversaw the James Bond franchise, the Beatles’ films “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” and the movie version of the Broadway hit “Hair.”

In 1972, he became chairman/chief executive officer of the New York Times Music Publishing Co., where he acquired rights to “West Side Story” and “Godspell.” In 1976, he founded his own publishing firm Buttermilk Sky, where he supervised music for the pics “Annie,” “Ghostbusters” and “The Big Chill,” among others.

Survivors include his wife, Pamela; son, helmer Howard Deutch; a daughter; four grandchildren and a great-grandaughter.

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