Two former members of Norman Petty Trio to meet again

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Next week’s Clovis Music Festival brings together two individuals who played significant roles in music history, not knowing their lives were linked.

Mike Mitchell and Georgiana Hagen were members of the Norman Petty Trio in the 1950s, although not at the same time.

They did not know they shared a common bond, meeting by accident in 2002 at a theater in Clovis.

Mitchell and Hagen will meet again at a VIP reception Thursday at the Clovis Music Festival.

“I’ve performed at several festivals; I don’t know what to expect,” Mitchell said. “However, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends.”

Their story spans half a century of memories, beginning at a time without microwave ovens, e-mails, or instant coffee.

When Hagen was a little girl, her first cousin, Vi Brady, visited and played the piano while she sang along.

“Vi told me that, when we grew up, she was going to play the piano and I would sing,” Hagen said. Brady’s predication came true.

Brady grew up and married Norman Petty in 1948, and played the piano in the original Norman Petty Trio with Jack Vaughn on guitar.

Hagen joined the trio as solo female vocalist in March of 1950. Fellow trio members often described how Hagen’s voice “roamed through a song” as though it was meant especially for the listener.

The trio traveled the United States entertaining in officer’s clubs at various air force bases.

“I met a nice captain in the air force,” Hagen said. “He sent me the most beautiful pearl ring because he couldn’t find the diamond he wanted.”

Homesickness — and her fondness for the captain — led Hagen to leave the group in November 1952.

In her 21 months with the Norman Petty Ensemble, she recorded A dream is a wish your heart makes and Gimme a little kiss, will ya, huh in 1951.

After Hagen left, Vi Petty became lead singer while continuing to play keyboards.

Mitchell began his musical career in his early teens, banging away rhythms. When he was about 14 or 15, he caught Norman Petty’s eye — and ear.

Petty, who gained international fame for his work with Buddy holly, first heard Mitchell drumming for a high school band called the Blue Notes. Mitchell, a Clovis florist, said the five-piece band played high school dances in Clovis and surrounding areas.

They group recorded some of their songs at the Norman Petty Studios.

The recordings turned out to be a learning experience: When Mitchell heard his drumming on a record, “I discovered how bad I was,” he said. “I became a lot more aware of the mistakes I was making.”

Four years after Hagen’s departure from the group, guitarist Jack Vaughn left too, and Norman Petty asked Mitchell to join them as a drummer.

Although he enjoyed playing with the trio, most of his fondest memories revolve around the recording sessions.

“I was a studio drummer, recording backup for Norman for 30 years,” Mitchell said. He recalls all-night recording sessions.

“I didn’t get much sleep. I was recording all night and working as a DJ for KCLV in the day,” he said. Petty recorded at nights because it was quieter.

“The loss of sleep was worth it; Petty had a way of bringing out talent in a non-critical way,” he said.

At one time, Petty had him play with brushes on cardboard boxes to find a particularly crisp sound.

“Norman was innovative and intelligent,” Mitchell said. “I considered him a friend and enjoyed working with him.”

Mitchell and Hagen are the only surviving members of the Norman Petty Trio. They met for the first time in September 2002 when Hagen was visiting friends in Clovis .
“We went to the theater,” Hagen said.

“Mike was performing there with the Bill Case Combo.” She was impressed by his “wonderful stage presence.”

Looking forward to their first performance together next week, Hagen said the special performance will be on an outside stage at the Norman Petty Studios. Mitchell will play the drums while Hagen will sing Don’t Ever Say Good-bye.
The VIP reception is by invitation only.

The music festival also features performances by John Mueller’s Winter Dance Party, Sonny West, The Fireballs and The Crickets.