Don McAlavy: Local Columnist
Back in 1997 my musician friend Larry Buchanan discovered that Waldo O’Neal, who moved to Clovis and is buried in the W. 7th cemetery, had written five songs which were recorded by the famous Blue Yodeler, Jimmie Rodgers.
Larry and I decided to write a book on music made in and around Clovis. My friend died in 2001.
It was a while before I could continue working on the book, but when I did, I decided to start at one particular point in time when the music in Clovis started: May 1, 1907.
You wouldn’t believe the scene:
“At the beginning the only sound to disturb the monotony of the situation was the mournful sound of the coyote on the distant prairie, except that occasionally ye editor would take his mandolin and get out in a daisy patch covering an alleged street in front of ye editor’s office (a tent) and keep harmony with said coyote,” reported Arthur Curren.
Roland F. Dickey of Clovis, who later became the state historian, tells of his grandfather who owned some 500 records and the first phonograph in Clovis.
From miles around, people would come to sit in his yard and listen to the music.
One of the earliest stories I found was titled “Swinging Games, Music, Dancing, and Sin Defined.”
In those pioneer days, most fathers and mothers from the country forbid their children to dance, particularly to music, as this was considered sinful. However, the young folks were allowed to do swinging games while the parents watched nearby.
I found more musicians who grew up in or around Clovis, those who came to Clovis to live and make music, or those who came to Clovis to be recorded by Norman Petty in his little studio on West 7th.
Some musicians I interviewed include Bob Tucker, Tommy Haney, Billy Walker, Sam Green, Alva J. Parker, Coleman Jackson, Hershel Parker, Gus Nunez, Paul Cordova, Conrado Mondragon, The Smarts, Delmer Shirley, Glen Barris, and Bill Barbour.
The book kept growing.
I devoted a chapter to the Norman Petty story and those he recorded, including the musicians or bands that played in the past thirteen annual Clovis Music Festivals, of which the last was Bob Linville.
One of the most detailed chapters in the book concerns the music of Homer Tankersley.
There is a chapter on the Hispanic musicians of Clovis, and a chapter on the Lyceum and the musicians that played there after its restoration in 1983.
The book grew to about 620 pages, which are divided into eighteen chapters, each chapter focusing on a particular period, as well as an index using up nearly 26 pages.
“A history book with no index is not worth a plug nickel,” one of my historian friends told me.
The Clovis music books does not focus on the music but on stories and histories of musicians, the solo performers as well as those who performed with bands.
Thus, I finally decided on a title: Those Who Made the Music.
In May of 2005, eight years after Larry and I begun it, the manuscript ofThose Who Made the Music was completed with many photograps as well as stories from band directors including Norvil Howell, Wayne Anderson, and the likes of Floren Thompson and Lemuel Perry, who started the Clovis Symphony Orchestra in 2003.
My former pardner in the printing business in Clovis is publishing Those Who Made the Music . He believes he’ll have some copies ready by the time I arrive.
I do hope to be available at a book signing on Thursday, September 22, 2005, at 2 p.m. at the Ingram Room of the Clovis-Carver Public Library. Some musicians will probably be there to play a few old songs.
My wife and I can only be in Clovis for a few days, but we’ll make the best of it. We have a lot of friends to see.
One friend who will not be there, but whose presence will loom large, is Larry Buchanan.
The book is done, Larry.