Spanish music pioneers will be remembered

By Ben Salazar: Guest columnist

Clovis’ music community suffered two great losses last month with the passing of Noe Anzaldua and Jose “Adan” Mondragon. Both individuals through their respective talents and personalities were instrumental in developing what has become known throughout New Mexico and West Texas as the “Clovis sound” for Spanish music.

Anzaldua began exposing Spanish musicians in this area to an emerging style known as Tex-Mex when he began his broadcasting career at KMUL radio station in Muleshoe. Many of the first-generation musicians in this area still had strong ties to the Northern New Mexico style of music as many of them were originally born there. However, second-generation musicians liked the slower-paced and big-brass-oriented sounds of the Tex-Mex bands.

It was not uncommon to find most area musicians tuned in to Anzaldua’s program trying to hear the latest in Tex-Mex and later blending it into their style of music. As KMUL’s broadcast area began to expand, Anzaldua noticed that many of his requests were coming in from eastern New Mexico. He began to establish a loyal listening audience who would continually tune into his programs for over 50 years.

Anzaldua clearly understood the importance of becoming an integral part of his broadcast market and always strived to serve the best interests of his listeners. He always took the time to announce events that were of importance to the Latino community. He would promote and attend community functions, then often broadcast live and free of charge just to ensure its success.

One of my favorite memories of Anzaldua and his influence on teenage musicians is when he used to do live remotes from Levines in downtown Clovis. These remotes used to take place on Sunday afternoons and Noe always insisted that a local band be invited to perform. For many of us, that was our first opportunity to hear ourselves on radio. It would not have been possible to gain that experience nor have received that kind of encouragement without the likes of Anzaldua.

Adan Mondragon, as his family and friends know him, was a 15-year-old guitar player who came to Clovis at a time when Tex-Mex was being interwoven with traditional New Mexico music and rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to find its niche. With the likes of Buddy Holly and all the other greats being in Clovis at one time or another, local radio stations steadily began playing this new music.

Mondragon quickly began blending traditional Spanish music with Tex-Mex and adding licks from rock ‘n’ roll and that’s what I believe could be considered one of the foundations for what is considered Clovis’ Spanish music sound.

Mondragon’s musical career lasted more than six decades and his involvement with bands included countless friends and acquaintances, along with influencing many of his family members to become musicians. Many of these individuals are still very much involved in creating and performing all types of music including Spanish, country, rock, blues, jazz and gospel.

I was fortunate to have been directly involved with both of these individuals. I worked alongside Anzaldua as a broadcaster at KMUL and then later went on to host various radio and television programs throughout the area and state. Noe always had an encouraging word and continuously supported my endeavors.

Adan Mondragon and I played in several bands together and, along with our friend and local musician Phillip Ulibarri, were in the process of developing a musical and film preservation project based on the Spanish music of Clovis. His love of music and dedication to his craft will serve as reminder that it’s important that we complete this project.

Ben Salazar is a Clovis resident. Contact him at:
bsalazar007@cox.net