Clovis home to its fair share of good musicians

By Don McAlavy: Curry historian

Clovis has been home to many good musicians. Here are some tidbits on Gus Nunez and a few more:

“A lot of people in Clovis, all musicians, have told me that possibly the best guitar player around Clovis in the old days was Gus Nunez,” said Ken Tucker, a pretty good guitar player himself.

“Gus taught me how to ‘bar chord’ on the guitar,” said Tucker, “and I’ll never forget that. Country guitar players use that all the time; makes it sound full. I have played with Victor Carrasco when he played trumpet and Gus Nunez played guitar. You ought to have heard Nunez play ‘Stardust.’”

Eugene Montoya, another excellent musician, came to Clovis in 1946 and had a band call Laureles, meaning “Flowers.”

“One of my band members was at that time Gus Nunez, who had played for Benito Gonzales Orchestra,” Montoya said. “You had to be an excellent guitar player to play with Benito Gonzales.”

Hector Carrasco, a Clovis musician, said, “The Antonio Salazar Band and other bands played at my father’s private club on West Grand Avenue in the old days.”

No one can forget Jack Carrasco. “If Gus Nunez was included in any of these bands,’ said Hector Carrasco, “you had one of Clovis’ most talented musicians.”

Angel A. “Gus” Nunez was born Oct. 2, 1925. Nunez was a veteran, having served in World War II in Germany. This information came from his obituary along with these items:

Nunez was a retired commissary worker with the Santa Fe Railroad. In most cases musicians around Clovis played part time in bands and made their living working during the day. Gus Nunez could have gone on to Chicago, New York City, and other big cities and become famous.

Gus Nunez was a diabetic. He had to wear thick glasses and finally retired from the railroad because of his health. He died at age 43 in the Albuquerque Veterans Hospital, on Thursday morning, Sept. 11, 1969. Survivors included the widow, Josephine Nunez and a daughter, Laura, both of Clovis. Rosary services were held in Clovis and Mass was held the following Monday in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church with Father Reynaldo Rivera officiating.

Gus Nunez is buried in the Mission Garden of Memories, in the Nuchols Square. One of the bits of knowledge that Gus Nunez often told musicians was: “If you learn to play or sing old songs, you’ll never starve to death.”

In writing the book “Those Who Made the Music,” I could not find history material for many of the old-time musicians, such as Gus Numez, and regret that no one had compiled the history of those who made the music.

I can’t find any book ever written on Norman Petty. Vi Petty asked me sometime after Norman died if I’d write a book about him. I begged off telling her I wasn’t qualified and suggested she get an author who was a professional, such as Ben H. Boyett.

Boyett wrote an excellent history of Norman Petty back in November of 1982.

I have never seen anything in the papers about Guz Nunez. Other musicians who have gotten lost in the cracks of time were Rose Till, an unknown Clovis songwriter and singer who once worked at the Dairy Queen on North Main. Another was Rufe Choate, who lived near McAlister and played the violin and called the square dances. The Dorris Farm Boys Band around 1940 in Clovis had only one person who could have told their history. That was Splinter Dorris, but he is no longer with us.

I have learned that musicians want to play music, or sing music, and that’s all they want to do. Trying to get them to talk about themselves is like pulling teeth! Clovis has and has had many good musicians.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at:
dmcalavy@telescopelab.com