CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Shirley and Kenneth Broad, owners of the Norman Petty Recording Studio in Clovis, unveil a historic marker presented Thursday by the New Mexico Historical Preservation Division.
By Sharna Johnson: Freedom Newspapers
Dozens gathered Thursday in a small court yard at the Norman Petty Recording Studio to watch the unveiling of a marker to commemorate the studio’s place in music history.
Musicians who recorded at the studio and knew Vi and Norman Petty reminisced about the early days of rock ’n’ roll at the studio.
Musician Sonny West talked of his first recording at the studio in 1956. “(At the time) it was the only place I knew of and I’m happy it worked out the way it did.”
Unfolding a piece of paper tucked inside an old tape case of an original recording, West read the start of a letter he sent Petty years ago.
“Dear Norman, here’s a song that I just finished. I think it has great possibilities,” he read.
“It wasn’t a hit song,” he said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
After distinguished guests passed the microphone, sharing memories of the Pettys, Kenneth and Shirley Broad lifted a blanket taken from Norman Petty’s bed, revealing a brown metal sign with white lettering to the crowd.
Describing how “Petty made rock ’n’ roll history recording Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ ‘That’ll Be the Day,’” the crowd applauded and cheered.
The unveiling was held at the studio in conjunction with the Clovis Music Festival, which started Thursday.
The marker will be added to the state’s 550 historic markers.
Tom Drake with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division said the Department of Transportation is looking at locations along U.S. 60/84 for placement of the marker with an area for viewers to pull in and stop.
Drake said installation should take place in coming months after a location is selected and a frame and post constructed for the sign.
According to the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, it is the first completed marker in the program’s 71-year history to recognize a musician and the only one to commemorate a cultural contribution by the generations that followed World War II.
At thirteen, Norman began cutting records in his father’s filling station. With money earned from the Norman Petty Trio’s “Mood Indigo,” Petty converted a family grocery store next door into a modern recording studio where he experimented with echo and microphone settings. In 1957, Petty made rock ’n’ roll history recording Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ “That’ll Be the Day.” The sound influenced a generation, and his techniques are still used today.