Clovis Music Festival revives after five years

Norman Petty Trio member Georgiana Hagen, right, sings as Mike Mitchell plays the drums. The two were reunited at the Thursday kick-off party for the 2005 Clovis Music Festival at the Norman Petty Studio. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The return of the Clovis Music Festival summoned the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll back to life.

The backyard of the Norman Petty Studio on Thursday was awash in bluish lights and fan appreciation: Hearty applause, girlish laughter and the flash of cameras.

The backyard celebration kicked off the 2005 Clovis Music Festival — and the rebirth of a tradition.

Once an annual event, the Clovis Music Festival went into hibernation five years ago. With the help of some dedicated fans and a little star power, it’s back.

“(The festival) fell by the wayside because we got away from our roots — we started booking more country musicians and pop acts,” said Liz Eisenbraun, Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce marketing and special events coordinator.

A big fan of the original rock ‘n’ roll era, Eisenbraun, who hails from England, resurrected the festival, said Chamber of Commerce employees.

Eisenbraun said her passion for 1950s hits accounts for just a portion of the festival’s return.

She pointed out that Clovis is known worldwide for its musical legends — the folks who passed through the doors of Seventh Street’s Norman Petty Studio. “I appreciate the history,” Eisenbraun said.

The invitation-only event drew a big audience, including festival sponsors, tribute artists, the makers of a musical era including Clovis resident and Roses band member David Bigham.

Also in attendance was Peggy Sue, the woman who inspired Buddy Holly’s famous tune.

Husbands and wives, Southwest Cheese sponsors and foreign fans mingled quietly with the stars during the “unofficial jam,” said Chamber of Commerce director Ernie Kos.

A group of neighborhood boys even watched the proceedings from afar.

“I love the music,” said Oklahoma resident Linda Todd, 55. “It has a lot of staying power.”

“Obviously,” she added, scanning the jubilant crowd of more than 50 enthusiasts.

Under a cobalt, star-free sky, Carl Bunch — a drummer who joined Buddy Holly on his last tour — smiled often and softly patted old friends on shoulders.

“I had a dream about Buddy Holly right after he died,” said Bunch. Holly had given him the nickname “Goose.”

“I dreamt I was in the hospital and he came into the room and touched me on the head and said, ‘Everything is going to be all right.’”

And everything did seem all right for Bunch.

The sounds of his kind of music and of a bygone era resonated in a neighborhood where it hadn’t for years.

“I’m just really thankful. I was hoping that the music and the stuff that we did would survive.

“It has,” Bunch said. “Still, after 45 years.”