Music fest trip back in time

Sonny West co-wrote the rock ‘n’ roll classics “Oh Boy!” and “Rave On.” (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Melanie Salazar: Freedom Newspapers

Buddy Holly fans know the 1959 plane crash that claimed the lives Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper inspired the rock ‘n’ roll classic, “The Day the Music Died.”

And, though the 56th anniversary of that day has come and gone, the music in Clovis lives on.

The Clovis Music Festival held this weekend drew 1950s music fans from around the country — and the world — for a little music and a little reminiscing. The festival honored 1950s musicians with Clovis ties to the well-known Norman Petty Studio.

Fans and musicians visited with old friends at Saturday’s fanfare at La Quinta Inn, where they purchased merchandise and collected autographs from attending artists.

Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce special events coordinator Liz Eisenbraun said the festival drew fans from as far away as Canada, England and The Netherlands.

“This is one of the greatest assets Clovis has from bringing in tourism,” she said. “The music history here is known worldwide.”

Paul and Dot King of England have been to Clovis before. Their passion for the music, coupled with their love of the town, brought them back this time.

“It’s been wonderful. We love the music and love the area,” Paul King said. “It’s a great place. Clovis is a very friendly town.”

Behind the flocks of fans at Saturday’s fanfare event sat John Pickering, a longtime musician who said Clovis will always have a place in his heart. Pickering moved to Clovis when he was 7. His name quickly spread around town as he and his family, aptly called the Pickering Family Quartet, began singing on the radio and performing in town. His best-known songs he would record later as he would sing back-up vocals with Holly in nine songs, including “Oh Boy” and “Maybe Baby.”

Boasting about the famous name next to his is just one small part of Pickering’s involvement in the music festival. A close connection with other musicians who recorded at the Norman Petty Studio keeps him coming back.

“The people who recorded there, we’re kind of like a family — the Norman Petty studio family.”

Pickering said Petty helped launch their careers.

“All of our careers are a tribute to Norman. Norman was the door, and we went through it,” he said. “He was a genius in sound and he was a conduit for a lot of West Texas and eastern New Mexico (artists) that would have never had anywhere to go.”

Having attended a couple of festivals when the event was held annually until five years ago, Pickering was pleased to be at what he deemed “the best one he’d seen yet.”

“The people in charge have gone all out and done a really fine job,” he said. “I hope it lasts from now on.”

The event’s success seemed reason enough for Eisenbraun, who also hopes to see the tradition stay.

“We’ve heard nothing but compliments,” she said. “The fans needed this.”