Event Review: The Clovis Report
Scene Two of the September 2005 Clovis Festival
[Editor’s note: Charles Pike continues with his second of three installments of his off-the-wall journalistic take on the Clovis Festival music celebration that took place in Clovis, New Mexico during the second weekend of September 2005. His hallucinatory descriptions of his run-ins with the various legendary Norman Petty Studio artists, et al., who were present or actually performed at this event, are classic. “Rave On,” Chas:]
. . . . .
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 10
NORMAN PETTY STUDIO TOUR: There was no time for coffee. It had been a long night; kids were running around the hotel room, jumping on the beds, shouting, “HELLOOOOO BAAABYYYYYYY!” and “YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE.” Alison was working on “La Bamba.” It had gone on ‘till three. Now we had all caught a few winks and there was no time for coffee if we were to make the Petty Studio Tour on time. We rushed around looking for a hairbrush, washing faces, brushing teeth. Somehow we managed to get up, dressed, and on the road in only ten minutes, a Pike family record.
There was a gaggle of eager fans, from all across the globe, packed like sardines in the lobby of The Norman Petty Studios. The oxygen in the room began disappearing. Women began swooning; children fell asleep in their mother’s arms. I opened the glass door that separates the Seventh street studios from the rest of Clovis. The wind blew into the lobby and breathed some air into the lungs of the highly anticipating. The smokers all bulldogged out the door to grab one last wheezer before the tour started. A few more cars pulled up out front and added to the crowd.
Ken Broad explained that there was a group in the sound booth and a group in the studio, and that he would rotate groups in just a moment. He invited us all to sign the guest book and to examine the many 45s on the wall.
This was much different than the tour I had three years ago, when, other than my daughter and I, the only ones in the whole complex were Kenneth Broad, George Tomsco, and David Bigham—a very intimate experience.
Ken was out there trying to give these three large groups the full VIP treatment. At last the booth opened up and the people in spilled out and mixed, eventually finding their way out. The smokers rushed in, afraid that things had started without them; they hadn’t, and the door closed. We were still waiting for the group in the studio to transfer to the booth before we could start.
Suddenly the door opened, letting in some air. While the rest of the group breathed a sigh of relief, I turned toward a corner and began to hide. Carl Bunch, “the frostbitten cricket” and his wife Dorothy had come into the lobby. Now, for reasons that I do not fully understand to this day, a few years ago Carl heard a rumor that I had purchased one of his amputated toes on Ebay, and has became obsessed with reclaiming it. My assurances conveyed via both email and postal had done little to deter him. Some of the late night phone messages on my machine indicated that a violent physical confrontation could be brewing. Carl was putting his foot down.
I began hiding my face in a program for the festival that Mr. Mo had purchased at The Winter Dance Party the night before. “Chuckie, it’s Carl Bunch!” Mo shouted. I brought my heel down on Mo’s foot, and jut my elbow in his solar plexus. His face turned purple. I felt a hand the size of a catcher’s mitt on my shoulder; it whipped me around. I was now face to face with Richard Porter, a giant bear of a fellow with a huge smile on his face. He flipped over my nametag and glanced at it. “Hey Carl!” he shouted. “It’s Charles Pike.”
Carl, who had been standing calmly with his beautiful bride, Dorothy, turned and shot me a look. “What?” he yelled at Richard. “Charles Pike” he yelled back, and began looking me up and down with a curious look on his face. “Searching for signs of Rolland,” he said. Richard had been a pal of the late Texas songwriter Rolland Pike, who perished tragically in a Nashville fire.
Carl elbowed his way through the crowd. Now he had me face to face. “Charles Pike?” he asked. I nodded. He extended his hand, toward me, palm upward. “Give me back MY TOE!” he shouted. Richard stepped between us, and Dorothy calmly led Carl away. “You know he was a dancer once.” Richard confides in me. “He lived in years of agony, he had kept the nerve endings alive for years, hoping that one day he would be able to get one of those things reattached. Finally, about three years ago, he had the surgery done to close them off, and then this whole Ebay thing happened. John Pickering offered to pay for cosmetic surgery and a prosthetic told him ‘pretty feet give a man confidence,’ but, you know, Carl and his pride.”
Then Richard held his video camera in front of me and said, “Get a load of this.” It was a video of Sonny West, John Pickering, and Johnny Rogers, singing “Rave On,” which was the theme of the festival. It was amazing. I had heard Sonny West sing many times before, but I had never seen him in action. It whetted my appetite; I looked forward to the concert with an obsession verging on mania.
The door opened again, again the cool breeze, and Sonny West himself walked in. I think he must have seen that look in my eye, because he pulled a Tibetan memory gag and disappeared right in front of me. I looked franticly about. Had I imagined it? Lack of heat? Lack of oxygen? In the midst of my fervor I almost made eye contact with Carl Bunch when Mr. Mo stepped between us. “So Chuckie, who was the first rock-and-roll guitarist to record on the Stratocaster?” “Sonny Curtis.” “Lucky guess.”
Ken Broad announced that the studio was open and ushered everybody in. Now this was truly a sacred room. We all have heard a little bit of what went on in here; it has been in the airwaves so long it is part of our DNA. He showed the microphones and amplifiers, the Solovox, the Celeste. The audience was encouraged to play the instruments. I was too nervous to touch anything. The girls got right into it, banging on the piano and playing chopsticks on the Celeste.
FOXY’S DRIVE-IN: Our next stop on the journey was Foxy’s. Mr. Mo insisted. “I’m not saying that you have to have taquitos, but you should at least go.” We went. All of us had the Rancher Burger. The menu advertises it a basket of food. The Rancher Burger, like most things on this trip, had far exceeded expectation.
Next stop, The La Quinta Inn on Prince Street and the Bill Griggs hosted “fanfare” meet-and-greet for the artists and fans, an event that allows fans access to the artists and provides the artists with a forum for dispensing their latest CDs. We are late; the place is packed. People are wedged into a tiny room with little tables, flashbulbs going off, my claustrophobia kicked in. I couldn’t bring myself to go in. I stood near the door, looking in, hoping to catch the eye of someone I knew, which is ridiculous. The only one I really know in Clovis is George, and he was engorged with fans.
My kids began begging to go in. I told them to go ahead. They worked the room. The primary focus of their fascination was John Mueller. Casey Blue insisted on singing for him. He was very patient and listened to her stellar rendition of “Peggy Sue” and told her “It sounded good, practice a little and maybe you can be my back up singer next year.” (She has been practicing ever since.) Once, at a dinner party when she was four, the president of Wells Fargo Bank asked her name. She replied, “Call me Buddy Holly. Everybody else does.” He replied, “Why do they call you that?” and she said, “Because Buddy Holly is in my heart and soul.” “Mine too!!” he said. She haunted John Mueller. She cornered Peggy Sue and sang for her.
Alison, on the other hand, had a peculiar fascination with The Bopper. She spied on him from around the room. As she approached him for an autographed photo, she eyed a plate of egg rolls at The Bopper’s side. “Won’t you have one?” he asked. She became shy and shook her head no. “Please?” Again she shook her head no. “I made them myself...” She took one and ran off to spy on Sonny West.
My wife was having a grand time. At the studio she had become friends with Shirley Broad, now she was joining forces with Echo Mcguire Griffith and her yodeling husband, Ron. Zoe was getting everyone, who could write, to sign her commemorative poster, and Mr. Mo was hounding Stan Lark about equipment and capos and the Rickenbacher bass that Stan played on “Sugar Shack.”
I saw Richard Porter and Carl Bunch at The Poor Boys table and worked my way over. I extended my hand, and asked him about his knees, which he was favoring. “Old football injury. Blew this one out on Don Meredith's skull! Hey, Randy Steele is looking for you; he is sitting over there by The Bopper.”
I made my way over to The Bopper and met Randy Steele, one of my online cronies from Bill Griggs ’Rockin ‘50’s Message Board, a little place in cyber space where “Everybody should have lived in the ‘50’s.” Randy and I had a laugh about the craziness of the board and the characters that frequent it, and then he began introducing me to other contributors from the board who were in attendance: Steve, Sue, Howard, Mary, and Big Bill himself. Bill was highly instructional, informing me where the shift key was on my keyboard, and reminding me that he is always watching.
We ended the event standing out front with Randy Steele, who had given my children some coins to toss in the pond. We spoke of the great time we were having, the very nice people we were meeting, how much we were looking forward to the show, and how we hoped that The Clovis Music Festival becomes a yearly event.
(Next Month – Scene Three “The Main Event”: Sunny West, The Fireballs, The Crickets)
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