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2007 Clovis Music Festival A Screaming Success!
September 6 To September 8, 2007
By Beverly Paterson, The Lance Monthly
(more articles from this author)
2007-10-13
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[TLM Staff Writer Beverly Paterson notes: A slow moving elevator that eventually got stuck (thankfully no bodies were in it at the time); muddy coffee and soggy edibles; no ashtrays in the smoking rooms; and a toilet that flushed on its own terms: The hotel service [at La Quinta] was rather frustrating, but the music was positively fabulous. Held at the Clovis Civic Center in Clovis, New Mexico, The Clovis Music Festival proved to be a screaming success. An annual gathering, the shows not only starred performers who recorded at Norman Petty's historic studio there in town, but artists who have connections to the musicians or the era. Fathers of rock and roll, these folks continue to wield their influence far and wide. Decades on, their songs remain eternally ageless and are a constant source of inspiration. All photos compliments of Alan Clark.]

Kicking off the three-day party in grand form were The Knights. Composed of Dick Stewart on lead guitar, his son Richard on bass and Fearless Fred on drums, the Albuquerque based trio opened the Festival with “Surfin’ Santa Fe Style” (a guitar instrumental fan favorite written by Dick himself), and then played a few bars of "Wipeout" before Sonny West joined the band on stage and proceeded to produce a frisky set of surfabilly garage rock. A unique pairing it was, but it worked well. Melodic guitar tones complemented by sure and steady drumming and a driving bass were served in spades. Sonny's rockabilly vocals were vibrant and confident, as were the harmonies supplied by Dick and Richard. "Clovis Highway" and a rousing version of "Move It on Over" were included in the program, along with "West Texas Wind" and the Chuck Berry flavored "Rock-ola-Ruby."

The quartet finished the gig with the hopping and bopping "Rave On," which was, of course, written and initially recorded by Sonny, but later became a hit single for Buddy Holly. The chemistry between The Knights and Sonny West was edgy and electrifying. Word has it these guys might be doing some recording together. They're definitely a compatible lot, so let's hope we do hear more from them in the very near future.

Next on the agenda was Jack Neal, a noted personality who played with Buddy Holly prior to his ascent to fame. They performed as a duo and had their own radio show in Lubbock, Texas. A master of numerous musical styles, Jack treated the attentive crowd to a mercurial repertoire of boogie woogie blues, pop, country and good old-fashioned rock and roll. His voice is extremely powerful and rife with feeling, while his piano playing stirs the soul. Jack's savage take of Little Richard's "Lucille" was especially astounding. Prestigious tunesmith Charlie Phillips, whose "Sugartime" was a giant hit for the McGuire Sisters back in the early fifties, also turned in a sensational performance. Twangy country sounds abounded.

Red-hot guitarist Tommy Allsup and bassist Larry Welborn, who both played with Buddy Holly, further did their thing and were in fine fettle from beginning to end. George Tomsco (lead guitarist) and Stan Lark (bassist) from The Fireballs also appeared on the bill. Synchronized dance steps intact, they performed classics such as "Bulldog," "Sugar Shack" and "Bottle of Wine." Their licks were tight and tasty and excitement reigned supreme. The Fireballs were truly on fire.

As a nice surprise, Buddy Holly's older brother, Travis, was present, and serenaded us with a sentimental reading of "Raining in My Heart." It wasn't announced until the final minutes of the show that Chuck Berry's pianist, Darrell Davis, was the fellow tickling the keys. He then emerged from his seat, snatched a guitar and tore into a killer cover of "Johnny B. Goode." A wild and crazy jam session ensued, with the saxophone honking, the drums pounding and Darrell fingering the fretboard like a man possessed. We figured "Johnny B. Goode" was the closing song, but that wasn't so, as every act that played that night congregated on stage to sing "I'll Fly Away." Sweeping choruses permeated the room and happiness prevailed. Since the drum stool was already occupied, Fearless Fred exposed his inner Lemon Pipers by shaking a green tambourine.

The following evening was dedicated to impersonators who channel the spirit of the artists they emulate to amazing perfection. Buddy Holly would be awfully impressed to hear and see John Mueller's flawless renditions of "Peggy Sue," "Oh Boy!," "Maybe Baby," "Rave On," "Heartbeat," "Everyday" and "Rock Around with Ollie Vee." On "That'll Be the Day," John was joined by David Bighan of The Roses and Gary and Ramona Tollett, who sang background vocals on the original recording. A splendid gig it was.

There's a reason why Roy Orbison impersonators are so rare. It's quite a challenge copping those high notes, but Neil Morrow did so with conviction and ease. His mannerisms and inflections were right on target. Donned in dark shades, a soup bowl haircut and a fringed jacket, Neil exuded a consistently cool demeanor as he crooned, growled and pouted to the familiar strains of "Crying," "Mean Woman Blues," "Only The Lonely," "Running Scared" and "Pretty Woman." Should the surviving members of The Traveling Wilburys decide to reunite, they would be wise to recruit Neil into the fold.

Elvis impersonators are a dime a dozen, but it's safe to say Scot Bruce is the best of the bunch. Slim, trim, sexy and dripping with emotional rawness, he cut a striking pose as a young Elvis as he swiveled his hips, gyrated and snarled into the microphone. The ladies swooned and squealed and the men smirked with approval. "Heartbreak Hotel," "All Shook Up," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Teddy Bear" and "It's Alright Mama" were nothing short of spectacular.

Bob Wills' Texas Playboys opened the show on the last night of the festival. Established in the early thirties, the ensemble has naturally encountered several personnel shifts over the years, but their vision stands unchanged. Kingpins of western swing, the group entails an array of top drawer musicians, including Tommy Allsup, whose ace guitar chops lend a smooth and slick touch to the mix. Primarily steered by string instruments, Bob Wills' Texas Playboys blend country, blues, jazz and big band music ever so seamlessly. Their vocals are bold and rich and shuffling grooves are dispatched by the score. A national treasure, Bob Wills' Texas Playboys are an act not to be missed.

Bobby Vee, who was a permanent fixture on the charts in the early sixties, headlined the event. A genuine teen idol, he was also viewed regularly on television and in the movies. Toting a guitar and a smile, Bobby is a friendly and charismatic performer. Accompanied by a crack band that features his sons Jeff and Tommy, Bobby played his long and winding stream of evergreen hit singles with passion and enthusiasm. "Devil or Angel," "Run to Him," "Take Good Care of My Baby," "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "Walkin' With My Angel" sparkled with polish and color. During "Rubber Ball," beach balls were hurled about the auditorium and the ballad "Come Back When You Grow Up Girl" resonated with a pleading moodiness.

Bobby's vocals were crystal clear and the band rocked and popped with energy. One of the many highlights of the gig was when Sonny West materialized from the shadows and teamed up with Bobby to sing "Rave On." A hard driving version of the surf instrumental "Wipeout" checked in as an additional keeper, while a reeling and romping cover of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" concluded the set. Maintaining the freshness and vitality that allowed him to be so great in the first place, Bobby is the real deal. He's a consummate entertainer and you can tell he enjoys performing those catchy pop rock gems as much as the fans dig listening to them.

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.


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