Clovis has history, roots in rock ’n’ roll


Peggy Sue was at the Spencer Theater on a recent Saturday evening.

No, wait. I don’t think you are paying close attention here. I said Peggy Sue was at the Spencer Theater in Ruidoso. Not just Peggy Sue. I mean PEGGY SUE.

As in “I love you, Peggy Sue, with a love so rare and true.” THAT Peggy Sue. Now there was a song, real music, long since replaced by mind-trashing hip-hop rap crap.

I mean, you had to be there. Center stage was Bobby Vee, one of your teen idols who back in the ’50s was just an ordinary kid like you except you were working at a one-pump gas station trying to work your way up to a two-pump gas station and he was appearing on "American Bandstand" and had chicks falling all over him.

And here it is 40-plus years later and Bobby Vee has come to Ruidoso and you are watching him and he does this Buddy Holly medley and just before swinging into Peggy Sue he introduces — I am not kidding here — the real Peggy Sue for whom the song was named.

Peggy Sue told me later the song was first called Cindy Lou, but it didn’t work and had to be rewritten. Her then boyfriend, later and now former husband, group drummer Gary Allison, suggested the title change. So it was that Peggy Sue, a 16-year-old Lubbock kid, became part of rock 'n' roll history.

The Spencer evening and memories roll on. Bobby croons "Devil or Angel" and you are dancing with your bride of 44 years and — whooeee! — was that a sigh from that lady with her head on your shoulder? God bless rock 'n' roll!

Bobby Vee, it turns out, was a North Dakota guy with New Mexico connections. Back in the ’50s and ’60s, there was a whole rock and roll culture centered on Norm Petty’s recording studio in Clovis.

Remember the ’50s hit, “Party Doll,” recorded first by Buddy Knox, then Bobby Vee? It originated in Clovis. Clovis! In the Southern California ’50s, we thought "Party Doll" was the product of some guy out of Chicago with ties to the devil. We thought "Party Doll" was racy stuff. ("Come along and be my party doll, come along and be my party doll, and I’ll make love to you, to you, and I’ll make love to you.")

Cocky young guys back in the Southern California ’50s sat with their girl at the hamburger joint, gave her a knowing wink as they played "Party Doll" on the jukebox. And if they got a sly smile in response, they figured they were in for a big night. Back then, though, a guy’s idea of a big night and a girl’s idea of a big night lived in different zip codes. A fairly serious goodnight kiss was a moral victory. Literally.

This Spencer evening has been, as we used to say, too cool. And Bobby Vee was just the beginning of a smashing summer season ( Ethel Merman’s Broadway, Second City comedy tour, The Diamonds, El Paso Symphony Orchestra, more. And in August, oh boy, Connie Stevens.

Talk about your party dolls.

Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame. E-mail him at: [email protected]

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