WWII veteran made musical impact
July 24, 2009
In 1991 Bruce DeFoor, teacher-artist, at CCC, wrote the following words: “Norris McPherson,’Big Mac,’ has long ago attained legendary stature as one of the greatest musicians in Clovis history, a former employee of the Clovis school system, he retired in 1987 with a life threatening illness, still today his jazz performances stir the hearts of all who her or remember his art.” DeFoor painted an 18 by 18 portrait of Big Mac.
Norris N. McPherson, was born Dec. 26, 1926, to Lige and Rhoda (Walker) McPherson, in Clarksville, Texas.
In 1944 he was drafted into the Army and served in Germany and Belgium as a member of a Quartermaster outfit, Engineer Corps. His father and mother came to Clovis in 1946 as Norris’ father thought he could do better here.
Big Mac came to Clovis following his discharge and got his start in music by playing drums.
“I began playing in musical groups throughout the area and soon began to have an interest in playing saxophone,” he once said.
He met the late Ted Raven who had a music shop near the old Eugene Field school, and taught nearly every instrument. He taught Big Mac on the alto saxophone with a lesson each week. Later Big Mac bought a tenor sax from the late Harold Phillips of the House of Music here.
He told me Hattie Young, who had a band back then, gave him his first break in becoming a professional musician.
A sax was not the only instrument Big Mac mastered. He could also play the piano, keyboard, and organ. And then when he and Fisher Alexander became a duo Big Mac provided the lead vocals.
Fisher Alexander was born in Fort Worth, Texas and first came to Clovis in 1937.
On a trip here to visit his sister, he decided to stay and settled
in this area. After a while “Big Mac and Little Fish” were hired as the house band for what was then The Copper Penny Lounge and the two decided to name themselves “The Little Fish Combo” and at that time Andy Beamon and another musician named Brown became part of the band.
They could have gone on the road and could have become “big time” nationally. But both Mac and Fish told that their music has always been more of a hobby to them more than a serious business.
In the last few years before Big Mac’s death they sat in with Bill Case’s musicians at Case’s State Theatre on Main Street. They played also with other musicians in later years, one being Clyde Miller (who once had his own band and was a printer at the old print shop along with Don McAlavy, at 313 Main).
Clyde, a trumpet player would come back to Clovis, after living in Canyon, and sit in with a session of musicians enjoying each others company playing the old tunes.
Fighting cancer and other ailments, Big Mac continued playing the organ for the St. John’s Baptist Church.
Big Mac died Friday, June 11, 1999 at his home. He was 72. His wife, Georgia (Johnson) McPherson, who he married in 1951, cared for him to the end.
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: [email protected]