The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Betty Williamson
A bit of good news 

Retired postal worker enjoying more of life

 


Bobby Roybal said he was about eight years old when his mother, Helen, taught him to play a “G” chord on a guitar.

Two chords later, he was playing his first song, “You Are My Sunshine,” and music was officially embedded in his life.

It’s been his soundtrack for 63 years, on a path that has taken many twists and turns.

He’s been an officer with the Portales Police Department, the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, and the Eastern New Mexico University Police Department. He has a black belt in karate. He’s logged countless performances as an Elvis Presley impersonator, and clocked untold hours on stages with various bands, including Blackwater, a group he founded more than a decade ago in Portales.

And on April 30, Roybal parked his truck after serving more than half of his life as a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service in Portales.

“I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to work for the post office,” Roybal said, but says the benefits were good, and with 33 years of delivering packages and letters, he left behind co-workers and customers who had become like family to him.

Roybal grew up with an agriculture background—his father, Napoleon, milked cows on dairies in the Dora and Causey area.

“We hoed cotton and drove tractors,” Roybal said. “Dad would wake me up at 3 or 4 a.m. to go get the cows to milk before I went to school. I realized I’m not a morning person.”

Sometime around the time that Roybal was starting to strum a guitar, “I remember watching an Elvis movie,” he said, “and even at that age, there was something about him that struck a chord with me. To me, there are stars…and then there was Elvis. Nobody could compare to him.”

Roybal started writing songs of his own while he was still a student at Dora High School.

When he was a senior, Roybal said, “I actually wrote a song about a girl I liked,” and saved up enough money to pay a producer in Memphis, Tennessee, to turn it into a single called “J-U-D-Y.” His mom and two sisters accompanied him on the trip, which—of course—included a stop at Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland.

“This was 1973,” Roybal remembered, “and I often wonder if Elvis was looking down from his bedroom at all his fans. Ironically, Elvis may have seen me that day, but I never got to see him. I thought he was going to live forever, so always thought I would see him in concert one day.”

After graduation from Dora in 1973, Roybal packed his bags and moved to Denver, Colorado, in pursuit of a music career. He made it into a group called “The Country Charmers” that played “mostly 1950s music.” Roybal became the group’s Elvis, decked out in a sparkling white costume his mom made for him by studying a photo from an album cover.

Although Roybal doesn’t talk much about regrets, he has one.

“Elvis did a show at Mile High Stadium in ’74 or ’75, and my group was doing a show across town,” Roybal said. “I couldn’t just call in sick, but I always regret not going to that concert.”

When his dad was injured in a car accident in 1977, Roybal came home to Roosevelt County, expecting to stay only long enough for his dad’s broken arm to heal.

But one job led to another and another and another.

In the month since Roybal retired from the postal service, Blackwater has played a street dance for Roosevelt County’s Heritage Days and provided music for last weekend’s Relay for Life events at the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds. They’ll also be one of the bands at Clovis’ Smoke on the Water festivities Wednesday evening at Greene Acres Park.

“Retirement has given me the opportunity to do more of my music, and enjoy family more,” Roybal said.

He said he feels life has come full circle, and he’s back to the music again.

He and the rest of Blackwater Band (currently Nick Baglien, Dan Greathouse, Paul Saiz, and Ben Salazar, with appearances by John Richmond and Randy Chavez) hope to hit the recording studio within the year to lay down some of their own tracks.

But Roybal says the joy of music counts more than fame and fortune at this point in life, and none of those outshine the opportunity he has to share his life with his daughters and grandchildren.

“Of everything I was blessed to accomplish and enjoy,” Roybal said, “my family will always be my greatest blessing. My granddaughter asked me if I am rich, and I said, ‘I am, because I have you.’”

Betty Williamson likes a good two-step, and loves a waltz. Reach her at

pepnm@hotmail.com

 

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