Clovis officials interested in Petty studio

Various recording artists including Tommy Allsup, Aubrey Decordova, Charlie Phillips, Richard Stephens, and Gary and Romona Tollett talk with director Shawn Nagy during a filming session August 2002 at Norman Petty Studios. (File photo)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The city of Clovis is to seek $750,000 in capital outlay funds for tourism development, with the remote dream of purchasing Norman Petty Studios, local officials said.

To be requested in the next legislative session, the funds could be earmarked for purchase of the studio where rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly recorded his first hits, said Clovis Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director Chase Gentry and Chamber of Commerce Director Ernie Kos.

Under state law, the city would have three years to utilize funds for the purchase or for alternative tourism development purposes, Gentry said.

“We have a dream and a vision to work with the estates,” Gentry said.

Since the owner of the property has not committed to selling the estate, officials said the money will likely be used for a series of sweeping Chamber of Commerce renovations, chiefly the transformation of a drafty basement into a rock ‘n’ roll history museum, as well as the creation of a welcome center and additional office space for fledgling businesses.

Petty property owner Kenneth Broad said he is not interested in selling the property now or in the near future. Broad, a former friend of Norman Petty, did not rule out working with city officials.

“I am not saying I won’t work with them in the future. There is a legacy there and I hope that they can get the money to do what they want (in regards to music tourism development),” Broad said from his Portales home.

Broad has agreed to “indefinitely” loan items from the studio, including recording equipment, to the Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber of Commerce and CIDC officials said they hope to acquire more artifacts from the Buddy Holly musical era for display in a what they described as a high-quality museum.

Their tentative museum plans would utilize about 7,000 square feet of space two floors below Chamber of Commerce administrative offices. The space is currently home to an assortment of cardboard boxes and dusty items from previous Chamber-hosted events.

Gentry believes the region can capitalize on its ties to Norman Petty, Buddy Holly and the original rock ‘n’ roll era. Crafted properly, he said a museum, with a linked trinket shop, could generate hotel stays, shopping, and eating revenue for the city. That’s where taxpayers could recover the initially invested $750,000, he said.

The eastern New Mexico region, Gentry said, “has some neat history. But we haven’t tapped into it well,” he said.

Despite his connections to the studio and its famous owner, Broad doubts the profitability of an industry built around the region’s bygone musical legends. He said about 100 tourists visit the studio yearly, and most of them are from out-of-state.

“A lot of the fans are people in their 70s or 80s. … It’s hard to tell my children and their children ‘here’s how they did things,’ if they don’t hear the music very much,” Broad said.

Broad holds tours of the studio by appointment only. He said tours of the property do not generate enough money to hire even one full-time employee. The donation box inside the studio is more often than not empty.

“The money in the donation box,” Broad said, “wouldn’t pay for the light bill, let alone anything else.”