Songs, suits and successes

Courtesy photo Homer Tankersley pictured with his wife, Doris. The two have been a musical duo since the day they met.

Courtesy photo
Homer Tankersley pictured with his wife, Doris. The two have been a musical duo since the day they met.

Homer Tankersley may be one of Clovis’s best-known treasures. He’s worked with Norman Petty, sang in gospel groups all around the world and has settled down with his 54 year-old business on Main Street in Downtown Clovis.
Tankersley, a Dallas native, opens up about his music and fashion careers, and gives away the secret to living a successful, fulfilling life.

How did you get started in the music business in Clovis?
My mainstay here is the store. Moved here from Dallas in 1958 and sang with the Imperials and the Commodores for 16 years. We traveled all over the world, and worked with Bill Gaither.
The Imperials was the gospel group, and the Commodores sang more popular music. We were in New York City, and Billy Graham was at Madison Square Garden two nights while we were there. The last night he was there, I dedicated my life to God’s service.

I resigned from the Imperials, called home to my wife, Doris, and she was happy. I wanted to help with raising our two sons, Paul and Phil. My wife never once asked me to quit — she knew who she was marrying because when we got married, I was already singing and traveling with the Imperials and the Commodores. So, I fulfilled my engagements for the last five weeks with the group, and that was it.
After that, I got a call from Pop Eckels, and he asked me if I’d like to work in Clovis at KCLV. I said yes, and they changed my name on the air to Ken Pepper. He said, “You just look like a Pepper kinda guy,” and said it would be easier for the kids to say.

I was on the air three hours a day after school broadcasting a children’s program. After working for them for a while, I moved to KICA. I worked there for about a year and a half. They came in my office when Clovis went wet — they started selling beer and liquor — and wanted to put ads for beer and liquor on my show.
I said “no,” and they were kind of amazed. I said, “This show is for kids, and I will not advertise beer and liquor to kids or to anybody.” I told them if they didn’t like it, they could find somebody else to broadcast the program.

After a while, the big shots from Lubbock came in and told me I had to, so that’s when I quit. I was jobless, but I had my family with me, and that means more than having a job.
After a while, I was the music director at Central Baptist in Clovis for 30 years. After that, I left and worked at First Baptist of Clovis for 19 years. You know what 30 and 19 gets you? Forty-nine years of being a music director. Ha ha.

While we were at Central and First Baptist, my wife was the pianist for all those years. She’s still a pianist and teaches lessons every day, except Sunday.
We’re a musical family. Paul and I formed a group called Praise Quartet with Bobby Jack Stewart and Ken Sorley. We’ve done concerts all over New Mexico and over in Texas. We’re still singing together.

How did you come to know Norman Petty?
Norman Petty knew I was a professional singer, and we had met each other, talked, and he asked me to come to the studio to do some back-up singing. After that, I recorded “A Little Fish Riding on a Train,” a successful record in the region.
Petty and I became the very best of friends. Our families would spend Christmases together. During that time, we had the Norman Petty Trio. We’d go around singing at engagements.

How did you get started in the fashion business?
One day after I left KICA, a banker by the name of Howard Morten asked me what I’d like to do, and I told him I wanted a store. A men’s shop. But I didn’t have any funds. So a man by the name of Dick Forrester, who had all my albums, said, “I’ll give you a letter of credit.”

I took that to Dallas and opened that store with better merchandise. I did. It was 12 feet wide by 80 feet long at first. We stayed there for 10 years, and then after the big store became available, we remodeled it so there was lots of room and moved in there. After we were doing well, we chopped through these walls and remodeled it to what we have today. It was called, “Town & Country Men’s Shop.”

When I went into this business, I went into it with quality clothing and giving customers all the service I can and being honest with the customer. Quality, service and honesty will bring them back. That’s what happened. So many loyal customers keep coming back.
My wife, Doris, was my secretary. She’s everything. The help of my family and wonderful people working in the store has made us a success. I’m a Christian, and I give God all the credit for it.

How has the change in musical style and technology influenced you as a musician?
We’ve had to keep up with the styles. My group is a Southern Gospel group, and it changes like anything else. Even the gospel music changes. You’ve got hymns and classical gospel. I’m a major in Southern Gospel.
We record CDs now. We’ve recorded in London with the London Symphony Orchestra. I’ve recorded in Los Angeles and Dallas. Those were all my solo albums. First on the (vinyl) albums, you have 33, then you have the 78s. It started changing, and now the albums I’ve done are 33 and a third. But you can always record vinyl albums onto CDs these days.

And the ever-changing fashion scene? How has it affected the way you do business?
Ties are narrow, lapels are narrow. You know what, men’s pants used to be all pleated. Now, there’s not as many pleated pants on the market. The coat has two buttons now, but with the popular colors, you can’t tell a difference. For suits, black is the number one color, then grey and navy blue. Shoes will look different from years ago. You have to watch what’s going on so you’re on top of things. Big cities buy from the same people we do. We’re more dressy, some stores specialize in sports clothing, but we do it all.

What’s your secret to living a fulfilling, successful life?
When you have a good employee, you’d better take care of them. Doris and I have been married for 64 years. You have to respect people. Honesty… honesty. Those two and trusting people.
There’s an old scripture that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I have never in my life hollered at the people who work here. I’d like to think they’re working with me, and I can’t ever remembering firing anyone.
To sum it all up, I thank God for giving me a voice and talent to use all over the country and use it for him. I’ve given him 49 years of service, and that’s the most important thing.

— Compiled by Brittney Cannon