KENNETH BROAD HELPS SAFEGUARD one of the most important legacies in rock ’n’ roll. As owner of the Norman Petty Recording Studios on Seventh Street in Clovis, Broad celebrates the producer and his wife, Vi, who helped shape the “Clovis sound” along with the careers of Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, and Buddy Holly. Holly’s short but outsize career electrified generations of rockers, including the Beatles (who chose their name as a play on Holly’s band, the Crickets). A Minnesota native and nondenominational minister who moved to Portales in 1969, Broad leads by-appointment tours of the studio, its preserved equipment, and memorabilia from Petty’s heyday. He also partnered with Clovis Community College in the restoration of downtown’s Mesa Theater, which was recently rechristened the Norman and Vi Petty Performing Arts Center.
I moved to Denver City, in West Texas, as pretty much a crippled person. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1960. We came from Minnesota to a warm, dry climate to find some relief.
I had listened to the rock music and had no problem with it. But I was a lot more interested in the Norman Petty Trio’s own music, like “Almost Paradise.”
I had a real love affair with Norman’s music.
Really, I was kind of his minister in a way. We were very close friends, just like brothers.
Norman thought Buddy was the most complete musician he had ever recorded.
The “Clovis sound” came from what Norman engineered and developed, the kind of studio he had, the way he set it up. He was working with single-track recording, not multitrack like they have today. He had to develop that sound live with the musicians in the room.
As Norman’s death drew closer, he asked me to look after things when he was gone. He gave me a big list on four legal pages to help Vi carry on the business.
I worked as her business manager at the request of the directors of the Norman Petty estate until her death in 1992.
Norman always said Vi was the best piano picker who ever lived. She was a vital, vital element in their relationship—not only as husband and wife, but she was in charge of the copyright work. She was a wonderful lady, and they were deeply in love with each other.
We’re glad to see the Mesa Theater used as a performing arts center. There was 20 years of maintaining it when it sat empty. But we kept it right up. When Vi died, we knew it would be her desire for the community college to use it for performance and theater instruction.
There’s a void that I feel every time I go in the studio. When I play a piece of music like “True Love Ways,” which Vi recorded long before Buddy did, I say, “Thank you, Vi. We miss you every day.”
I feel the same about Norman. A lot of people feel there’s an air that’s unexplainable when they go through a tour of the studio.
Vi was the one who started the tours. She was the one who put it back together like it was then. I told Vi before she died, “As long as I can, I’ll tell your musical story.”
We had a visit last year from Robert Plant. You may have heard of him?
See for yourself
Call 575-356-6422 to schedule a tour of the Norman Petty Recording Studios. For events, visit the Norman and Vi Petty Performing Arts Center.