Performers bring 1950s rock ‘n’ roll to students

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Outside, the 1950-era vehicles of the Desert Cruzers Car Club lined the front of parking lot at Mesa Elementary School in Clovis.

Inside, about 470 students gathered in the school’s gym Friday morning for a concert by the Fireballs, The Poor Boys and Buddy Holly Tribute singer Johnny Rogers, who are performing at the annual Clovis Music Festival that celebrates the city’s rock ‘n’ roll history.

Students danced and sang along as the band played early rock ‘n’ roll songs including “Let’s Twist Again” and “Sugar Shack,” the hit recorded at the Norman Petty Studio in Clovis that put The Fireballs on the map.

“I’m glad to see the young kids are still listening to it and receiving it and react to it because that’s the kind of thing that will keep it alive,” said George Tomsco of the Fireballs.

The students dressed in popular 50s fashion such as poodle skirts and listened to the era’s popular music in conjunction with this week’s festival, according to Mesa Principal Jan Cox. She said the elementary school has been celebrating the festival for four years.

“It’s a great thing for our kids and Clovis (residents) to know the history of rock ‘n’ roll here in Clovis,” she said.

The crowd of elementary students cheered as Peggy Sue Gerron — the subject of Buddy Holly’s classic “Peggy Sue” — walked into the gym during the concert.

The original inspiration for the song was Buddy Holly’s niece Cindy Lou, but was changed to Peggy Sue at the request of Crickets drummer Jerry Allison, who was dating Gerron at the time, according to Ramona Tollett, who sang backup vocals for Holly when he recorded “That’ll Be the Day.”

Tollett and her husband Gary also performed at the elementary school.

At the end of the concert, band members signed posters and stood for pictures with students.

Today

8 a.m. — Desert Cruzers 12th Annual Run to Hillcrest Car Show, Hillcrest Park.

9 a.m. — Rockin’ Motorcycle Rally. High Plains Harley-Davidson.

10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — Tours of the Norman Petty Studios 1313 W. 7th St.

Noon — Clovis Music Festival Fanfare, Hillcrest Park.

1:30 p.m. — Elvis Extravaganza, Hillcrest Park.

4 p.m. — Grand opening of the Norman & Vi Petty Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum, 105 E. Grand Ave.

7 p.m. — Clovis Music Festival: The Buddy, Roy and Elvis Show, Marshall Auditorium.

Concert tickets: $20.