Yakkety-Sax Man – Part VI: The Final Chapter


Note:  Since Ann and I are going to the Big Bend country to spend the weekend and our 55th wedding anniversary at the Far Flung Adventures Casitas, I am publishing this final Part VI a few days early.

In May of 1968 we moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.  The purpose for the move was that Ann was transferred by the San Angelo Coca-Cola Bottling Company to their Las Cruces location, with the aim of re-organizing the office there.

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got a job as a car salesman for the Chevrolet dealer there.  I also joined the Optimists Club that met for breakfast every Thursday morning.  It was soon after that that club members met one evening at Gene Peugh’s home for a cocktail party.  Gene and some of his buddies were providing the music.  I had been in town only a few days and was looking for music work.  During the evening I asked Gene if I could sit in.  I went home, a few blocks away, and brought my sax back.  What a blast that was.  I was welcomed into the band immediately.

The band consisted of Gene, (AKA Stinky Peugh) who played the piano;  B.L. Wicher, the local tax collector who played rhythm guitar;  Gene’s teen-aged son, Dean, played the drums.  There were only four of us but we were pretty effective.  Because of age differences, we called ourselves “ZAP, The Generation Gap”.  We played at small functions around town and at the Las Cruces Country Club.  (Note:  ZAP was for Zeller and Peugh.)

ZAP The Generation Gap L to R: B.L. Wicher, Gene Peugh, Bob Zeller, Dean Peugh.

ZAP The Generation Gap
L to R: B.L. Wicher, Gene Peugh, Bob Zeller, Dean Peugh.

My salesman position, was at the beginning, a complete disaster.  I was a bad introvert, not a good trait in a salesman.  I was afraid to talk to people.  The owners of the dealership were very nice and they liked me enough that they didn’t want to lose me.  They gave me a job in the accounting department instead of firing me.  Of course, I was really in my element there because bookkeeping was my thing.  I was happy there for quite awhile.

However, being in the Optimist Club, with their outgoing members really had an effect on me.  I started coming out of my shell, so to speak.  I overcame my shyness in a complete turnaround.  All of a sudden I knew I could sell cars, but of course they, the Chevy dealer, wouldn’t take a chance again.  But the sales manager of the American Motors, (think Nash), and Mercedes-benz dealer said he would hire me.  I went to work there and sold a new car within an hour on my first day.  From then on, I was to become a successful car salesman for another ten years.  As for my shyness??  My friends can’t shut me up now. 🙂

In May of 1972, Ann was invited to move back here to San Angelo, to resume her career as office manager.  I got back into the swing of things in the music world again.  But I wasn’t as active as I was in the “old” days.  The Cavaliers as I knew them, were defunct, but another generation of musicians were re-organizing them again.  Their genre was more in keeping up with the then current pop type music of the 70s.  They were all friends of mine, and James Thomas, a local real-estate agent played sax.  Whenever I was at a function where they were playing, he always invited me to sit in.

When word got out that I was back, my old friend Billy Aylor called me.  He said that there was going to be a contest for choosing a local western singer to go to Dallas for another competition.  I don’t recall what that was all about.  But he wanted me to help him judge the competition, along with Chill Wills, the movie star and another guy whom I don’t remember the name.  Too many years have passed.  It was held at another club near the air base.  There were about fifteen competitors performing in front of a crowd of about a hundred.  Well, during the contest, Chill, Billy and I were enjoying liquid refreshments.  I do remember that the winner was very happy…….as we were.

In February of 1982, I got a call from Gene Peugh, back in New Mexico.  The old band was getting back together for a reunion and playing at a Battle of the Bands, held in the ballroom at the Holiday Inn de Las Cruces.  It would be us against the New Mexico State University band.  Gene had got a bunch of musicians from Nashville to come in to help us out.  It was for a charity benefit.

Now a “Battle of the Bands” is just show, no contest involved.  One band plays for an hour then the other band plays for another hour, and it goes back and forth.  The NMSU band set up at one end of the ballroom and we at the other.  We, both bands, put on great shows.  The NMSU band was great, organized, and well practiced.  We on the other hand was a bunch that half of us had never worked together; the Nashville musicians had just gotten in that afternoon.  What we lacked in organization, we were overwhelmed with star power.  I think we had, piano, drums, upright bass, trombone, two saxes, a rhythm guitar, trumpet, two or three fiddles.  There were about 500 people in attendance and the proceeds went to a local charity.

Back here in San Angelo, I was playing a lot at the Twin Mountains Steakhouse and Supper Club.  We had a country/western band called the Concho River Boys, and we worked there about four nights a week.  It was a neat place.  Nice tables and cushioned chairs for dining, then the music started about 9:00 for dancing.  It was quite different from some of the cowboy hangouts that I had worked on occasion where you had to look out for low-flying beer cans.

I slowly began to curtail my playing.  Music was changing too much for my tastes.  I didn’t like the trend of the way music was headed, such as  hard rock music.  My time was passing and didn’t want to be looked up as a washed-up has-been.  I just retired gracefully.  My last gig was with a band of musicians of my own choosing, playing for the Christmas party of West Texas Utilities Company, at the San Angelo Convention Center.  That was December 20, 1986.

Looking back, I have decided that if I had it all to do over again, there is not a single thing that I would change.

I sold my saxophone to a young airman at Goodfellow AFB.  It was a Selmer Mark VI that I purchased with my re-enlistment bonus back in 1957.  It could still sing……….

Author’s note:  I hope everyone enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Will there be a book?  I doubt it.  But there are an awful of tales that have yet to be told.

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46 thoughts on “Yakkety-Sax Man – Part VI: The Final Chapter

  1. A man of many parts. As they say, have sax, will travel. It’s taken you many interesting places and events, and with Ann (and the air force) beside you, you have lived the motto, carpe diem, to the fullest. 😎 best wishes from Janina.

    • Thank you, Janina. My life has definitely not been dull. I have done many things, been to many places, and met a lot of people. I loved every minute. I appreciate your kind words.

  2. Hi Bob, due to an extended vacation I’ve just gotten around to reading this. Loved the whole story and the telling of it. So many great moments but I think my favorite part was, “there was not a single thing that I would change”. That is the purest definition of a life properly lived. There are few people who can say that about their lives. Thank you for your inspiration and model. You have not only mastered the art of music and photography, but the art of living as well. We are so grateful for your willingness to share your story with us all and look forward to more in the future.

    • Gee, after nine months, I finally came across your comment. I don’t know how I missed it, so I am sorry, Jim. Thank you so much for those very nice words. Glad you enjoyed reading my story.

  3. Thank you for another great installment! Happy Anniversary and Best Wishes to you and Ann! Enjoy your time in the Big Bend country and please, keep sharing your untold tales with us! God Bless!

  4. I have really enjoyed your whole series, Bob, and thank you for taking the trouble to write it all down. It must have brought back some great memories for you! Whenever you get a chance to jot down the ‘untold tales’ please feel free to do so! Meanwhile have a wonderful time in the Big Bend and congratulations to you and Ann on your anniversary!

    • Thank you so much, Jo. It did bring back memories. I might do what you mentioned. I appreciate your input. I consider you one of my best friends, at least the best one in the UK. 🙂

      • Excellent! I’ll look forward to it. That’s lovely to hear, Bob, and thank you – I am so lucky to have met people like yourself, just through starting a blog! 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing these tidbits about yourself here! You and Ann have a tremendous time down in the BB Country. Wish I could be there too. Though I can’t say I’m ready for another long road trip. LOL

    Happy Loving Anniversary! And many, many more.

    • I can sympathize with you about the long road trip. To make it more fun we will meet you in Sonora and join you for the rest of the trip. I love your comments, Shannon.

    • Thanks, Shannon. I can sympathize with you about the long trip. Next time you can meet us in Sonora and we will continue the trip together, and that will be more fun. 🙂

  6. Loved every exciting minute of your Yakkety Sax man series. Are you sure there will not be a book? You have led a very exciting and rewarding life. And it is clear that Ann played no small part in it. Happy 55th anniversary to you both from Donnette and me.

  7. Great stories, Bob. Yes, that era is over for musicians. Music is of a different type now, and anyone who plays a “traditional” instrument has a hard time working. Guitarists, bassists, singers, drummers and keyboard players still fare okay, but “live” music is on the decline and has been for decades.

    You lived through the great music days in the wake of the big band era. That was a great time to be a horn player. There is still some music out there for horn players, but the competition is for gigs is fierce. One of the most important skills a free-lancer can have these days is the ability to network amongst other working musicians. Otherwise, you won’t work.

    As a musician and retired service member (Navy) I identified a lot with your stories. Thanks for sharing from you life – very entertaining!

    • Thank you so much, Rick. Sorry to be late replying. Just catching up. I appreciate your comments about the present state of music. I hope you will visit my blog again. It was nice meeting you. 🙂

  8. You sold your sax?! That just about brought me to tears. I know, I know, you had almost 30 years together and as you said….it could still sing. And that sax could still be singing now. Thanks for the look into your past adventures and a big thanks for sharing your present adventures. Enjoy the weekend and happy anniversary, Ann and Bob. What a ride!! hugs

  9. You’re gone from ducking “low flying beer cans” to maybe low flying birds! Great story. Hope you and Ann have a great anniversary trip. Happy anniversary.

  10. Happy Anniversary to you and Ann!!! Loved the series Bob! Have fun down there! Hope the birding is good and I look forward to seeing what you find in Big Bend 🙂

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed your stories. Bob. My dad lead a Dixieland band as a saxophonist, and one of my sons plays saxophone. But neither of them could take photos of birds like you do!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Jim. Nice that there some more up and coming saxists being born. I think I just channeled my creativity from my music into my photography. I appreciate your compliments.

  12. Hi Bob,
    A fascinating and well told story and feel that I now know you despite having never met.
    Congratulations on your Anniversary and have a great time at Far Flung.
    Thanks for your story.
    Dave Hassell.

  13. I did enjoy your interesting biography Bob, you’ve been quite busy all your life as it should be. Happy 55th wedding anniversary for you and Ann! 🙂

  14. Superb story-telling, Bob! What a remarkable life. I’m a bit sorry to hear you sold your sax but I know the feeling, I sold my Fender Rhodes (although that was mainly because I couldn’t see carrying it around anymore). I can also relate, absolutely, to the introvert-extrovert thing. After all that playing on stage and singing you had it in you all along. Thanks so much for the wonderful series!

    • Thank you very much, Lisa. I sold the sax because of the lack of playing, my ‘armachure” (sic), the lip and cheek muscles that are needed to play brass or woodwinds, start to weaken, and I couldn’t play up to my standards anymore. I am glad you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Now back to birding………. 🙂

  15. Awesome story!  Awesomely told!!  Thanks for sharing your past with me.  I really enjoyed reading about your adventures.  Take Care!   Melanie      

    ________________________________

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