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.
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.)
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.