Editor’s note: The banner image above courtesy of the Norman Petty Recording Studio.
Written by: Jeremy Witten
If you read a cultural history of 1960s Alberta or if you read a cultural history of the people who lived here 13,000 years ago, there is an unusual word you might come across in both contexts: “Clovis.” Between 1962 and 1974, several Albertan bands drove to a small town in New Mexico called Clovis to record with a famous producer who lived there. His name was Norman Petty and prior to recording bands from Alberta, he recorded international stars like Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. But that town in New Mexico has a deeper connection to the land that people now call Alberta.
Clovis, New Mexico shares the name of the Clovis people, a prehistoric Indigenous group whose artifacts continue to be found not only in New Mexico, but also scattered across Alberta. The archetypical technology of the Clovis people is called a “Clovis point,” which was a finely crafted stone tip that was attached to a wooden shaft to form a highly effective weapon. Interestingly, if one maps the trip that Albertan bands took to Clovis in the 1960s, that route intersects with several important archaeological sites where Clovis points have been found. Despite this, it’s entirely possible those Albertan musicians were unaware of the prehistoric connection between Clovis and the land where they lived as they continued their drive south through forests, plains and deserts.
Who were these Albertan bands? There were at least two dozen of them: Calgary-based acts who recorded in Clovis included Done On Bradstreet, Eddie Canada, Gainsborough Gallery, Jim Aiello, Molly, Sheraton Fountain and the Happy Feeling. The list of Edmonton acts to record with Norman Petty is a bit longer, including Barry Allen, Colored Rain, Dennis Paul, Doug Roberts, Famous Last Words, Happy Cooker, Privilege, Shame Tree, Southbound Freeway, Stu Mitchell, the Brinkman Brothers, the Nomads, the Preachers, Victory Group, Vik Armen, Wes Dakus & the Rebels and Willie & the Walkers.
Several of these bands changed line-ups and even names over time; the Rebels were once known as the Club 93 Rebels. Southbound Freeway and the Happy Feeling also released music under the more concise monikers “Freeway” and “The Feeling.” In the liner notes of the compilation album From Canada to Clovis, Canadian producer and discographer Shawn Nagy shares historical details of some of these recording sessions. Nagy writes that only three members of the Nomads made the initial drive to Clovis in May 1962 and that they drove down in a jam-packed 1955 Buick. Back then, the option for Albertan bands, “was to travel 2,200 miles to Quality Studios in Toronto or 1,750 miles to Clovis.”Read more