by Rockin' Robin Brown
Singer, songwriter and guitarist Robin Brown was part of the Amarillo-Canyon scene in the mid to late sixties. When not playing onstage he hawked the best bands of the area and heard (and knew) some of the better musicians. Late in life he now enjoys kicking back in his garden furniture, reliving those memories through his personal articles which appear in print often.
When I purchased the old Berlant Recorder from a Lubbock musician about fifteen years ago I planned to use it in my garage studio in Plainview. The ad that had listed the console recorder mentioned that it had once been owned by Norman Petty of Clovis, NM during the Buddy Holly era. However I wasn't really buying it as a 'music collectible' I just wanted to use it as a mastering machine in my studio.
After I used it awhile and then retired the machine from use I decided to list it on the internet as a music collectible that Norman Petty had once owned. The old Fireballs band that had done a lot of recording in Clovis provided a perfect place to list the machine on their website it seemed. In a few months I received the message I had been waiting for when the manager of the Rock'n Roll Museum in Clovis inquired about the recorder! The museum was constructing a 'model studio' similiar to Petty's 7th street facility and the Berlant Concertone was a perfect candidate for their use. I was advised that they were interested in bringing home this long-lost piece of equipment and were obviously convinced that Petty had once owned it. Their plans were to only use equipment that Petty had owned to replicate his studio. I was also advised that since I had also recorded in the original Clovis studio (with an Amarillo group in sixty-four) I could submit personal photo's and memorabilia to the museum if I wished to. So, having no further use for the recorder I decided to loan the machine to them on those terms.
In the summer of sixty-four I was staying in Amarillo and jamming with a musician friend Ted Barnhill who came from my home area. As it happened two young Amarillo singers Dale Gardner and Carroll Reams had dreams of having a hit record. In search of this dream they booked some studio time over in Clovis and then enlisted myself, Ted Barnhill, Gary Swafford and Nelson Wertman to play backup. Best I can recall we arrived in Clovis on a Sunday morning and entered Norman Petty's studio about 10:00 am and began tuning up. As it turned out the two singers had chosen no definite songs to record so Petty placed a small recorder on the floor with the instruction to start learning some original songs. After we learned the instrumental part of the first song, it was recorded. This process went on until backup tracks for 4 songs had been completed. Sometime about 4:00 pm the two singers went into the studio and began recording their part of the songs. Since
Barnhill and Wertman had to work the following day we left for Amarillo about the time the first song had been completed. Gardner and Reams sounded a lot like the Everly Brothers on the tape, at least that was my first impression as we listened! I was impressed but I doubt that Petty was. Anyway I finally got to hear the completed songs about five years later at Swafford's home and I'd give a mint to hear those songs again after all these years, I sure would!
Today after a long journey Petty's old recorder is back in Clovis and in the museum studio, which is what I had dreamed of for many years. It is setting next to Petty's other old equipment in a room that is like Tut's tomb to most West Texas musicians that view it! Aside from the equipment the walls are lined with photos and records of bands that had once recorded in Clovis. And in honor of the late Dale Gardner and his singing partner Carroll Reams the Berlant recorder bears this inscription: Dale Gardner & Carroll Reams session -- 1964.