|Subject: The Passing of Richard Porter of The Poor Boys
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Date Posted: Fri December 25, 2020 22:21:41
In the minds of most music historians, there is no question that west Texas played prominently in the early days of rock-n-roll. Look no further than Buddy Holly and The Crickets, Buddy Knox, Roy Orbison, Bob Montgomery, and so many others to understand the area was critical to the movement.
Richard L. Porter may not have been a major star on the national music scene or even the music scene in Odessa, Texas, but he was there when it all happened and he would become one of its finest brand ambassadors.
You see, Richard Porter was a storyteller, and in the Deluxe model.
I first met him many years ago at the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Later that evening, back at the hotel, he was sharing stories of seeing a “who’s who” early rockabilly artists in concert back in the day. He told us all about how Elvis and rock-n-roll broke out in Odessa, Texas. How Roy Orbison was King of the teens around Odessa, and how he (Richard) and some buddies (including his best friend Carl Bunch) formed the Poor Boys, an aspiring if not overly successful band. The band would include Ronnie Smith, another rocker who would later leave this world way too early.
The best part of his storytelling was that Richard would usually add an “I was just there” and not make any attempt to embellish his own role in the event/story in any way. He was a truth speaker and truth seeker. He spoke lovingly of his friendships with the late Ronnie Smith and with the late Carl Bunch, who himself became a footnote in rock-n-roll history in 1959.
On December 30, 1958, Buddy Holly and Ray Rush drove from Lubbock to Odessa to meet with Tommy Allsup at the Silver Saddle Club. Buddy had split with The Crickets and was on his own by then and planning to go on tour again.
It was that night that Buddy Holly asked Tommy to join him on the 1959 Winter Dance Party. Buddy asked Tommy to locate a drummer for their new forming band and Tommy selected Carl Bunch. When this conversation took place, Richard Porter said that Buddy and Tommy were at one end of a table, and Richard Porter was at the opposite end of the same table. Tommy Allsup confirmed this story.
As Carl Bunch developed health issues late in his life, Richard worked tirelessly to help him. He was instrumental in making sure Carl’s role in the 1959 WDP was shared with anyone who would listen and assisted Carl in more ways than one. Richard was the best friend that a best friend could ever ask for.
I don’t think I have never met anyone who loved sitting around, playing an acoustic guitar, and singing more than Richard Porter. He said his first “gig” was in April of 1955 at a high school function and his pay was a plate of chicken! He played guitar for the rest of his life.
When the Clovis Music Festival was revived in the early 2000’s, there was a “Sunday Morning Gospel” service held on the patio/driveway of the Norman Petty Studios. It was Richard Porter who gladly volunteered to play guitar and helped lead the singing of so many gospel favorites. He didn’t need any music sheets, as he could sing and play them all by heart. He was truly in his element in that setting---music, stories, family, faith, and friendship were the cornerstones of his life.
He was immensely proud of his Odessa roots and was always willing to share a story about one of the artists from the area or play one of their songs. His love for them and the music they had created was apparent and it brought him great joy to share the gospel of all things west Texas. He was also passionate about his missionary work in Cuba and he loved speaking about the country and its people. He enjoyed telling me about all of the old classic American cars he would see there too.
I spent time with Richard, in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Iowa and he was always the same--bright-eyed, raspy-voiced, and a full-of-energy beyond his years kind of guy. He loved GOD, his family, his friends, and his life and it showed.
I last saw him earlier this year in Clear Lake, Iowa at the Surf Ballroom, where the final concert of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson took place back in 1959. It didn’t matter that it was his first time there. It wasn’t long before he had drawn a crowd at the hotel, busy sharing the stories of west Texas rock-n-roll, showing photos, a letter from Ronnie Smith, and recalling his love for those who made the music. It also wasn’t long before his trusted friend, his guitar, was taking its rightful place in his hands. The sight of it all brought a familiar smile to my face and heart.
Before we left Clear Lake that weekend, I took Richard around town, including a trip out to the crash site so he could see where Buddy Holly’s plane went down. It is now a memorial site of sorts for fans. He wanted to take a photo with me there. I am now so thankful that we did.
When we spoke later on that evening, reflecting on the weekend, Richard said to me, “Randy, you know, they were just kids, with so much living left to do.” I couldn’t help but think about those words yesterday as I read the note from his daughter Leslie announcing that Richard had died.
I once read an statue inscription to the late actor Dan Blocker of “Bonanza” fame that read, “Thanks to film, “Thanks to film, Hoss Cartwright will live; but all too seldom does the world get to keep a Dan Blocker.” Even though Richard Porter had lived on earth for 80 years, to his family, his friends, and his fans, it wasn’t nearly enough time.
Richard my friend, thank you for the music, the stories, and the special gift of your friendship. Please say hello from all of us here to Carl Bunch, Ronnie Smith, Waylon Jennings, Niki Sullivan, Tommy Allsup, Gary Tollett, John Pickering, Joe B. Mauldin, Roy Orbison, Bill Griggs, and of course, Buddy Holly. Rest easy forever and please put in a good word for all of us.
I will love you and I will miss you the rest of my days.
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