In tribute: the jazz musician spent his life making, teaching music

Kenneth Tucker was a jazz guitarist who recorded in Norman Petty’s studio in the 1950s.

He was a member of a local band called the Blue Notes who are among the many bands who recorded at the Norman Petty Studio, which recorded Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison during the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

A history of music recorded at the studio documents the recording sessions, but does not show that vinyl records were released from the Blue Notes recording sessions.

It appears, according to the record compiled for Nor-Va-Jak Music, which has preserved the history of Norman Petty Studios, that what Norman Petty released from the Blue Notes was their drummer, Mike Mitchell after a recording session in 1956 .

Tucker and the rest of the Blue Notes, including Johnny Kilmer on piano, Ben Mason on bass and JB Benderman on clarinet, apparently continued making music.

Tucker, who died Jan. 14 at age 87, continued to make music the center of his life long after his association with the Blue Notes.

He formed his own jazz trio later in the 1950s and, according to his obituary, the trio was good enough to attract members of the Glenn Miller Orchestra to sit with them.

Tucker’s main connection to the present day was that he gave guitar lessons to a young Johnny Mulhair, the Clovis musician and producer who recorded the debut album “Blue” for 13-year-old singing prodigy LeAnn Rimes, now a country music superstar, in 1996.

Mulhair, who also went on to find success as a musician and recording studio master, took guitar lessons from Tucker when he was 12 years old.

“I really enjoyed taking lessons with him,” Mulhair said. “He launched me” into a successful music career, he added.

“He learned to play ‘The House of the Rising Sun'” and tunes from the Ventures, from the 1960s surfer rock era, including “Pipeline” and “Apache.”

Mulhair said that Tucker, as a jazz guitarist, had a huge vocabulary of guitar chords.

“I learned nothing from any of this,” he said. He said he left the more sophisticated tuning craft “to the jazz guys”.

Tucker, however, was “versatile”, Mulhair said, and comfortable with other genres of guitar music.

Over time, Mulhair said, he “sometimes traded licks” with Tucker, which meant they traded improvisations, but he never shared a stage with Tucker.

Tucker was still playing in 1995 when Bill Case, another longtime Clovis jazz musician, bought the State Theater in downtown Clovis and turned it into a concert hall, according to Tucker’s obituary.

Case and his Bill Case Combo were the theater’s house band, and they played on nights the venue had no big bands or other jazz artists booked.

Mitchell joined the Norman Petty Trio after the Blue Notes recorded there, launching a productive music career.

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