Thanks to my good friend Dick Stewart from Albuquerque, NM,
Iproudly present a great interview
with the widow of Lewis Nesman from Wichita Falls, TX,
owner of the Sound Studio, where Buddy had his first
professional studio experience in his life.
This photo is copyright protected.
Copyright Sally Nesman 2005
The photos on this page have not been part of the TLM issue from 2003.
Up Close with Sally Nesman of the Nesman Sound Studio
- A ‘50s Sound Studio of Historic Significance -
(By Dick Stewart – Editor and Features Interviewer)
“Also, it was appealing to Buddy [Holly] that we were not trying to sign on any artists, push any music, or things like that. I still feel that that was an important factor in our relationship with Buddy.”
“I do remember Holly saying that he came to us because he was not happy with his past association with other studios.”
[TLM Editor, Dick Stewart Notes: Although I personally conducted this phone interview with Sally Nesman that was graciously set up by my good friend, Mike Bell, I feel that his heartfelt comments best introduces Sally Nesman and the legendary Nesman Sound Studio that she and her late husband, Lewis operated and fervently loved:
“When I first saw and met Sally Nesman this past June, I met an angel–this lady, 81 years of age, and radiating beauty and charm all rolled into one. Lewis Nesman must have loved her immensely. Such class with charisma flowing over. I felt like I was in the presence of royalty the four hours we sat and talked.
“Her daughter, Sue Smith, upon hearing me ask her mother about pictures of the now defunct Nesman Sound Studio and about pictures of Lewis and Sally Nesman during their mid-1950s association with Buddy Holly, disappeared from the room for twenty minutes and returned with the color photos you see in this interview. These photos of Lewis and Sally were taken in Dallas around 1955-56, during a time frame when they worked with an 18 and 19-year-old Buddy Holly.
HANS: Photos mentioned in this interview are no longer in the possession of Dick Stewart and cannot be displayed here.
“Unfortunately, there were no photos of the studio, as The Nesman's had no idea that they were creating important musical history there. Look at the glasses Lewis Nesman is wearing in the photograph. Do they remind you of a particular style of glasses sported by a certain musician from Lubbock, Texas, who died much, much too early in life? Buddy Holly wore wire-rimmed glasses in 1955 and 1956. I submit that Lewis might have inspired Buddy to get some similar ones when he was told a year or so later, ‘Hey, if you have to wear glasses, then get some that will stand out. Get you some GLASSES, man.’
“Buddy had to have admired Lewis Nesman from what I've been told about him. So, I truly believe that when the subject of getting some standout glasses for his ‘look’ came up, his mind must have conjured up the image of Lewis Nesman and his thick, black-framed specs.
“I was originally going to conduct this interview for Dick Stewart, but both Mrs. Nesman's and my schedules were so packed that we couldn't get together in person before her upcoming trip to Ireland and France. So, Dick went and got himself a telephone-conversation tape recorder, and I coordinated their time of phone contact so that they could hook up.”]
Lance Monthly Editor, Dick Stewart (LM): It’s a pleasure to be a part of this interview with you, Mrs. Nesman. Not enough has been written about the legendary recording studio of your late husband, Lewis Nesman. [Editor’s Note: His name was spelled as “Lewis” and not “Louis” as many believe.] I hope in our conversation that some light can be shed in reference to the wonderful historical contributions that you and Lewis made during a time when rock ‘n’ roll was truly in its infancy.
Sally Nesman (SN): You may call me Sally.
Courtesy Debbie Lampman
LM: Thank you . . . I will, and I’m amazed at how much your voice and your wit are so much like that of my mother, who also grew up in Florida.
SN: [Chuckles in a sort of loving manner]
LM: To begin with Sally, I know it’s not polite to ask a lady her age, but for the interest of our readers, I’m going to do just that, if you don’t mind. Could you tell our readers when and where you were born?
SN: I was born in Charleston, West Virginia on January 19, 1922 and I’m 81 years young. My family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida when I was five years old. My father wanted to partake of the boom that was going on down there. I stayed in Florida until I got married actually.
LM: Did you grow up on a farm or in a typical middle-class neighborhood?
SN: I lived in a typical middle-class neighborhood and my parents had various jobs and did various things to make a living. Florida, down where we were, which was the southeast coast, is a collection of cottage-type homes, you know, two and three-bedroom, small little houses . . . only the rich people lived on the beach.
LM: Was there a heavy Cuban influence in your area at that time?
SN: No, that came after I left, which was in the forties, but mainly in Miami, which was about 60 miles away from where we were. The Cuban ethnic thing hardly affected us up in West Palm Beach. It was even a rarety to have Cuban food [in our area].
LM: So when you were in high school Sally, what was the typical teenager like, how did they dress, what kind of music did they listen to, and what did they do for fun? I imagine there was a big difference then in the life-and-times of a high school student when comparing that to one in the modern day world.
SN: Yes, there surely was. We wore dresses to school and we dressed much nicer than the kids do now. Now there’re jeans, T-shirts, and stuff like that and this would not have been acceptable down where we were. In fact, when I go back, I think they dress better than the kids up here do, but then this is Texas, and it’s, you know, quite rural and outdoorsy. [Back then] we dressed for the heat, which had to be cotton dresses and sandals.
LM: So what type of music did the teens listen to? Obviously not rock ‘n’ roll, as that hadn’t come onto the scene.
SN: Big band [music], big band.
LM: Who were the favorites?
SN: Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers etc.
LM: Actually, at that time, Glenn Miller and the other popular big bands played a lot of nice instrumentals. Would you say that they were as popular as the vocals?
SN: Oh yes, we enjoyed the instrumentals. We had dances every Friday night in the high school gym and they played records for us, and actually our principal, who was very forward lookin’, felt that it was important for anybody in high school [and those] getting out of high school to know how to dance. So he would have these dances for us and if you didn’t know how to dance, that was fine . . . come there and someone would teach you. Some of the [high school] teachers would teach you [laughing].
LM: Did you ever go to college?
LM: What did you study?
SN: Oh, just the basic stuff . . . I couldn’t find myself at that point. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and you know, a lot of young people are that way.
LM: Aside from your family chores, what did you do to entertain yourself during your free time?
SN: The beach was a big part of our life because we didn’t live too far from the beach. I learned to swim in the Atlantic Ocean when I was a kid and I really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed playing jacks, roller skating, and climbing trees.
LM: Did your parents have a large family?
SN: Yes, but we were far spaced in the family . . . five and ten years between us. I had two older sisters . . . I was the baby and so actually I had a lot of mothers [laughing in a soft, amused manner]. I also had two brothers. One brother was about four years older than I was and, of course, we didn’t get along [again chuckling], as kids are that way. All of my brothers and sisters treated me like the baby of the family, but they were protective of me and always were, even when I became an adult.
LM: Was music an important expression in your family?
SN: My mother felt that classical music was the way to go, and so one sister took singing lessons and she did have a lovely voice; the other one played the piano. In our family it was piano or singing, whichever you had the talent for, and it was classical music. My parents would not have tolerated pop music [laughing].
LM: Did any of your brothers and sisters aspire to becoming professional musicians?
SN: No. They sang and played for their own pleasure except for what you could do in church and Sunday school.
LM: Do you frequently visit your Florida, childhood haunts from time to time?
SN: I go every chance I get, which is every year or two, and I still have friends down there that I went to high school and college with. I still enjoy it, but only in the wintertime.
LM: So Sally, when did you meet Lewis?
SN: When I met Lewis, I had been married one other time and I had a baby and she was about two years old at the time. I was about twenty, maybe twenty-three . . . something like that when I met him and the War was still on, but it was toward the end of World War II.
LM: When was Lewis born and where? What was his life like while growing up with his birth family? Did he have a lot of brothers and sisters?
SN: Lewis was born in New York City on July 25, 1913. He was a big city boy and he went through high shool [graduating in L.A., CA during a temporary move before returning to New York], and he walked into the Depression. He had a hard time getting anything to do, so he went back to school. His father had a radio program on one of the New York stations, singing opera. So here again, it was a very classical family, and they listened to opera records and went to opera concerts and performances. Everything was classical.
He learned to play the piano and he was a pretty good pianist, actually. He also played violin in the school orchestra, but he did enjoy big band, you know, the music of that time . . . we all just thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, he accompanied his father . . . it was a job for him to do when he wasn’t able to get any other kind of work.
LM: So Lewis actually played professionally?
SN: Yes, he played professionally and he played for his father at classical performance concerts.
LM: So how did Lewis end up in Florida?
SN: He was in the service and was stationed in West Palm Beach. He was a single fellow and when he would come into town, one of the places he liked to go to was the USO. That’s where we met. I was a teacher in a ballroom dancing class and a friend of mine needed girls to dance with the fellows from the base. So she sweet-talked me into coming down and dancing. According to Lewis’s story, he said he took one look at me and he flipped [laughing],
LM: Was the feeling mutual?
SN: No, I didn’t pay that much attention to him.
LM: [Laughing] So you did recognize that he developed an instant crush on you?
SN: Yes, I did. I knew that, but he was a big city boy and I was a little-town girl and I felt rather vulnerable, because I had been married and I had this baby to raise. However, we sat down to have a coke between dances and I showed him a picture of her that I had in my wallet and he said all the right things like “What a nice looking little baby she is” and so forth [soft chuckle]. So he passed the first test.
LM: So then music came into the picture.
SN: Yes, he told me that he had purchased an accordion and said that he would rather amuse himself playing it rather than going to bars like the rest of the fellows, picking up girls and so forth.
LM: Did Lewis form a band while stationed in Florida?
SN: No, he just liked to play.
LM: So how soon after that first meeting did you both become hitched?
SN: About six months.
LM: Your family liked and accepted him even though he was, as you say, “a big city boy?”
SN: Oh yes. They liked him very much and his cultural background.
LM: How soon after that did you and Lewis move to Witchita Falls, Texas and why?
SN: After he got out of the Service, he had an old job waiting for him in Biloxi, Mississippi. His job had been in Iron Mountain, Michigan, but they had closed that base and sent him to Biloxi. So we decided, “That’s fine. We got a job now.” It was a civilian job at Keesler Field in Biloxi. He was teaching aircraft mechanics and we stayed there for three and a half years. But then that base closed and they moved him to Sheppard Air Force Base in Witchita Falls, Texas in November of 1949.
LM: Were you shocked at moving to Witchita Falls?
SN: No, I liked Texas right away.
LM: What’s Wichita Falls like? What’s the population?
SN: Well, right now we have around a 100,000, but when we moved here it was like 40,000. It had no trees, and it had no museum or anything cultural except there was an industrious young violin teacher from Western University who wanted to form a symphony using local talent. In fact, he started that before we even moved here. Now back in Biloxi, we had opened a sound recording studio. I was getting restless and I wanted something to do. Now we need to back up, because this is important to the story:
Lewis said, “I know something that I think you would enjoy doing.” He said it was a sound recording and it never occurred to me, but he said he had a lot of experience with that in his father’s programmed radio shows. He had done some recording there, so I told him that sounds okay and [that] I’ll do that. Lewis just didn’t want me to get a steady job; he wanted me to stay home, raise our child, and so forth. So we had the studio there, I’d say, for at least a year before we moved out to Witchita Falls, and he taught me what to do. Shortly after we moved to Witchita Falls, we began doing sound recordings there.
When Lewis saw that the symphony was being formed, he said, “Well they don’t know it yet, but they have a sound recording engineer.” [Sally and I both laughed heartedly]. Symphonic music was right up his alley. We couldn’t find any place to rent that we could afford at the time, so we just set it up at our house that we were renting. Now the people in the symphony began telling others about our studio. They gave us a lot of word-of-mouth promotion.
The first people who came to our studio were country-and-western folks. Lewis admitted to them that he didn’t know anything about country-and-western music because he was trained as a classical musician, but they said, “That’s fine. We like your recordings. Don’t worry about it.”
LM: Do you recall the names of some of the country-and-western musicians that first came to the studio?
SN: Yes, Bill Mack was one of the very first ones. [Aside from being a country-and-western artist] he was a local deejay and later moved down to the Dallas/Fort Worth area [to dejay there]. Because his show began at midnight, he was called “The Midnight Cowboy” and he would play records for the truck drivers. He had that job for a long time, and he would come back [to our studio] and record. He made it with his song, “Blue.”
Aside from Buddy Holly, Slim Whitman, who already had a name for himself, came to our studio to see what the Nesman sound was all about. Lewis did the recordings for him.
LM: What was the name of the radio station in Wichita Falls that Mack was associated with and did Lewis work there?
SN: KFDX, and no, Lewis didn’t work there. He kept his civil service job; he never abandoned that, because, in a small place like Wichita Falls, there was not enough work to support a small family, so that’s where I came into it.
LM: Sally, did you and your husband have a record label or did you simply provide a service to your clients for record pressings?
SN: We didn’t have a record label as such and, actually, this turned out to be a real good thing, because the musicians trusted us enough that we were not going to go out and peddle their music, or steal their music. You know, it was dog-eat-dog in the record world. So since they knew that we were not going to promote them, they were very open about what they recorded with us.
LM: So basically you charged an hourly rate?
SN: Yes, I think about ten or fifteen dollars an hour plus the cost of tape and acetate demos. We were into making aluminum-based acetates and I did all of that. The acetates during World War II, however, were glass based with an acetate coating because of the shortage of aluminum, as it all went to the war effort.
LM: So you were very active in the studio?
SN: Oh yes . . . bookkeeper, maid, went out and hustled business . . . you know, the whole bit [laughing].
LM: So did the studio ever become a success financially to take care of your family needs?
SN: At the beginning, we [mostly] plowed [our profits] back into it [in order to] to pay for the wonderful pieces of equipment for the studio. In fact, when I was selling the equipment after Lewis’s passing, people would say, “Oh you have the most wonderful items from the golden age of recording,” and it was very easy for me to sell the equipment.
LM: Did Lewis ever accompany any of the artists that you recorded and did he ever record himself?
SN: No [to both questions]. He wasn’t interested in that. His mind only functioned as an engineer and in the upkeep of the equipment, putting together the components to make good recordings, but since he was busy with his job at the base, I got to where I could record pretty well and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did it without his help and there were people who would request me and some who would request him.
LM: So there never was an interest by Lewis in finding an artist with great promise in which you would want to put on the map, so to speak?
SN: He just didn’t have the interest in backing somebody. He said that as far as the talent that was here, which was mostly western, I wouldn’t know a good song if it came up and hit me. Lewis said that he just didn’t have that knack of knowing what song would make it and what song wouldn’t.
So we just simply stayed as a recording service, and this worked out. We did become quite popular locally. Artists would come to us from the metroplex [and] from [around the state]. You know, musicians are always looking for that intangible feature of the sound, and they would come to see if we had that magic touch for them.
LM: So it was about 1955 that Buddy Holly made his presence in your studio, is that right?
SN: Yes, and here again, the word had spread to towns like Lubbock that the little studio in Witchita Falls had a great sound. Also, it was appealing to Buddy that we were not trying to sign on any artists, push any music, or things like that. I still feel that that was an important factor in our relationship with Buddy.
LM: What was your first impression of Holly?
SN: I recognized his talent. I thought right away that this thin kid in his early twenties was going to make it.
LM: So he came with the intention of recording western music and not the rockabilly sound for which he became famous, right?
SN: I don’t know what his intentions were, but I don’t think his interests were just recording country songs. I don’t remember the songs that he recorded with us, but Bill Griggs [Editor’s Note: Griggs is the world’s leading Holly historian] should have a list of those songs. I do remember that he was on the ground floor of a new sound and I commented to Lewis that I think he was going to make it [with his new music expression]. I do remember Holly saying that he came to us because he was not happy with his past association with other studios. He wanted the best sound he could get, and we heard afterwords that the work we had done for him enabled him to get a good contract with Decca. We were very pleased about that.
Buddy was nice, very talented, all business, and very serious about his music. He appeared to be relaxed with a feeling of happiness, and he wanted to do his very best [in his recording efforts]. He brought his own musicians (drummer, stand-up bass) and he came several times. Buddy knew where he was going . . . he was on his way, and he knew it. He was very self-confident, the type of which I liked, and the way he would listen to the playbacks of his recordings, you could tell that he was not a baby beginner.
LM: Did you ever meet any of his family?
SN: No, but after Buddy’s death, they asked [by phone] if there were any of his outtakes, and I told them that he had taken everything that he recorded.
LM: He didn’t leave anything with you? No memorabilia, nothing?
SN: No, nothing. He took everything after each recording.
LM: So after recording with you, he developed a relationship with Norman Petty, correct?
SN: Well, he had a relationship with Norman before he came to us.
LM: Even before 1955?
SN: I think so because we were told that he was recording at the Petty studio and he wasn’t all that satisfied, and that he wanted to give us a try.
LM: So you’re saying that Buddy had actually expressed a little dissatisfaction with Norman Petty before coming to you?
SN: Yes, in a backhanded way, you know.
LM: And that he was looking for a studio that would give him the best opportunity for freedom of expression?
LM: Well then, why do you suppose Buddy went back to Norman and not continue to record at the Nesman Sound Studio?
SN: Well, Norman was pushing him where as we were not, and I think he needed what Norman could give him. [But then] he also needed what we could give him.
LM: In other words, Norman had the label contacts and the Nesman Sound Studio didn’t, right?
SN: Yes, exactly. My husband worked at the base and he didn’t have time to get out and make the proper contacts. Handling talent is a field of its own, [and] Lewis wanted to keep his job at the base. For one thing, he enjoyed it, and in the second place, when the studio wasn’t making money, for a little town, it’s “fur and feathers.” He wanted to have a chance for retirement in our later days and something for me.
LM: Did you and Lewis have children?
SN: No. He adopted my little girl and had her name changed to his last name; you know, just a regular little family. He wanted to do a good job in raising her. Besides that, when I got interested in the studio, which I thoroughly enjoyed, to have increased our family would have kind of interfered with that.
LM: So the Nesman Sound Studio is no longer in business?
SN: No. After Lewis retired and he got too sick to work it full-time, we closed the door and we began to sell the equipment. Then shortly after that, he got really sick and he passed on. I finished the sale [of the equipment] after he passed on.
LM: So aside from Buddy Holly, did you record any other aspiring rock ‘n’ roll musicians?
SN: Well, they’re all aspiring rock ‘n’ roll musicians, you know. We did more western music than rock ‘n’ roll.
LM: But when the word got out about the Nesman Recording Studio, did Roy Orbison come knocking?
SN: We didn’t do Roy Orbison, and I don’t know where he went for his recordings. He was another one that was extremely talented.
LM: Did you make pressings for some of the groups?
SN: We did make pressings for various artists, but they designed their own labels and did their own selling, using their own contacts for that. Some of that was nothing more than what they still do, which is make, let’s say, a thousand records or tapes or whatever, and then sell them at their performances. Of course, in our case, they were ‘45s.
LM: Did you ever keep any of these ‘45s?
SN: Yes I did, but when I sold the studio and moved, I just didn’t have the room to keep them and sold them in a garage sale.
LM: How lucky it was for the people that bought them! What did you sell them for, ten cents each [laughing]?
SN: [Return laughter] Oh I guess, I guess. It was a dreadful thing that I had to move, but the studio and the whole setup was entirely too large for me to bring along.
LM: So you did this right after Lewis passed?
SN: Yes, I started it then, and a few months later, the studio was sold.
LM: It’s too bad you didn’t have an historian, especially Bill Griggs, who could have helped you in the sale of your studio. I’m certain you would have come out better monetarily. Did Griggs ever enterview you and Lewis?
SN: Yes he came over and visited with us. He’s a nice man.
LM: Didn’t Griggs ever express a desire in picking up some of your items?
SN: I don’t know if Bill ever really knew about our interest in selling or not. The sale was through a record agent in San Francisco, who had become a friend of ours. He bought some equipment, and I told him that I was going to sell everything, but what I felt like doing was just taking this stuff out and dumping it [both of us laughing heartedly]. It was such a job to do and, emotionally, it was hard.
You have to understand that when your husband has just died and you’ve got this humongous problem, you know, and putting away [an occupational] life that you have loved, the association with people, the whole thing . . . it was just rough.
He said [the agent], “Don’t throw away anything! I have a web page, so just give me a price list of everything you have, a good one, with model numbers, ages, and the whole bit. I’ll post this on my web page and you’re going to get calls from people all over the country.” Sure enough, I did. My agent didn’t post the prices, so when people would see an item that they wanted, they would call me and we would get together on the price.
I did get a real good response because the web page said that this was the studio that had recorded Buddy Holly, Bill Mack, and some of the artists that are locally well known around here. Mack McCray was another one. He and his wife were very talented in country-and-western music.
We did a lot of nuts-and-bolts recordings here, you know, lots of aspiring young people, cowboys, all kinds of people.
LM: So [laughing] because you’re such a nice person, they were probably able to talk you into a low-ball price, right?
SN: No, not necessarily [return laughter]. I will tell you that there were people who read his web page and they would call me and say something like, “You’ve got an ampex. Please don’t sell that for peanuts. That’s worth . . .,” and then they would give me a price. A lot of people called me and told me what the stuff was worth. I had help from all over the country, and that was the most marvelous thing that I had ever witnessed.
LM: What were your overall feelings about rockabilly when it made its presence? Did you like that style of music?
SN: Yes, I liked it. It was fresh and new and it appealed to me. But then [laughing] I wasn’t burdoned with the artistic background of symphonies, operas, and classical music [like Lewis was]. His feelings were that only classical music counted. But then I would tell Lewis, “Just listen to the words to this song. Doesn’t that just get ya?” And he would just say, “yeah.” No [laughing], he liked it okay, but you could tell where his heart was. It was like some people preferring blonds and never looking at a redhead, you know.
LM: Did you do any mobile recordings in which you set up at different establishments, and were you right there helping Lewis?
SN: Well what do you think he had me along for [laughing]? I really pushed him [in this direction] because I wanted to work and he wanted to please me. For the most part, it worked out very well.
LM: If you had to do it all over again, would you have picked another profession?
SN: Well, I enjoyed it so much and it was kind of flattering too that we were the only studio here. That was a big thing in a small town like this; when the town grew, we grew with it.
LM: Did any other sound studios establish themselves in Witchita and give you and Lewis a run for your money?
SN: One or two, but they didn’t last or they moved to Nashville where there was more potential for them. But besides that, when you have a certain reputation, people know it, and that helps.
LM: Do you live right in the city limits of Witchita or do you live outside of town?
SN: I live right in the city limits in a nice little neighborhood.
LM: Do a lot of your present neighbors know that you were connected with a lot of high-profile artistry in the recording business?
SN: Well not in the neighborhood particularly, but it’s amazing to me that every where I go, someone will ask me if I’m Sally Nesman with the famous Nesman Recording Studio and I don’t really go into [promoting] my background at all. I don’t live in the past, and where Buddy was concerned, we didn’t try to capitalize on it, particularly. In other words, our next job was the most important one.
LM: What are your overall thoughts of the mainstream music of today as compared to that of the late ‘50s?
SN: I think that the present day music is atrocious. It isn’t music; it’s screaming whereas when Buddy Holly was recording, and so forth, it’s beautiful, singable, and appealing. Nowadays, I much prefer listening to country music.
LM: And do you like the guitar instrumental rock ‘n’ roll that Petty introduced to the world via George Tomsco and the Fireballs, and the String-A-Longs?
SN: Oh yes. I like them, it’s just that modern day music [rap etc.] is just not music, in my opinion, [and] I don’t enjoy it. So I much prefer listening to country-and-western songs. I think we have a lot of wonderful artists in the country-and-western field now, whereas in the pop [field], it just doesn’t appeal to me.
LM: Of course, modern lyrics of today’s mainstream music is an expression of the feelings of the young aficionados of the day just as it always has been way back when rock came into existence in 1954. In other words, rock songs have always been a voice, so to speak, for its generation of fans. Would you say that the pop music of today conveys messages of greater negativity then those of the past?
SN: Yes and they’re expressing a certain amount of rage, and certainly a lot of discontent. I’m sorry that they [the mainstream fans] are going through adult life feeling that way. I don’t feel that way about life. I’m one of the fortunate ones; I didn’t run into any major, terrible things [that would have made me feel otherwise]. I know that colors my opinion, but I just hate to think that music is an expression of anger, rage, and discontent.
LM: So Sally, what are your thoughts on the future of pop?
SN: I hope it turns around from being atonal and screamed. I know that I sound old fogy, but pop music [of today] is so disrespectful. All I can say is that I’m proud to have been a contributor to the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll.
LM: Does Wichita Falls, Texas have a strong Baptist support?
SN: Yes, we have more Baptist churches than any other kind of denomination, athough I’m an Espiscopalian. The kids here are very well mannered and respectful.
LM: So tomorrow, you’re going to Paris, right?
SN: Yes, my daughter and I are going to fly to Paris and spend a few days there. Then we’re going to get on a riverboat and cruize the Seine up to the English Channel. [Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted on 08/24/03]. I’ve been looking forward to this for many months.
LM: Is your daughter married and does she have children?
SN: Oh yes. She’s married and they have two daughters. Now between them (my two granddaughters), they have three daughters. So I’m a great grandmother. Incidently, Lewis’s grandfather name was “Paw Paw.”
LM: Do you remember what you and Lewis were doing when you learned of Buddy Holly’s death?
SN: No, actually I can’t. But for you, it would be like Pearl Harbor Day is to me [as you were a teenager during his demise]. But then I think that any [high profile] artist who dies at a young age is very tragic. We did appreciate that Buddy had come to us, that he needed us, and he liked what we did, and that we helped him with his [music] goals. [Even though] his legacy is huge, I tell you, [if he had lived], he would have been a giant. Even though my husband (we all called him “Looie”] was Buddy’s engineer, I was in the control room listening, and I was just drawn to [his music].
LM: Again, could you describe Lewis’s demeanor to our readers?
SN: He was well liked and he had a good sense of humor. He was always saying funny things that made people laugh, and he was easy going except that he was a perfectionist with his work.
LM: Did, Lewis have any hobbies like fishing etc.?
SN: No, just ballroom dancing and traveling. We traveled a lot.
LM: What are your final thoughts, Sally?
SN: Well I’m so pleased that I was able to participate in such an interesting field and work with such wonderful people, most of them being talented musicians. They had such a respect for me when I would suggest that they missed something in their recording and [recommend] that they re-record it. I had a way [of offering a critique] without them being crushed by it [laughing]. I got along really well with the musicians and I’m just so pleased that I had this experience in my life. I miss it. I really do. I miss the work and I wish that I were still recording. In fact, when I hear music over the radio [I visualize myself] in front of the board turning dials.
LM: Well Sally, it’s been a real pleasure doing this interview with you. I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. It’s been a lot of fun, and I guess you probably realized that it’s been my first phone interview, as all, up to now, have been by email.
SN: Well Dick, I really appreciate it and you couldn’t tell it by me [it being your first phone interview]. You’re very good about leading and the direction of where you wanted it to go. I hope it’s of some use to you.
LM: Of course it is and I feel honored to have conducted this interview with you.
SN: Mike [Bell] says that he’s going to take me over to the Buddy Holly musium next summer and I’m really looking forward to that. One of my granddaughters was over there recently and she said, “Oh! That’s my grandfather!” Apparently she was reading a poster or something that said Buddy Holly had recording here and she was so thrilled to see that.
By the way, we use to get tourists from England, who would come over and visit our studio, and they would look around and acted like it was his [Buddy’s] holy ground. They’d take pictures and when they got back to England, they would send thank-you notes, and I thought, “Oh, this is wonderful!”
LM: Thank you again, Sally and have a safe trip.
SB: Thank you too Dick. Oh, my husband would really have enjoyed this interview.