By Joe Delk

My dad, Forrest Delk started playing for dances in 1934 at the age of 17. It was on a trip to Apache Grove, Arizona to play for an Arizona cattlemen's gathering when the skies opened up and rained so hard that all the draws flooded and no one could get to the dancehall. Daddy and his "Sunshine Boys", spent a long night waiting for the draws to run down so they could go home. From then on, my dad was known as "Fiddliń Forrest Delk and His Gully Jumpers."

My sister, Linda Delk Cox, brother Jimmy and I grew up going to school during the week, worked cattle,cleaned trails or fixed fence on weekends and went to Daddy's dances on many Saturday nights. As I look back now, playing for dances was something my dad did not only for his pleasure, but because it was what he did for the people in the rural communities in the southwest . . . it was a way of life and a family tradition.

I joined the school orchestra playing violin when I was 10 and in the 5th grade. My brother and I became official members of the "Gully Jumpers" around 1960.

My wife, Diane and I married in 1968 and moved back to the ranch east of the mining town of Santa Rita, New Mexico when I finished school in 1970. The ranch where I grew up is situated directly east and south of the Chino Copper Mine and included the famous Grant County landmark known as the Kneeling Nun. In 1971, my dad and neighbor, Leedrue Eby, acquired the 2C Ranch that neighbored our home place on the south. Diane and I moved to the Lampbright Camp on the 2Cs in the spring of 1971.

Our oldest son, Neal, was born in the spring of 1970, Mark in the spring of 1971 and Byron in January,1974. The boys grew up working cattle, changing leathers on windmills, cleaning corrals and going with Diane and me to play for dances with "grandpa".

Diane and I made sure there were instruments around our house. Mark decided at age 7 that he wanted to become a drummer so we got him a set of drums. Neal and his good friend, Robert Flowers took a guitar class in the 7th grade and both really took off. Their instructor, Mr. Brown, really lit a fire under those boys. So it looked as though we might someday have us a band in our family and since I played fiddle, Neal the guitar and Mark the drums, all we needed was a bass guitar and we'd have us a band. So, Byron became our bass guitar player by default. We called ourselves "The Delk Band".

First Dance Job

The first dance we ever played for was the annual "Pickup Party" in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico on July 10, 1984. I will never forget that night!

Here I was with three boys ages 14, 13 and 11, on a bandstand about to play for our first dance. Now you have to realize that, at this point, The Delk Band had no singer . . . it was all fiddle music. I had selected "Maiden's Prayer" to start off. I gazed at the crowd waiting for us to begin, and reality set in. I looked around at the boys and wondered to myself, "what in the heck do I think I'm doing?" We had no vocals, I was the only lead and the boys were just kids? I became nervous and my hands started shakinguncontrollably, but I had to get started . . . the crowd was ready to dance.

I placed the fiddle under my chin, looked around to make sure Mark was ready and I drew the bow across the "D" string playing the first note of Maiden's Prayer. My right hand was shaking so bad that the bow began bouncing on the string and I could not make it stop but I had no choice but to keep going. It was not a pretty sight.

We did get through that first song and began a journey of playing for dances from Van Horn, Texas to Tucson, Arizona and most of New Mexico.

We moved to Las Cruces in the summer of 1988 continuing to play for dances almost every weekend. In Las Cruces, the dances were either in Dickerson's Barn or Corbett Center on the campus of New Mexico State University. In Grant County it was the Hanover Outpost and in Deming, T or C or Socorro, it was usually the county fairgrounds.

In March of 1993, we put the band on the road. Chek Rippee came aboard to play fiddle and The Delk Brothers Band hit the road. The band consisted of Neal, Mark, Byron, Chek Rippee on fiddle, Robert Flowers and Phil Evatt to begin with but eventually Robert and Phil moved home to get real jobs and Tucker Looney and Ty Martin joined the band.

The Delk Brothers Band became crowd favorites just about everywhere they played including Cowboys in Las Cruces, Cadillac Ranch in Albuquerque, Rodeo Nights in Santa Fe, Top Deck in Farmington, the Bootheel in Clovis, Dillons in Sierra Vista, AZ, Tooley's Country in Phoenix, the Museum Club aka "The Zoo" in Flagstaff, Caravan in Amarillo, Santa Fe Junction in San Angelo, Tulsa City Limits in Tulsa and The Red Roper in Ft. Smith, AK.

It proved to be an experience of a lifetime but physically and mentally exhausting and barely enough money to pay the bills. Their last performance as the Delk Brothers Band was Cadillac Ranch in Albuquerque in December 1995.

The Delk Band Today

Today, in keeping with our ranching heritage, The Delk Band works as the Headquarters Crew, East Camp Crew or West Camp Crew depending on where we're called upon to play. Neal and the East Camp Crew are the busiest of the crews staying pretty busy around the Clovis/Portales area. The West Camp Crew takes care of things on the west side of the state while the Headquarters Crew gets an opportunity to play once in a while as well.

The Legacy – 81 years and counting . . .

If only the boy's Grandpa Forrest could see what they've done with their music. He would be so proud. His legacy lives on. 2015 marks 81 consecutive years that there has been a dance band in the Delk Family. It's hard to believe the boys and I have been playing for dances for more than 30 years. It's been a helluva trip! Joe Delk

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