If you’ve attended a dance in New Mexico in the last 85 years, chances are you’ve heard The Delk Band – or at least a Delk family member – play a tune.
One of the longest continuously performing dance bands in New Mexico and Arizona, The Delk Band was founded by Forrest Delk in 1934 when he was just 17 years old. Forrest, a New Mexico native who learned to play fiddle as a young boy, was asked to play music for an outdoor dance in Arizona. Forrest recruited a few friends to join him, and they quickly became a band called Forrest Delk and His Gully Jumpers that went on to perform at dances and special events across the southwestern U.S. for several years.
“My dad had a real knack for playing good dance music,” says Joe Delk, Forrest’s oldest son. “It was Western swing, classic country music that was absolutely perfect for dance halls; upbeat, fun music that made people want to get on the dance floor.”
Joe and his siblings, Linda and Jimmy, carried on their father’s passion for music and entertainment by learning to play instruments as well. Both Joe and Jimmy went on to become members of Forrest’s band in 1960.
“We’d go to school during the week and help our dad with cow works [on the family ranch] on the weekend, and on Saturdays, Dad would tell us it was time to go play music,” Joe says. “We’d come in, take a shower and head out to the dance hall. That’s the life we knew; it was our family tradition.”
The Sweet Sound of Tradition
In 1984, Joe and his sons – Neal, Mark and Byron – built upon Forrest’s legacy by creating The Delk Band, with Joe on fiddle, Neal on guitar, Mark on drums and Byron on bass. After finding local success, Joe’s sons partnered with a few friends to take their music on the road from March 1993 until December 1995, billing themselves as The Delk Brothers. Years later, The Delk Band produced an album: For Those That Come to Dance.
Although The Delk Band isn’t as active as it used to be, Forrest’s legacy lives on. Joe and his sons continue to play at dances when opportunities arise, and many of Joe’s grandchildren are following in their forefathers’ footsteps. As a result, it’s likely The Delk Band’s story is far from over.
“My dad never aspired to be a famous musician,” Joe says. “Instead, he saw his music as a service to his community. It was a way he could provide joy and entertainment to others, and he did his best to make sure everyone was having a good time when they came to a dance. I’m proud to be part of that legacy, but I’m even prouder that it’s living on with my dad’s great-grandchildren – that’s pretty special.”