Inspired by bluegrass music and movie musicals, Frances Deters has been entertaining Socorro for the past few years playing folk and bluegrass music together with fellow musicians. We asked her about music and living in Socorro at her Pancha Patch off Otero Street.
First of all, where are you from, originally?
I grew up in Washington, DC. I came here years ago to go to New Mexico Tech and graduated with a degree in biology.
What made you want to make Socorro your home?
Socorro was such an interesting place when I got here. I’ll never forget going into Safeway. The first day I went in there the people behind the cash register acted like they knew who I was my whole life, and treated me like I was kin. It was such a wonderful, warm feeling, and that’s why I never really left. Every business here, they’re always really friendly. Really nice, and really kind, and helpful. Giving with their time andtheir knowledge.
Did you start out wanting to start a farm?
No. When I graduated from Tech I actually went up and lived north of Albuquerque for while. I met my husband, Mark, at machine shop class at New Mexico Tech, and he had started building an adobe house for his folks, and we ended up living in the house taking care of his folks. Our daughters Mariah and Olivia were born while we were there. But aside from that, this is home. People here have always treated me like family.
When did you start your Pancha Patch farm?
About 10 years ago. I had been friends with Tom Delahanty of Pollo Real and I loved what he was doing. I like organic food and the concept of being in contact with my food. So I said to him, if you ever see any place, a small farm for sale, you know. Let me know. When I saw this farm I called the Realtor and said can I take a look at that farm? He said he had a contract on it. I looked at the house and said to him, you know this contract’s gonna fall through. He said, “How do you know that?” I said look at this house, it’ll never pass inspection. And sure enough, the contract fell through and I bought the farm. And I’ve been playing with it since then. Doing a little bit here, a little bit there.
And you did Farmer’s Market?
I used to do Farmers Market. Lately, I’ve been growing fruit and just making things with the fruit. I made apricot jam for my daughter’s wedding. I make apricot leather. I collect the pecans and sell those to people who want pecans. And I have chickens. But we don’t produce enough eggs to say, like, they’re for sale. But there’s that barter thing in Socorro. For instance, Matt Haley took a dozen eggs down to Vickie at La Posadita and traded for a couple of burritos. He got fed. She got eggs. It’s a happy world.
What about your music? That must take up some of your time. How did that start?
Actually, it was when my husband Mark caught me singing in the shower. And he thought, “man, this woman needs a guitar.” He bought me a guitar. I kind of piddled around with it. I used to go to a lot of music festivals. And I’d take my guitar, and I’d get all inspired. And I’d get home and put it down and I’d forget. But when my daughter Mariah started playing the fiddle I wanted to accompany her for a contest. So I had to learn to be a good guitar player to do that. So, Mariah was really my inspiration to become a decent musician. We started playing little gigs up in Magdalena. At the arts and crafts fairs, Old Timers, and things like that. And then somebody asked us if we could put together a bluegrass band.
That was the Last Minute Bluegrass Band?
I had gotten to know Jim Ruff, and met Roger (Adams), and so we put together the Last Minute Bluegrass Band, and that gave Mariah an opportunity, and reason to practice. And we played gigs all over. And it was really great.
What about the current trio?
The Last Minute Trio was formed after Shirley Coursey passed away. We kind of re-scrambled ourselves and it ended up being just Jim, Roger, and me. . We changed a little of our style. We’re not just bluegrass. We do some folk music. Old-timey music and some western swing.
What did you grow up listening to?
My mother was a big classical music listener. She loved classical music. And I grew up listening to a lot of musicals. I loved Broadway musicals, movie musicals, but I loved bluegrass most. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the album Will the Circle Be Unbroken by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. That album had all the great country stars playing on it. It changed my life. I mean they have everybody on that album. My mother used to laugh at me about loving bluegrass. But I said you know that the same virtuosity that the cellist, the violinists, and pianists on the Mozart you’re listening to, that same virtuosity is present in bluegrass. It’s where you have the theme of the music, and then somebody takes it and does something very personal with it on their instruments. Jazz will do that same thing. It’s amazing. Whereas with a lot of pop music … there are certain elements you can take out of it and it sounds the same on every song. Like the difference between vanilla ice cream and Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.
Do you try to incorporate that feeling into your act?
I try to remember the roots of it, sort of. The rural setting. Singing about meaningful things, like if you lose your farm animals, or if you lose your lover or your wife or your husband. Or if you’re depending on some service … the mail, the train or whatever and it doesn’t come. Those kinds of things really affect people who live in rural areas. And also depending on each other. A lot of the music is about depending and knowing each other.
Is that what you like about this place?
I couldn’t imagine going to a city and trying to start over again, but Socorro made it so much easier. Socorro has things that other places never seem to have. Like this whole sense of family, here. It’s not that just you are in a place that has large families, you’re in a place that is a large family. I’ll never forget having a flat tire on the highway. It’s happened maybe once or twice. And somebody from Socorro will pull over and say, “hey, I know you … what can I do to help?” And I’m not afraid. Because we’re all traveling up and down that highway.
Washington, DC is a long way from Socorro. Do you like to travel?
I go anywhere and everywhere. I’m pretty much open to anything. I’ve traveled the country. I’ve traveled the United States, looking to see if I could find any place that had the sense of community like Socorro. And I never found it.