Nestor Eaton plays and sings at the dedication of the Pete Eaton Media Center at the San Antonio Elementary School library in 2017.
 Submitted photo

Nashville multi-instrumentalist and Socorro County native Nestor Eaton will be honored at the Socorro chapter of Disabled American Veterans on August 29 from 3-9 p.m. According to Jerilou Eaton, his wife of 40 years, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in May 2022 and died earlier this year on January 17.

Eaton was born to Pete Eaton and Lucy Mora Eaton in 1946 and began playing music as soon as he could pick up a guitar, Jerilou said.

“At a very young age, Nestor was playing guitar and singing at San Antonio Elementary School Christmas and holiday programs, as well as competing in school and area talent shows,” she said. “By the time he was nine years old, he was playing live on KSRC radio on Saturday mornings. Walter Shrode, the station owner, would interview Nestor and take requests for him to play guitar and sing on the air.”

His first band while still at Socorro High School was the Nite Lites.

“Nestor also helped at local ranches in his teenage years, from bucking hay at farms to helping gather and brand cattle at the Del Curto, Armijo, and Gallegos ranches,” Jerilou said. “Growing up, Nestor and Danny Jaramillo helped out summers at Fred Gallegos Ladrones and Bosquecito ranches.

“Nestor also played guitar and sang at the Bingham school house dances with Wesley and Joe Burris,” she said. “Ranching families from the area would meet, dance and enjoy family and friends time on Saturday nights at the Bingham school house. He went on to play music in local bands with Clint Martin, Tommy van Landingham and Emile Goret.”

Eaton’s music career was put on hold when he put in a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam.

“After returning from the military, he went on to play at the Caravan East in Albuquerque in the late 60s and early 70s,” Jerilou said, “That’s where we met. We got married in Raton. Nestor also played with Five of a Kind and the Southsayers once he was back in Albuquerque.”

Eaton eventually joined the Kenny Vernon Band with legendary steel guitar player Wayne Gailey, playing at venues not only in New Mexico but Texas, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.

“Later, he was the driving force of the band Swamproot,” she said. “He started his own band, the Nestor Eaton Band, and also appeared on the TV show Midnight Special with Roger Miller.”

No stranger to the Nashville music community and the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry, Eaton played with country artists Doyle Holly, Barbara Fairchild, Johnny Russell, Shelly West, the Trailer Park Troubadours–where he was known as Nestor “Neutron” Eaton, a play on the physics definition of the term nestor. He joined up with John Conlee’s band in 2004.

“Nestor was with John Conlee for 18 years as audio engineer and guitar player on the Grand Ol’ Opry,” she said. “After his passing, John Conlee paid tribute to his longtime bandmate twice during the Grand Ol’ Opry broadcast in January.”

Jerilou said all friends and family are welcome to the Nestor Eaton Celebration on Tuesday, Aug. 29, from 3-9 p.m. at the DAV.