Funeral services for ‘Spanky’ set for Saturday

Navajo Times staff report

GALLUP, Jan. 17, 2014

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Funeral services for Frances Mike, known with affection as Spanky to both friends and fans, will be held at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Gallup at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Mike, 65, died Tuesday in Albuquerque.

He spent more than 25 years working for Navajo Communications, working at various jobs in the telephone and cable television, rising to a vice-president position before he retired several years ago.

But his passion was for drumming and he brought joy to tens of thousands of Navajo tribal members during his lifetime.

In a 2008 interview on reznetnews.com, Mike said he became interested in drumming as a young boy when he heard the Wingate Valley Boys perform.

“I always had a thing for watching drummers,” he said in that interview.

The Wingate Valley Boys was one of the most popular bands on the Navajo Reservation in the 1960s.

Mike joined the band at the age of 17, said Bill Crawley, who lives in Kayenta, and who was the agent for the band from the mid-1960s to when they disbanded a few years later.

The country-western band, he said, played all over the reservation and had a big following but this didn’t bring in a lot of money.

“All of the band members had other jobs during the week, mostly with the tribe,” he said Thursday.

Crawley said after the Wingate Valley Boys disbanded, Mike went on to play with Borderline and other bands.

In 2008, at the age of 60, Mike was still drumming, playing for the Poyer Band, which played on the average twice a month at two bars in Farmington.

He said he remembered in the early years opening for Waylon Jennings, who before he made it big played in border communities like Gallup and Flagstaff.

In the early days, Mike said, tickets to see the band play cost $2. By 2008, the price had risen to $10 or $15.

It’s been more than 40 years since the Wingate Valley Boys disbanded but old timers still remember them and the three albums they produced.

Crawley said that while he has masters of the three albums the Wingate Valley Boys put out, they are no longer being published.

Still, copies can be found at the flea markets and some of the Indian arts and crafts stores in border communities that also sell Native American music but they are getting harder and harder to find.

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