Nels Clang, 85, a friend to many, passed away Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at North Platte Care Center.
Nels taught heating, ventilation and air conditioning at Mid Plains Community College for 33 years and also owned his own HVAC business in North Platte for many years.
He enjoyed music at all levels. He was a master luthier, building and repairing musical instruments for his family and others upon request.
Visitation will be Wednesday, May 15 from 1-7 p.m. with family receiving friends from 5-7 p.m. at Carpenter Memorial Chapel, which is in care of arrangements.
Services will be on Thursday, May 16 at 10 a.m. at Bethel Church.
Burial will follow at Ft. McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell.
When his brother Freddie, 14, built a violin after studying a picture in a Sears catalogue, Nels, 12, learned to play it. The brothers were off and running as music performers.
There was no television in those days – the 1940s — so playing and singing was a major source of enjoyment after the chores were done.
Later their uncles Charlie and Frank Pettis, who were noted musicians in Custer County, bought he and Freddie a guitar. He and Freddie learned to play it too. Nels and his siblings learned to play by ear. Nels said his mother played some piano and his father played harmonica without any hands, an ability that Nels also mastered.
At age 14, Nels played violin at his first big gig, for the crowd at 8th grade graduation, when all the rural school 8th graders in Custer County received graduation certificates at the high school auditorium.
A couple years later, he and his brothers and sisters (The Clang Gang) played a neighborhood dance at the one-room schoolhouse near Milburn. A lifetime of music making and instrument making followed.
He was adept on the fiddle, harmonica and guitar and could handle a mandolin too. He made many guitars and violins by hand and repaired many more.
Over the years, Nels performed with the Harley Ellis Band, the Charlie Pettis Band and he helped Don Schauda and the Good Life Opry make some recordings in the 1960s. He played with the Butch Kilner Band of Sidney, which morphed into the Golden Classics, which played for 26 years at the North Platte Senior Center.
His five sons became musicians too.
In 1976, Nels and his Uncle Charlie Pettis were chosen to represent Nebraska at the Smithsonian during the nation’s bicentennial celebration.
He loved bluegrass, playing with the Sandy Rivers Boys for 10 years, and band that he and his good friend Steve Barger started so their family members, including sons and grandsons, could play and share their love of music.
Nels was inducted into the Nebraska Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
He was known for humility, cheerfulness, work ethic and kindness to others.
He belonged to the old car club, re-building a late 1920s Dodge Brothers car. He enjoyed hunting and taught hunters safety courses. He was an active member of the Wesleyan Church and most recently Bethel Church.
Nels lived a full life and everything he did was geared towards family, his obituary said. He often helped people repair musical instruments and appliances, asking for next to nothing in return.
He was born Feb. 12, 1934 to Fred A. and Ellen (Pettis-Tyson) Clang at Broken Bow. He graduated in 1952 from Anselmo High School and served in the Army from 1954-56, according to his obituary.
He was united in marriage to Loretta Kieborz, May 29, 1960. To this union, their boys were born — Robert, Joe, Daniel, Ronald and James.
The family moved to North Platte in 1968.
He is survived by his sons, grandchildren, great grandchildren, two brothers and two sisters. A memorial has been established in his name. Online condolences may be shared at carpentermemorial.com.
Full the full obituary, click HERE
“He could fix most anything/ Especially harmonious strings/ He was serene and he showed it/ He was a prince, didn’t seem to know it/ He could make music all day long/ I bet he knew 2,000 songs. He was a gentleman, all the time/ And, Nels Clang was a friend of mine.”