Terry Messal was a once in a generation personality who lit up every room he entered. His energy, creative force, and rebellious nature were as indomitable as his smile and contagious laughter. Born to Edwin and Eleanor Messal in Portland, Oregon in 1952, he was raised in Alamogordo, NM, where the British Invasion was just landing at local radio stations. Terry spent hours learning Kinks, Beatles, and Stones songs on his bass. During his years at Alamo High and NMSU, Terry gigged across New Mexico and West Texas playing in funk, Tejano, and rock bands. He had discovered his passion in life.
Social welfare degree in hand, he chased his dream to the bright city lights of Los Angeles just in time to be swept up in the explosion that was the LA hardcore punk scene of the late 70s. He had finally found a music that matched his energy and rebellious edge. It was dog-collars, dyed-hair, and slam pits for ‘Mess’ as he spent his weekends either on stage or in the pit.
Terry’s big moment arrived when he joined the 3-chord gritty rock trio Flies on Fire as a founding member and they landed a deal with ATCO records. He lived his best life touring North America, shooting music videos, and recording albums. The trio went on to form two more post-punk gut-punching bands, Vitamade and VOMF, which signed to Bongload Records, once again criss-crossing America in a van. Known as a blistering bass player and headbanging Wildman onstage, off-stage he was a charismatic rocker with a smile for anyone and everyone. Everybody loved him.
Terry’s resume features a slew of acronyms (AAA, RAND, LAUSD, CYFD, BoA, etc.) as he worked to make ends meet between tours, but he is best known for his decade-long residency as soundman at Genghis Cohen’s in the heart of Hollywood. His knowledge of music and ear for sound earned him a write-up in the LA Weekly as one of LA's best soundmen. It was during this time that he met and wed the love of his life in typical T-man fashion. He and Rozy were hitched on Halloween night in a spooky stone building in the foothills of LA in costume as ‘Dracula and his Bride’ complete with full Hollywood makeup and a stage performance of ‘the bite’ much to the delight of friends and family.
When Terry wasn’t on stage or at work, he was a family man, teaching his son Erik to play guitar and throw the football. Later he would watch Erik take the stage in his own bands and wildly cheer him on during his high school and college football games. Terry frequently made surprise trips to Alamogordo to visit his parents bringing his warmth and laughter to their golden years. He loved spending hours with his sister Judy and her husband Joe in Las Cruces talking literature, history, and politics, taking breaks to play with his niece, Christina. Later he would be her number one fan at her ballet and holiday performances. Terry remained good friends with his first wife Kris who officiated the famous Halloween wedding. He also played bass on her recordings and hosted family jam sessions. He loved talking philosophy, spirituality, and movies with his daughter-in-law, Heather, who kept his movie list full of obscure masterpieces that only the two of them would enjoy. With Rozy, he spent countless hours watching their favorite football teams (his Raiders and her Bills), walking their pups, and shooting hoops at local parks.
In time, Terry and Rozy would return to his home state of New Mexico, settling in Rio Rancho where they started their own 60s cover band and took trips together - Scotland was their favorite. His music career picked up again when he joined the post-punk trio Alien Space Kitchen for another round of touring, radio spots, and record releases. Ever the cultural creative, Terry branched out into poetry in his twilight years, joining local, national, and international online poetry communities where he shocked and awed his fellow poets with performance art pieces, clever word play, and PSAs on the social injustices of modern American society. All agree, he had them laughing when they should be crying.
Social justice and civic duty were important to Terry who went door to door for the census bureau and campaigned for worthy causes. He earned his teaching credential in social science so that he could share his passion for history with middle-schoolers. Upon returning to New Mexico, he put his social welfare degree to work for CYFD and his credential to work for APS. He also brought his passion for music to a school-of-rock-style afterschool program where he taught instruments, set up performances, and recorded songs.
Terry fell ill within days of his 70th birthday and was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. He fought it for a year and a month, fighting it off with poems, jam sessions, and walks along the Rio Grande, before finally leaving this earthly stage on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.
Terry is survived by his spouse Rozy Kalsbeek, son Erik Messal (Heather White), sister Judy Messal (Joe Alexander), niece Christina Miller (Brady) and former spouse Kris Messal (Lee Hulsebus).
For memorial gifts, the family suggests donating to your preferred social justice organization or a kid’s afterschool music program.
A Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, November 15, 2023; 1:00 p.m. at All Saints Lutheran Church, 4800 All Saints Rd., NW, Albuquerque.
The family would like to thank the wonderful folks at All Saints for hosting the Memorial for Terry.