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Music review

A tribute for Jimmy Edward

Peppy is Rockin’ The Planet

Peppy is Rockin’ The Planet
By Ramón Hernández
Singer, songwriter Emil “Peppy Castro” Thielhelm is “Rockin’ the Planet with The Greatest Story Ever Sung.”
The former Blues Magoos founding father, guitarist and vocalist, who composed the music and wrote the lyrics to every tune in this musical production, says the message in these songs – all based on the Bible – is to bring peace, love, acceptance, healing, hope and making the world a better place.
“My son, Jesse Castro, contributed to writing the music for five of the tunes; and June Rachelson-Ospa was a co-lyricist to about one-third of the songs,” Peppy said.
Giving the reader an insight on how this project came about and giving credit where it’s due, he added, “It all started four years when Steve Leber called me up at 8:30 a.m. on Christmas Day. And he’s Jewish, so I told myself, ‘this is going to be good,’ and it was.
“He woke up feeling the world was so screwed that he wanted me to write a show call ‘Rock the Bible.’ I thought it was a great idea, and I agreed. Hence, the play was conceived by Steve.”
For those not familiar with Leber, he began his career with the William Morris Agency, where he developed and handled music icons like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles’ Concert for Bangladesh, plus. And that was only the beginning for the behind-the-scenes entertainment entrepreneur who went on to guide virtually every name in baby-boomer entertainment. And at the time he called Peppy, he had just become chairman and CEO of Grandparents.com.
New York City-based Peppy was a member of the original 1968 Broadway “Hair” cast; and his songs have been recorded by Diana Ross, Cher, Kiss, plus many others. So, this world-class caliber play could have been cast and presented on Broadway. It could also have enjoyed a successful run in Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. So, why did he choose San Antonio?
“I met Jonathan Pennington through June (Rachelson-Ospa) when he did a showcase in New York; and, it was at that time that he asked if I would consider doing a version of ‘Hair’ at the Roxie. My answer was that I would rather do something original. He agreed and here I am,” Peppy said as he pointed to the Roxie’s main entrance.
“I came here not knowing what to expect, and I found a purpose,” said the award-winning playwright and multi-instrumentalist whose office walls are lined with Gold Records.
“Making new friends since I arrived and seeing the future in the kids in the play has become a blessing in disguise.”
“That’s right,” Jonathan added as he offered his analogy of the play. “God must be a teenager because of the things kids go through. Unlike churches that preach God’s fire and brimstone, God has shown me who he is through this production, which as the movie ‘Spiderman – Homecoming,’ contains a little humor. So yes, I think God is my super hero.”
While Leber, Pennington and Emmy-nominated Peppy may be the producers you never see, the ones who are going to impress, wow and amaze you are the cast members who will act and sing their way into your senses, your feelings and into your hearts. They are the stars.
Of course, our Lord and Savior gets universal top billing and the part of God is played by Paden Mercer. Starting out with the Book of Genesis, Sebastián Ramírez and Valeria Jauregui are cast as Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel are portrayed by Allan Jaurejui and Diego Jaurejui.
Then the evil Lucifer tries to steal the scene and Eve’s innocence with an apple as Sean Salazar enters the stage as Satan. However, Salazar later redeems himself as Noah with Jazmin Chacón at his side as Naamah.
We know we are surrounded by invisible angels. However, Savannah Mercer, Ivanna Danforth, Pauline Csitkovits, Yvette Cárdenas and Cristián Plata are five rockin’ angels that you will be able to see throughout each heavenly presentation in which the music is top gun.
It is said that “sometimes, music is the only medicine the heart and soul need,” so if you are feeling blue or just have plain humdrums, make a beeline for the Roxie Theater to go get a good dose of feel good contemporary rock music with a message that may change your life.
From “Creation,” “Seven,” “Make Us Over,” “Angel,” “The Ten Commandments” to “The People’s Hero,” “Flood of Love” to “Just One Love” plus 11 more tunes, be prepared to be transported to a level of peace, joy and delight as ten good-looking, wholesome, talented Alamo City teenagers and two preadolescents, sing, dance and tug at your heart strings.
“Rockin’ the Planet” can be seen at the Roxie Theater Performance House from March 29 to April 14. Performances are: Fridays @ 8:00 p.m.., Saturdays @ 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays @ 4 p.m. The Roxie Theater is located at 7460 Callaghan Road, Suite 333, San Antonio, Texas.
In closing, Leber is also known for his precedent-setting arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a project that was such a success that it became a viable industry model. Coupled with Peppy’s experience in “Hair,” don’t be surprised if “Rockin’ the Planet” does not wind up on Broadway, then taken on a national tour.
To purchase tickets and for more information, call 210-360-9180 or visit their website: www.roxietheatrecompany.com/on-stage/rockin-the-planet.
Also, be sure to read the article on Peppy Castro on page ______ in this issue to find out how he went from being one of the early pioneers of the psychedelic garage band rock era to rocking Christian music.
(Note: Jonathan Pennington is the owner and director of the Roxie Theater Performance House.)

Peppy Castro

                     Peppy Castro

From Blues Magoos and “Hair” to “Rockin’ the Planet” with “The Greatest Story Ever Sung”

By Ramón Hernández

Peppy Castro’s musical story is truly one of the greatest stories to be told for he has been here, there, everywhere; and he has done it all.

His musical journey began when he learned his first guitar chord as a result of being in a Christian church play at age 13.

“That’s when I realized that I could be a singer and musician,” Peppy said of his Christian upbringing and what he credits to be his biggest luence. “But,then you go through the rebellious years.”

A year later, he left home and went to Greenwich Village where he immersed himself in pop music and absorbed an endless array of 1950s and early 60’s sounds as he honed his guitar skills playing the clubs.

Along the way, he hit it off with Ralph Scala and Ronnie Gilbert, who he met at a street fair, and they became the Trenchcoats. This was during the time of the British music invasion. However, rather then going with the flow, they morphed their influences into something original, totally American. They created psychedelic rock.

Two years later, on September 24, 1965, bandleader Peppy and organist/lead vocalist Ralph Scala recorded “So I’m Wrong and You Are Right,” and extended-played 45-rpm that included “Wild About My Lovin” and “The People Had No Faces.”

It was released as Verve/Folkways KF 5006 in January 1966 and what makes this record a rare, sought-after single is that the label’s Artists and Repertoire people had changed their name to the Bloos Magoos, which the band later changed to Blues Magoos.

Hence, the Manhattan-born musician became one of the founding fathers of the legendary Bronx, New York-based Blues Magoos – the first psychedelic rock quintet in the United States.

Incidentally, their first manager was Marvin Laganoff, who managed Simon and Garfunkel when they were initially known as Tom and Jerry.

Next came “Tobacco Road” and an appearance on “The Jack Benny Show.” See www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGQxUQfbEz4. However, it was “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” (Mercury 72622), which reached No. 5 on Billboard’s charts on January 7, 1967 that put them on the map.

To boast sales and promote the band, they boarded a chartered plane to do a 20-day promotional tour during which they did showcase performances, radio, television and print media interviews, meet-and-greets and signed autographs as Peppy Magoo, Ralph Magoo, Mike Magoo, Ronnie Magoo and Geoff Magoo.

They spent the entire summer of 1967 on tour with Herman’s Hermits and The Who.

“Image that, earning your first hit record and touring all over the United States at the age of 17,” Peppy said in disbelief.

And this writer is proud to say that this rock’n’roll living legend is a Latino, or Hispanic, depending on what you prefer.

“Yes, my real name is Emilio (later shorten to Emil) and, my father was from Bogota, Colombia. My mother was French, German and English. However, my dad died when I was five months old,” Peppy revealed “As for Peppy, that comes from the fact that I am full of energy.”

After the “Psychedelic Lollipop” vinyl album, Blues Magoos released “Electric Comic Book,”

By now, they had become famous for their great psych flavor, complex melody and great vocal harmonies. However, their “Basic Blues Magoos” album lacked that “punk.” Instead it was pure pop, with a strong psychedelic flavor and effects.

Peppy’s answer to that question to Its Pyschedelic Baby Magazine was, “We were all evolving as writers and actually I think it’s my favorite. My songwriting skills and love of all the pop songs I grew up with were starting to surface.”

After this album, the band got discouraged and broke up. As Peppy told Its Pyschedelic Baby Magazine, “Weak management and having our second single “Pipe Dream” being banned by the ABC network killed our career. Radio was also moving too fast and we lost our follow up.”

This is when Peppy, thanks to his musical prominence and stature, was asked to join the original cast of “Hair,” a rock musical which broke new ground as the product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution. “Hair opened on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre on April 29, 1968 with an afro-haired Peppy alternating on the part of Woof, General Grant and a member of the hippie tribe of the “Age of Aquarius.”

Here’s another piece of trivia for inquiring minds who are wondering if Peppy would get his hair permed to sport an afro, he said, “I used to straighten my hair in the Magoos and then went natural with a fro, Lol.”

After “Hair,” Peppy followed up with being awarded Drama Logue Magazine’s Outstanding Achievement Award for his music and lyrics for the ground-breaking “Zen Boogie,” which garnered rave reviews in Beverly Hills.

In the meantime, Peppy taught Bronx buddy Paul Daniel “Ace” Frehley how to play guitar. If the name sounds familiar it’s because Ace is the original lead guitarist, occasional lead vocalist and co-founding member of the rock band Kiss.

He would also collaborate with Kiss’s Legendary Gene Simmons as a songwriter and performed on Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley’s solo records.

In 1969, after initially declining to start up a revamped Blues Magoo, Peppy agreed and ABC Records released “Never Go Back to Georgia” and a year later “Gulf Coast Bound.” However, their sound was not typical Magoos.

“You see, I was 19 years old and my concept now was to be the first Latin rock group since my father was from Colombia. So, I thought it would be great to play some music with a Latin influence and be the first rock band to establish Latin Rock.

“After realizing that it would take quite a while to start over with getting signed, I decided to … keep on moving forward,” Peppy revealed (www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011/06/blues-magoos-interview-peppy-castro.html).

What must have crushed Peppy’s heart is when Santana came out and got the recognition for being the ‘First Latino Rock Band.” However, he must still be commended for being a role model and instilling pride in all U.S. Latinos by opting to keep Castro in his name for he is a prime example of the success that can be achieved by the son of an immigrant by creating a new American music genre.

Moving along; after the Blues Magoos, the Alessi Brothers, Billy and Bobby, who he had hit it off during “Hair” crossed paths in Munich, Germany and formed Barnaby Bye with Peppy on lead vocals.

Peppy’s childhood sweetheart Mary Kelly wrote “Laneya,” the first song for this band. She also co-wrote “Jessie Girl” with Peppy, plus a poem that referred to Barnaby Bye, which the band adopted for their name.

 They later got signed to Atlantic Records, hit the road and went on to release two vinyl albums – “Room to Grow” and “Touch” – during the 1970s.

Peppy followed Barnaby Bye with a stint as the lead singer for Balance. And, on June 15, 1981, one day before his 32nd birthday, “Breaking Away” landed them the No. 22 hit on Billboard’s charts.

Another rock band Peppy sang and played guitar with was Wiggy Bits. However, his greatest monetary success was most likely writing and singing some of the most iconic commercial jingles of the pass 40 years.

Let it suffice to know that Peppy has penned songs for Diana Ross, Cher, plus countless other international stars. And the list of other musicians he has worked with include Liza Minnelli, John Denver, Jay and the Americans, Ronnie Spector, Laura Branagin and Michael Bolton to name a few. As can be seen, the Long Island Hall of Fame inductee has the versatility to work in all music genres and this is just touching the surface.

In 2013, Peppy recorded “Just Beginning,” his first solo album; and a year later, the Blues Magoos reunited to record a compact disc they titled “Psychedelic Resurrection.”

This writer could go on and on with a list of awards, trivia and other achievements that anyone can find on the internet. Therefore, in order to get to the meat of our interview, I recommend our readers go to www.peppycastro.com or www.facebook.com/peppy.castro.1.

There is no doubt that the first thing that comes to mind is that a musician’s lifestyle and culture is characterized by that Holy Trinity of hedonism timeless trio – sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. However, this is not true of “all” musicians since many are able to resist these sins or vices.

Without going in details, let it suffice to continue with Peppy’s quote of, “After all those years, I did a full-circle.

“The world is in a worst place today and I want to help by putting faith, hope and love into people’s heart through music. God is love. Faith is powerful and music is universal. So, that’s one way to spread love across the planet.

“My wife of 18 years, Melissa Van Dedman aka Willy Blue, died of ovarian cancer and when you hit rock bottom, you either live or give up. The only thing that ‘healed me’ of my grief was my faith and belief in God.

“You know, atheists don’t believe in God, yet when they find themselves in a life-or-death situation, they utter, ‘Oh God, please don’t let me die.’ That’s because God in imbedded in us as a part of our DNA.”

After Peppy went from singing and playing guitar in church to national celebrity and non-stop parties during the era of stoned out hippies and free sex, plus fame as a songwriter, composer and playwright, his musical Christian roots have resurfaced.

And, now the musical icon finds himself in San Antonio workshopping his new POPERA, “Rockin’ the Planet – The Greatest Story Ever Sung” with Artistic Director of the Roxie Theatre Jonathan Pennington.

The play features ten songs in each of two acts. Picking out two songs to make a point, Peppy first explained the basis for “Seven.”

“Seven is the oldest number in the Bible,” Peppy said in relating to the creation of the world in seven days and that’s why there are seven days in a week. It appears all the way to the “seven spirits of God,” which are mentioned in Revelation 1:4; 3:1; and 5:6.

Pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth are seven vices or negative character qualities that according to Catholic theology are the seven capital and/or cardinal sins. They are sins that the Bible condemns. However, they are not called “the seven deadly sins” in the Bible.

Catholicism also teaches they can be overcome with the “seven virtues.”

“Then, there’s ‘The Ten Commandments.’ There could have been 11 commandments, but God chose ten. Follow those commandants and everything will be all right,” Peppy continued.

“Today, everybody wants to be a 10; and when you go to a hospital, you’re asked ‘What is your pain on a scale from one to ten?’ Thus, God set the standard.

“As can be seen, there is a message in every song in this production,” said the genius who penned the words to all twenty tunes based on the Bible. He also and composed all the music and played all the instrumentals on the play’s soundtrack.

Also, in giving credit where it’s due, Peppy said, “My son, Jesse Castro, contributed to writing some of the music for five of the tunes; and June Rachelson-Ospa was a co-lyricist to about one-third of the songs.

“Now, I’ve come full circle,” said the 69-year-old rock legend with the twinkling blue eyes.

“In San Antonio, I have fallen in love with these people, everyone involved in the production team (the assistant director, choreographer, stage manager, costumes/prop mistress, set design, lighting/media design and box office/business manager) plus the kids coming in after school and giving it their all.”

Regarding all the hits Peppy has written for numerous other international superstars, the ever-humble lyricist said, “I never write a song for them, but for my own enjoyment.”

Now thanks to Peppy, he has brought a Big Apple production to the Alamo City.

Even so, “Rockin’ the Planet” is just one of many musicals, he has written. Another subject that is close to his heart is a play he wrote with Stan Lee about super heroes for Marvel Comics. But let’s stick to the Roxie Theatre production for now.

“Rockin’ the Planet” can be seen at the Roxie Theater Performance House from April 5 to April 14.  Performances are Fridays @ 8:00 p.m.., Saturdays @ 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays @ 4 p.m.  The Roxie Theater is located at 7460 Callaghan Road, Suite 333, San Antonio, Texas. 

To purchase tickets and for more information, call 210-360-9180 or visit their website:   www.roxietheatrecompany.com/on-stage/rockin-the-planet.

The icing on the cake is getting to meet Peppy, Pennington and the cast when they make themselves available for selfies following the finale.

To purchase tickets and for more information, go to www.roxietheatrecompany.com/on-stage/rockin-the-planet.   

Alamo City Comic Con Experience 2018

Alamo City Comic Con Experience 2018

Story by: David A. De La Rosa

Photographs by: Joseph Martinez

 

In south central Texas there are two things I look forward to in the fall. One is the change in climate, from the hot humid air to the cool dry air. The other thing I look forward to is attending our local pop culture festival that is the Alamo City Comic Con. This past weekend this event was held at the Alamodome (Oct 26th thru 28th). People that attend this event have a chance to don their favorite superhero/villain costume and congregate with other geeks to have a good time. This comic con has always been very family friendly and this year was no exception. Mom and dad can take the kiddies down to this event with the expectation of having a good time at a reasonable price.

Convention goers attend this event to people watch individuals in superhero garb, to buy exclusive artwork, comics, collectibles/toys. As always anyone in attendance wearing costumes to this event are always happy to pose for pictures with other attendees (just ask politely). There is also convention floor space devoted to professional cosplayers (models in costume) who will pose for pictures with attendees for a small fee. There are also special guests who are familiar to everyone who watches film and television. These special celebrity guests are there to meet and greet their fans’ sign autographs, be there for photo opportunities with their fans (for a fee).

A list of some of the big names in attendance include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jeff Goldblum, Rick Moranis, William Shatner, John Cusack, Jonathan Frakes, to name a few. My favorite thing to do at these conventions is to go to these Q&A panels some of these celebrities have during the convention. Most of these panels are open to every convention attendee, but there were a few that were VIP exclusive panels. I attended seven panels total two of which were exclusive.

The panels I attended were of the celebrities that I had a connection with from my youth. These people entertained me, made me laugh, and in a small way helped me develop into the person I am today. These special guest panels included William Shatner (Star Trek, Capt. Kirk), Rick Moranis (SCTV alum, Spaceballs, Dark Helmet), Jim Lee (comic book Artist), Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Neve Campbell & Rachel True (The Craft), John Cusack (Hot Tub Time Machine), Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek Next Generation, Cmdr. Riker). All of these panels were interesting and some were very entertaining.

I don’t hide the secret that I’m a Trekkie, but I have to say that the two most entertaining panels I attended this past weekend were William Shatner & Jonathan Frakes both fan favorites of the Star Trek franchise. I’ve seen William Shatner before at another convention, and to say that when he’s in the room that he takes center stage is an understatement. Mr. Shatner is like a force of nature, he had no moderator for his panel he just walked in a pulled his seat to the center front of the stage and started talking to the audience. He had the audience eating out of his hands talking about funny anecdotes about his life and career. I think that most people got the Shatner experience they wanted.

The last panel I attended at the convention was for Jonathan Frakes, who played Cmdr. Riker in Star Trek the Next Generation films and television series. I didn’t know what to expect from Mr. Frakes, but in my opinion his was the best panel of that weekend. I waited in a room set aside for his panel for about ten minutes and then lined up to enter the panel room to be seated and waited for another ten minutes. Everyone in the room was talking amongst themselves then out nowhere someone yells out loud “RED ALERT!!!”, it was Mr. Frakes. The crowd began to roar with applause, and the panel began. Mr. Frakes was very funny, self deprecating, and down to earth, he was totally engaged with the audience, and their questions. Everyone there knew that he wanted to be there. To me that’s what you want from these special guest celebrities, I’ve seen some celebs in past conventions that acted like they would rather be elsewhere. If anyone has an opportunity to see Mr. Frakes at a convention, do it you won’t be disappointed.

I went to see the Craft panel that had two of the four lead actresses from the movie, Neve Campbell, and Rachel True. Both of these ladies were very charming and engaged with the audience. Some of the audience questions were very interesting regarding whether these actresses would ever reprise their past TV or film rolls. Ms. Campbell said she would not do another Scream movie, she wouldn’t be interested, because of the passing of Wes Craven the director/ producer of the Scream franchise. Another audience member asked Ms. Campbell, about a potential reboot of the Party of Five TV series. She said that the producers are rebooting the series but with a slightly different premise, the new television family will be Hispanic, but instead of the mother and father being killed off with their children having to raise themselves, the parents are deported from the country. That was a thought provoking topical premise for this reboot. I didn’t know about the potential new TV show, but that’s one the things you get from attending these panels, sometimes you get some inside info on what to look forward to in the entertainment world.

Another panel that I attended was for the actor John Cusack. Anyone who grew up in the 80’s that saw John Hughes movies or any teenage angst films from that decade is familiar with Mr. Cusack’s work. He was very funny and very relatable with the panel audience. He was asked questions about the business, and gave very sound advice, he stated if you want to direct you need to become an actor first in order to understand an actor’s point of view. People kept on asking him about famous quotes from his films. One question was about the film he made called High Fidelity, which was the actor Jack Black’s breakout roll. The question was did Mr. Cusack know how good Jack Black was, he told the audience he knew how good Black was, and that he really had to talk Black into doing the movie.

I also attended a panel from an individual known the world over from the comic book industry Jim Lee. I started my appreciation for Mr. Lee’s artwork in the early 90’s because of his work on the X-men comic book series. From my personal knowledge, this gentleman is an innovator in the industry; he was one of the co-founders of Image comics. Jim was very down to earth answering questions from the panel audience, while doing so he graciously drew some sketches to give to some lucky audience members.  

The previous panels I’ve written about were open to the general convention attendees. The next two panels I’ll discuss were VIP exclusive panels; you needed to have a VIP pass in order to enter. These panels were for Rick Moranis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. People had to shell out considerable coin for these VIP passes for both of these two gentlemen, which included autographs, photo ops, exclusive panel, and a three day pass to the convention.

I’ve always been a fan of SCTV (Second City TV) so when I heard a cast member of that TV show, Rick Moranis was going to attend this event; I had to go see him. There is a reason that there hasn’t been much news about this gentleman, because he had taken an almost 20 year hiatus from the entertainment industry in order to raise his young children. So Mr. Moranis attending this event was a big deal. This comedic actor has been in some blockbuster hit films, Ghostbusters, Honey I Shrunk The Kid’s, Spaceballs, Parenthood, to name a few. Mr. Moranis was very laid back and happy to answer any question posed to him from the panel audience. He was asked how was it like to work with Mel Brooks. He related to the audience that Mr. Brooks was very democratic when it came to ideas for the film as long as they were good he didn’t care where they came from. Another question was asked of him regarding the current state of comedy, he stated most comedy today is geared towards a cheap easy laugh using foul language and vulgarity. He said back when he was working on SCTV, the material was written to work for a laugh. At the end of the panel Mr. Moranis was taken by surprise when he was given a special plaque for attending the event by a mix of Star Wars imperials, and some Spaceballs in costume. It was a great panel experience.

The other VIP exclusive panel that I attended was for the major headliner of this comic con event, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I have to say that having this special guest was a considerable get, Mr. Schwarzenegger hasn’t done an event like this in almost 30 years. The last time this gentleman did an event like this was around the Terminator 2, film release. What can I say Mr. Schwarzenegger has been in some huge blockbuster hits; The Terminator, Conan The Barbarian, Predator, Kindergarten Cop, to name a few of his great films. His panel experience was very brief due to time constraints, but he did talk about his career in film. He gave some interesting anecdotes, one of which was that he originally tried out for the part of Reece , in The Terminator film. The director of the film James Cameron had to talk Mr. Schwarzenegger into taking the part of the Terminator; Schwarzenegger thought because of the lack of dialog lines that it would setback his acting career. He eventually took the part and the rest as they say is history. It was a good panel but very brief it only lasted about 20 minutes.

My overall impression of this event was very favorable; I think all the attendees had a good time. I do have to say that I much prefer having this event at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. I believe that the Henry B., is better suited for this kind of event because of the amenities, the huge floor space, and panel room facilities. I will say that last year the Alamo City had a special Halloween edition con at the dome, and the space this year at this facility was better utilized. At last year’s event there were no panel rooms, very few concession stands, and only the field area of the dome was used for convention floor space. This year most of the concession stands were open, there were three panel rooms made available to the convention going public, and multiple levels of the dome were open to attendees.

I know in the past at this event that local artist’s have been priced out of exhibiting and selling their artwork at the convention. I know that the convention organizers have seen that problem and have worked toward addressing this situation. This year there was a great idea of utilizing the multiple levels at the dome. Artists were given the opportunity to display and sell their art on the fifth floor level hall, at an affordable fee. The only problem with this was no foot traffic thru this area by convention goers. Most convention attendees didn’t even know that there were other floors at the dome people could roam around in. I went all three days to this event, and I didn’t even know on the first day that there was any activity going on fifth floor where the local artists setup their booths.

I think that the artists would have been better suited displaying their work on the first floor were people first enter the dome. If the people entering this event had seen tables full of artwork or merchandise, the foot traffic would flow towards these artist/vendors. I spoke to several artists about this situation and they said that the lack of foot traffic really hurt their bottom line. That being said most of the artist’s said that they would still do this convention again.

Another issue I saw was the lack of general knowledge of where things were being held at the event, by the dome employees. In times past there was an army of volunteers working for the convention directing traffic, giving people convention info. I think the previous issue I described about the lack of foot traffic thru the artists fifth floor would have been alleviated by some convention volunteers standing in front of the dome’s elevators directing people to the fifth floor.

This convention is growing in scope and has become a major comic con destination not only for this state but for this country. Every year of this convention has had its successes and its challenges. The organizers of this event have seen what works and doesn’t work, next year they will improve upon these issues, to bring about a better convention experience for everyone.

for Stan Lee

12-28-22      11-12-18


The Long and Winding Road of Jimmy González

The Long and Winding Road of Jimmy González

By Ramón Hernández

Was Jimmy González trying to tell us something through his music?

Normally, this writer would say, his most ‘recent CD,’ but in this case Jimmy’s latest production was his ‘last CD.’ And, the title to the last song, which was sung by Danny Ortíz was “The Long and Winding Road.”

The previous CD was titled “Que Cante El Mundo (Mi Dolor).” Today radio stations are playing his music all day long and fans are singing along in sorrow. And before that, he included “Porque Me Gusta a Morir” (“Because I Like You till Death”). Was the multi-Grammy Award winner telling his fans – between the lines – that he loved them until he died?

Jimmy González passed to heaven’s pearly gates at 9:57 a.m. on Wednesday, June 6 at San Antonio’s Methodist Hospital. For more details, check out the articles on the Brownsville Herald and McAllen’s The Monitor newspapers via their websites.

I did call Joe López for a quote and his brother Lorenzo López, told me Joe was deeply sadden by the news. “Pobrecito,” Lorenzo said as Joe was getting ready to tape an exclusive interview with NBC News in Brownsville at 4 p.m. that same day. That interview should be on-line by the time you read this article.

Now where does one begin when one is experiencing a mental block from the shock of Jimmy’s untimely death. He was only 67. He would have been 68 on August 28 and he died only 11 days short of Father’s Day.

Okay, here goes. Jimmy and Joe López were born on the same year, the same day and only 30 minutes apart. The only difference is that Jimmy was born at home.

Both received their first guitar in 1962, first Joe, then Jimmy. Four years later, they formed Little Joe’s Group; and, in 1967, the teenagers changed their name to The Glares.

The dynamic duo graduate from Brownsville High School in May 1969. A year later, Joe joined the U.S. Army; and in his absence, Jimmy and Juan Murillo formed Brown Express.

After Joe finished his two-year stint in mid-1972, they joined the Phases club house band; and, at year’s end, Joe and Jimmy joined Bel-Air Band of Brownsville. It wasn’t long before they took control of it and modified its name to the Bel-Aire Band.

Joe, lead vocals, Jimmy, guitar; Lupe García, Noé García, Ray García, Richard Garza, Frank De La Rosa, Luis Maza, Arnold Montalvo, Bobby Rodríguez, Lupe Salinas, Leó Víllarreal and later, Juan Murillo, made up Bel-Aire Band.

In September 1973, López hung up his microphone to attend college. Meanwhile González and Murillo joined Something Easy, which featured vocalists Leó Sílva, Patsy Franco; and, they became the house band at The Resaca Club, located in the Fort Brown Hotel.

Four years later, after recording and touring with Los Fabulosos Cuatro, Joe joined Jimmy and Juan. In 1978, the band changed its name to Mazz; and, the rest is history. Eleven years later, Jimmy’s brother, Tommy, was now playing congas and saxophone with Mazz. Other members were Alfonso González, accordion; Brando Mireles, keyboards; Frankie Caballero, guitar; Robert Chávez, bass; Adolfo García on drums; and they were under the management of Joe’s brother, Lorenzo López.

As is the norm for any band, musicians came and went; as well as countless female vocalists. Joe and Jimmy first recorded with Paulino Bernal’s Bernal Records and Bob Grever’s Cara label. Then they went on to record for Capitol-EMI Latin and Freddie Records.

Those are some little known ‘facts.’ There’s enough information on the world-wide-web to fill a couple of books; and all I have is a few inches of space.

On the personal side, Jimmy had four sons with his first wife. And on May 1, 1999, he and the former Lisa De Luna exchanged wedding vows in San Antonio. He died in the Alamo City. So, perhaps the family will consider a public viewing in San Antonio.

Yes, Jimmy’s musical history has been one ‘long and winding road.’


Breaking / Jimmy Gonzalez Gone

Jimmy Gonzalez of Grupo Mazz dies in San Antonio hospital

Gonzalez was taken to the hospital after his blood sugar dropped. Family members said he died around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Author:   Rudy Trevino / KIII TV south Texas ABC

Published:   10:19 AM CDT June 6, 2018  

Jimmy Gonzalez of Tejano band Grupo Mazz died Wednesday morning after being hospitalized in San Antonio, according to Gonzalez’ relatives.

 

Gonzalez was taken to the Methodist Hospital of San Antonio after his blood sugar dropped. Family members said he died around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Jimmy was rushed to the hospital halfway thru performing in Mission, TX this past Saturday as he could not breath, but was released and was feeling fine the next day.

more info to follow:


Little Joe on Politics, Racism and Chicano Rights

Little Joe on Politics, Racism and Chicano Rights

Article and photos by Ramón Hernández

Is Little Joe Running for Political Office? No, but he is throwing in his hat into all races and hitting the campaign trail to help Texas turn back to blue from local city elections to the governorship and state congressmen and women.

     The reason why this Tejano music icon is taking personal action is as follows:

      “Looking back, one of the things that I lament now that I’ve gotten older, is that I didn’t prioritize. It’s not a regret, but in a kind of way, it’s a bother that I didn’t do and haven’t done as much as I would like to have done for the people in how I wanted to. Especially for La Raza.

     “I’ve taken many opportunities – when I can – to advance la causa (the cause). But, I feel I’m lacking in terms of motivating and urging people to vote, especially Chicanos. You know, while we Mexican Americans are in the majority among minorities, we are also the least voting people among Latinos. We have a voice, but we don’t vote; and we’ve suffered the most due to the consequences of not voting.

      “We have the numbers and we all know that; but we don’t use them because we don’t vote. It’s a shame that we Chicanos, Mexican Americans have the incredible ability to choose, yet we don’t vote. It’s really such a shame that we can’t get la raza, the Chicanos, out to vote,” Little Joe stated with a deep concern about the future.

“This year, my resolution is to try to encourage, to try to motivate as many people as I possibly can and do all I need to do to get the vote out. We have a great responsibility and I aim to do everything and anything I can to help all politicians, black, white and other, to turn the state back to blue.

     “This is what I’m hoping to do this year, to reach the people that come to the show, to motivate them by enticing them to go out and vote because we need to do that for the future of our country, for the future of our families. We have the numbers. We can do it. So, I want to dedicate as much time and energy to making that happen.

     “I’ve always told candidates I work with, ‘Look, I really don’t need to go preach to the choir. I don’t need to preach to the cheerleaders. ‘La gente que no vota (The people that don’t vote) is who I want to be in front of. Not the ones that are already voting and contributing to the community. That’s where I can be of service to you is with la raza, which I know personally.’ So, I’m good for la gente del pueblo (the people) that don’t vote, or maybe, they’re just thinking about it and haven’t decided to vote.

     “I would think that San Antonio was a case in point because when I was campaigning for Mayor (Ron) Nirenberg, people said, ‘if Joe is doing that, que me cuesta (what’s it going to cost me), and that’s true.

     “I’m hopeful and excited about next year; and the campaigns. So, I’m looking forward to working with the candidates that are running for office throughout Texas plus the Southwestern states.

     “I’m also excited about all the women getting involved and will be running for office in government because women are women whether you like it or not. We must admit that if it weren’t for women, we wouldn’t be here, right? (laughter).

     “I would love to see the Chicanitas get in there and kick ass, like Lupe Valdez in Dallas. I’m proud to say that I know Lupe Valdez. She’s an old friend-fan. I’ve met her before and I haven’t contacted her yet, but I want to be right there in her behalf. I want her to know that, win or lose, you’ll always be a winner if you try.

     “Can you image seeing the name of any Tejanita or any Latina, Hispanic running for office, in the school board, or any position? And when you do, vote for her. I mean, why not?

     When this writer reminded Little Joe about Dr. Pablo Ruiz and his Ignite the Vote organization, the Tejano living legend said, “Can you image what would happen if we could get 10,000 Ramon’s and other ‘Ignite the Vote’ members out there? Or what about a 100 of them. We must just go out and do it – ignite the vote.

     “While we may be the majority in number, we won’t get the education that our children need if we don’t get the funding for the teachers and educators that we need in the barrio.

     “There’s so many reasons that should drive us to the polls to vote, solo que no pierdo la esperanza (so I don’t lose hope). Estoy deseperanzado (I’m desperate) and I want to see the day when our young will get involved with the community by voting (if they are 18) and maybe by taking their parents and relatives – who don’t go or won’t go – to the polls. There’s so much that can be done.  I’ve always thought that if we can’t do it all, let us do all we can. That should be all we can do.

     “Unfortunately, not enough of us are contributing to the Mexican American community. So, I’m going to do whatever I can to get the vote out.”

     His deep, serious concerns are food-for-thought. Your vote does make a difference. Voting is a privilege, so you should exercise that privilege. Take responsibility for the future of this city, this state and our country. Therefore, I hope you take heed of Little Joe’s profound, powerful statements.

     According to his son Ivan, Little Joe has joined the Dr. Richard A. Johnson III camp (father of four children), who is running for U.S. Congress in Houston.  LJ has agreed to help him with pro bono spots, along with former two-time world heavyweight boxing champion and an Olympic Gold Medalist George Foreman. Now an ordained minister, author and entrepreneur.

     In all honesty, Little Joe has been fighting for la raza and the underdog since the start of the 1970s Chicano Movement. His album covers during that period reflect that involvement; and recordings such as “Que Sera De Mi” delivered a power message that still resonates and remains pertinent in this time and age.

     That is all, now get out and knock on doors, then insure you and everyone you knows gets to the polls to vote for the candidate they believe will make a difference.


Little Joe Continues to Outdo Himself

Little Joe Continues to Outdo Himself

Story and photos by Ramón Hernández

Actor-singer-songwriter-bandleader, guitar player, record label owner and producer, Little Joe celebrated his 77th year of life on October  17th,2017, yet he shows no signs of slowing down.
It was in late 1954 that four 14-year-old teenagers, David Coronado, José María de León, Tony Matamoros and Cino Moreno, got together and set out to – with a slight change in arrangement -turn standard Mexican rancheras into funky dance tunes.
Now, 63 years later, four Grammy awards and one Latin Grammy award later, this musical trail blazer says that despite his numerous achievements, his most monumental, major accomplishment is about to come to fruition.
As a national spokesperson, Little Joe was chosen to promote Schlitz beer in the 1980s, Coca Cola, GMC trucks, Tony Lama boots, Quaker Oats in the 1990s and most recently Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
It was in the early 1990s that Coca Cola built a float for this five-time Grammy award winner’s participation in San Antonio Battle of Flowers parade. And, he served as Grand Marshall for the Texas Cavaliers River Parade in 2011.
In 2015, Little Joe shared the honor of being San Antonio’s Fiesta Flambeau Parade Grand Marshall with John Quiñones. Last year, Little Joe released “San Antonio,” a song which he dedicated to the City and all its ‘fun loving’ residents. Now, he has been selected to help kick off the Alamo City’s Tricentennial New Year’s Eve celebration.
“I have a crushed velvet green coat that I was to wear; but, it’s going to be so damn cold that I’m thinking of wearing a big top coat or whatever. it’s looking like last year when it was going to be 28 degrees on Valentine’s Day in Valentine, Texas and it was down to10 degrees by the time we finished the set. It was the coldest gig I ever recall performing in and we wore double pants, shirts, sweaters, jackets and I was still cold, but la gente loca stayed; and it was a great party,” Little Joe said.
“I was so honored that Mayor (Ron) Nirenberg asked me to do the Tricentennial kick off on New Year’s Eve because he and his wife, Erika, are such ‘good people.’
Watching Little Joe and the mayor’s rapport backstage, it was evident they had such great chemistry (see color photo montage in this issue).
Needless to say, Little Joe put on a kick-butt show as he and La Familia alternated from an English-language tune, to Spanish, and back to English.
Mayor Nirenberg and San Antonio’s First Lady danced a few numbers behind the bandstand. And, out among the thousands of well-bundled die-hard fans, one could spot some couples dancing to keep warm.
Onstage, KSAT-12 TV had two cameramen and a remote operated camera on a crane. Backstage, KENS- 5 TV and a second television crew roped off an area where they interviewed Little Joe following his set.
It was here, where Little Joe summarized this memorable occasion in three words he slowly stretched out, “It – was – fa-bu-lous.”
Then he jokingly added, “To celebrate San Antonio’s Tricentennial is special to me because I won’t be here for the next centennial celebration,” meaning in 3017.

GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT
When this writer asked the Tejano star who had a line of GMC pickup trucks named after him in 1992; and who in 2015 added a ‘Star’ on the Palms Springs Walk of Stars to his many Platinum and Gold records, trophies, plaques, certificates, letters from presidents, governors and numerous other accolades what “he considered” to be his greatest accomplishment, the Tejano Music and Tejano Roots Hall of Fame inductee took a long pause as he played back hundreds of awards shows in his mind.
“You know, I really can’t pinpoint any one particular accomplishment, musical or otherwise. I guess I would say, staying healthy as well as I have because you know, when you get to my age, you must deal with and you may have to confront with high blood pressure, diabetics, high cholesterol and other ailments that come with age. I’m able to control my numbers because I approach everything in moderation. Then I enjoy hearing the doctor give me the good results.
Having said this, some fans have shared a concern about his liver since the see him drink many shots of tequila during his shows.
Little Joe seemed grateful for their concern. Then, he responded, “Contrary to what people may think, I do drink beer in my show. I drink tequila, but I don’t drink it here at home. I don’t go to bars, so the intake is not as much as people might think it is. And every three or four months, I do get a complete checkup.”
Little Joe’s mental wheels were still spinning until he obviously decided to let this writer be the first to know about his next major undertaking.

LITTLE JOE REACHES AGREEMENT WITH HARRAH’S HOTEL AND CASINOS
Ivan Hernández, Little Joe’s son, manager and booking agent said, “It all started about five years ago when Joe Ripoll, the president of Hispanic marketing in Las Vegas, began looking for a casino where dad could perform five or six nights a week.”
That move would have Little Joe joining the likes of Elvis Presley, Wayne Newton, Celine Dion, Barbara Streisand and others as a resident performer in a big-name casino.
“I love Vegas because of the punctuality and the way things move forward. But, I really didn’t want to do five or six nights a week in one place. You know how I like to perform then move on. So, I kind of forgot about it,” Little Joe added.
“But the people in Vegas kept insisting and requested we do this. But instead of Vegas, we decided to do this in Laughlin, where I can say that I’ve performed in Laughlin many times and I’ve sold out every time.”
“We wanted to do this in a place that was not too big and not too small with an average capacity of 1,200,” Ivan continued.
Long story short, Little Joe recently signed an agreement with John Buschman, vice president of multi-cultural marketing for the Harrah’s Hotel and Casino family.
“I really look forward to working all the great events that the Harrah’s Hotel Casino people have for me. And as I’ve said before, they never really stopped pushing it. These guys don’t do anything without researching and getting their numbers together,” the legendary Tejano icon said.
“I’m excited about it, as you can tell. They want the Chicano crowd. That’s what they told us they want to do and there’s no one that can make it as easy for them. That’s the plan.
“They are really focusing on the Southwest and they also intend in doing the same in their casinos in Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City and Atlanta City as ‘Little Joe Weekends.’”
“Kansas City and Chicago, that’s Little Joe territory,” Ivan gushed.
To kick it all off, Little Joe is performing in Laughlin on Mother’s Day Weekend, May 11 and 12 and they may add a day to that.
“In addition, dad will also be performing at the Harrah’s casinos in Kansas City in June, and Reno in July,” Ivan added.
“Furthermore, Laughlin is also proclaiming ‘Little Joe Month’ in October when they will name a showroom there, the ‘Little Joe Showroom’ with the focus being to cater to the Mexican American because they want the Chicano cliental.
“That’s where they will eventually begin to bring in groups such as Los Lobos, El Chicano, Tierra, Malo, plus other Chicano groups.”
“Harrah’s Casinos! That’s world-wide man,” exclaimed Little Joe. “Next to my health, that’s my most important achievement.
“Yes, I was initially intimidated, but you know what? What the hell, they have given me the opportunity to finish my showbiz career in some great spots. That’s an accomplishment.”

 

ON LITTLE JOE IS GOING TO CUBA

Little Joe was breathless with excitement as he spoke about upcoming trip to Caribbean island of Cuba.
“I’ve been wanting to go to Cuba for way over 40 years y nunca se me ha consedido (it’s never come to pass). So, when the opportunity came up and I was asked, ‘would you like to do a cruise going to Cuba?’ I said, ‘I’ve got my bags pack.’
The Cuban culture has always been real fascinating to me. When I had my Buena Suerte Records office in Los Angeles; and I was there over two years, I was in the middle of all the Latin major labels.
“And, when I was working with CBS Columbia before it was Sony, one of the record promoters that would take me to do all the interviews at radio stations, newspaper and TV was Cuban, Jesus Godoy and I loved him because he was always a gentleman. As we drove around Los Angeles, I had some wonderful conversations with him and the more I spoke to him about Cuba, the more learned about their cultura, about their food and the whole thing about Cuba,
“The more I got intrigued, the more I knew I really wanted to go; and I want to go before it changes, before it gets westernized because eventually it will.

“Para empezar con la música Cubana (To start with the Cuban music industry), I have great admiration for those people because of their tenacity and their drive. When (former Cuban President Fidel) Castro ousted them, they moved in. They came in (through Florida) and they quickly took over the entertainment field … They quickly became positioned in the record industry.
“Jesus Godoy, as I said before, was such an incredible amazing gentleman. So, I was always fascinated with Cuba. It’s a beautiful island from what I’ve seen in pictures and of course on TV. That’s why I’m so excited about going and I’m really, really, happy that I have this opportunity. That’s another reason I want to stay healthy, so I can enjoy the trip there.
“I look forward to seeing all the classic vintage cars and interacting with la gente cubana in their home environment; plus of course the cuisine.
“This quaresma will mark 29 years of being a vegetarian; but I’m not truly a vegetarian because I eat dairy products. I love cheese, and eggs.
“What I am is a pescatarian. Therefore, I’m looking forward to a great Cuban variety of pescado Cubano, marisco Cubano (Cuban fish dishes). That’s it, that’s it.”

Along with Little Joe going on this historic, voyage to Cuba, plus the Bahamas, is Rubén Ramos and Roberto Pulido as Los Tres Amigos.
In addition to the nightly performances from a lineup of amazing artists and exotic ports of call, your vacation will be filled with non-stop entertainment and fun with an exciting schedule of onboard events!
By now you’re probably saying, “Wow, wow, wow, tell me more.” For starters, block off November 5th to the 9th in 2018.
This is an all-inclusive cruise. Raza, this means the price of the cruise includes taxes, gratuities and all the alcohol you can drink. Is visiting the country that gave us the bolero, mambo and salsa music on your bucket list?
This trip will sell out quickly!!! So, don’t wait!!! Space for this cruise is limited and once it’s sold out, it’s gone.
A passport, and in some cases a visa, is required for this once in a lifetime golden opportunity. For more information and/or to sign up for this adventure of a lifetime, call (210) 318-5671 or go to www.tejanocubacruise.com.
This terminates PART 1 of a two-part interview with the ‘King of the Brown Sound.’ Be sure to read how Little Joe plans to turn Texas blue again, plus his upcoming new image here on River City Attractions; plus his take on the “Tribute to José Alfredo Jiménez” compact disc. In addition, he also answers all the questions on the assumptions and/or rumors of his retirement.
It’s a revealing, yet delightful, insight into what this living legend has up his sleeve for la raza.


Meet Little Joe’s Baby Brother

Meet Little Joe’s Baby Brother

Articles and all photos by Ramón Hernández

Every reader has heard of Little Joe, Johnny, Rocky y La Familia, right? Depending on your age, you may also remember Tony “Top” Hernández or Jimmy “La Avispa” Hernández? Then there is their youngest brother, Miguel Gilberto aka Gilbert Hernández and a recording artist in his own right.
Problem is, hardly anyone has heard of him because he has always been under the shadow of the band leader or lead vocalist of the bands for which he has played tenor saxophone. With that in mind, River City Attractions would like to introduce you to el más chavalito de los famosos Hermanos Hernández (the youngest of the famous Hernández Brothers).
His story begins on January 20, 1953 when as Little Joe said, “I remember coming home from school; and there he was, another baby brother.”
Shortly after he was born, Gilbert contracted polio, a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, and he was unable to walk or talk.
“I don’t really remember those early years, but as I’m told, Jimmy took me out every day. And that he taught me how to talk, as well as walk.”
“For a long time, no one thought he was going to walk,” Rocky said, “But he did.”
That’s how Jimmy helped Gilbert overcame polio. By 1961, Little Joe and the Latinaires were a sort of house band during the Sunday 4 to 6 p.m. matinees at the Tropicana in Temple, Texas. And, to give his younger brothers a taste of performing, his brother, Jesse, would pick up a then seven-year old Gilbert and put him on the stage to sing “Ramona.”
Rocky, who is older, said, “Gilbert started singing before I did and when I looked up and saw people throw nickels and quarters on the stage, I got jealous and wanted to do the same thing,” Rocky recalled.
So, Jesse than gave the microphone to Rocky, he sang “Put Your Arms Around Me,” then filled his pockets with coins.
“Most of the week, until my parents came home on weekends, we would go to the Silver Dollar, the Drop Inn, Little Chicago, and the Red Ram, a black bar on 8th Street because that’s where the happening was.
“Then, there also was the Tampico, Charro and the Acapulco, all Mexican bars, also on 8th Street. And it was at the Acapulco where Little Joe started in 1958,” Rocky added.
In 1968, in an effort to make a musician out of Rocky, Little Joe bought him a guitar, but turned around and gave it to his brother-in-law, David “Spooky” Esparza, who a decade later became the guitar player for Los Fantasticos.
Next, Little Joe gave Rocky a tenor saxophone and Rocky later gave it to Gilbert.
“I was 15 and a member of the Travis Junior High School Choir, so I was very interested in music and quickly learned to play that saxophone,” Gilbert said.
By 1970, Gilbert and John Alexander, would get on a bus to go see Little Joe perform in Austin and Dallas. In July, he sat in with Rocky and the Little Giants when they went to open for Hank Williams Jr. in Amarillo, Texas.
“Then, before the year was over, I joined the David Gutiérrez Orchestra with whom I recorded two 45 rpm singles,” Gilbert said. “And a year later, I went on tour and recorded with Roy Montelongo plus Shorty and the Corvettes.
“The turning point in my musical career occurred when going home from a gig in Houston, the band left me behind in Somerville, but instead of taking a bus home to Temple, I went to Houston and there, I stayed with my cousin, Clara Salcido for about one year”
It was there that Gilbert joined Los Pares (The Pairs).

“Our manager, Larry Rick Barajas Sr., was a gambler that gave the group that name because there were two Richards, two Joes and two Mikes in the original band. He also bought us a PA system and provided us with rehearsal space by building an air-conditioned music room in his garage,” said Lonny Lalanne.
This band, which was from Manchester, on the southeast side and near the channel also included some musicians from Magnolia and Houston’s 2nd Ward, styled itself after Chicago. They were Albert Mogil, lead vocals; Tom Cruz, guitar; Larry Rick Barajas Jr., bass; John “Pan” Gonzales, keyboards, Gilbert, tenor sax; Lalanne on trumpet and Mike Rosas on drums.
“Back then, it was like a gang because we were bandmates and hung out together as the closest of friend,” Lalanne added.
“Within three years of playing at the Golden Fleece, the Latin Club, Latin World, the Stardust and the Pan American ballrooms plus upstairs on The Square, we became the ‘number one band in our age group.’ We were by far, such a well-known, band, that we began packing them in at the Lovejoy Center and the Albert Thomas Convention Center.”
As Gilbert and Lalanne explained, they became a very successful kid band because they looked, acted and hung out with older people. Then, as icing on the cake, they backed Neto Pérez on two 45 rpm singles and Rocky Gil on one single.
Their good three-year run ended when Gilbert started freelancing with other bands and Lalanne began to play with Fat Emma, the top Chicano music group in Houston. After Lalanne graduated from high school in May 1973, he flew out to Lubbock, Texas to do his first gig with Neto Perez’s band, which at the time included Tom Cruz.
The worst of fates fell on the band when Neto and two other of his musicians died in a car accident on their way back from a gig at 3 a.m. The accident occurred in Elgin, Texas and it was Neto’s body that took the impact.
The other musicians were Alfredo Ponce. This San Angelo-based trumpet player joined Neto when Gilbert De Anda broke up Coyote to join Tortilla Factory. The other was David Castillo, a great jazz saxophone player. Both were new band members.
“In short, everybody but me died in the car wreck,” Lalanne said with a hint of sadness and disbelief. I saw one die and two other dying; and I was the only survivor. So, I was the one that was left to speak to their families.
“Neto was the driving force and after he died the group sort of disbanded.”
A year later, Gilbert moved to North Hollywood and began playing with Tierra shortly after this band was formed by Steve and Rudy Salas in 1973. He also got to perform at the Hollywood Palladium with both rock and Chicano bands.
However, he missed Texas and early in 1979, Gilbert went back to Austin, where he joined the Paco Rodríguez Orchestra.
“That’s when I started singing lead vocals with a band,” Gilbert said with pride. I began by doing backup vocals, but he would coax me by saying, ‘Mijo started singing.’ But it was actually my brother Rocky that taught me how to sing at 15.”
On Easter Sunday of April 1979, Gilbert and his father Salvador Santiago Hernández, best known as “La Cotorra,” had been out partying in Austin since Good Friday, which happened to fall on Friday the 13th.
“Dad had brought me along as the designated driver. However, he insisted on driving his car back to Temple. So, I got into the car and knocked out. That was my last recollection,” Gilbert said.
They were headed north on Interstate 35 and Gilbert was asleep when Cotorra crashed his 1960 Chevy Sports Coupe in a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler. The car went under the semi-truck. The semi shaved off the top of the car and they were lucky they were not decapitated.
What saved them from this terrible fate is that Gilbert was passed out in a prone position and Cotorra immediately leaned over his body to prevent him getting killed. When he escaped with just a few scratches and five broken bones, Cotorra was hospitalized and kept in intensive care two weeks. He died Sunday, November 4, as a result of those injuries.
The following year, Gilbert moved to San Antonio where he says, “I freelanced with chingos de pura raza groups. If I wasn’t playing, when Little Joe came to town, I would go to his gigs, but I did not get up and sing with him because I had gotten into drugs and I was kind of like in the low side of life.
It was in the Alamo City where he met and wed Linda Martínez and their union was blessed with the birth of Santiago Salvador. Married and now a father, Gilbert began to clean up his act. So, each time Little Joe and Johnny were in town, they would call him up and he would go to their gig, get up on stage and sing “Margarita” with his two older brothers.
“But as hard as I tried, my marriage didn’t work out. We separated when my son was two and a half years old and in late 1984, I went back to Houston where I played and recorded with different orchestras and bands such as Avizo plus Rocky Gil, who died shortly thereafter,” Gilbert continued.
“I would play at the Phase 3 and La Bastio Club in the Market Square area with Roland Kirk. Roland has the distinction of being able to play three saxophones at the same time. However, the highlight of my career is when I sat in with Miles Davis.
“Then I recorded a compact disc and toured New Mexico, Arizona, California, Denver and Chicago with Sangre Viva, whose bandleader and lead vocalist was Rio Grande Valley native Gilbert González.
Gilbert, who is quiet and low-key, continued freelancing without any fanfare as one of the hundred
Fast forwarding to 2007, this is the year when Gilbert and Lonny Lalanne put together the Texas Studio All-Star Orchestra and recorded “Simplemente Mi Sueño.” The title tune in this CD was “Juan Piedra, a song his father, La Cotorra, had written in the 1950s. Not only did the tune become a big hit, but it was also nominated for a Grammy Award.
“I recorded the CD at Gilbert Velásquez’s studio with Lonny and Vic Nash plus twenty musicians from San Antonio,” Gilbert stated.
After that, Gilbert, who will turn 65 this month, continued freelancing until 2015.
“I went back into the studio, but no one wanted to help me,” he continued. “Then, halfway through the recording, I got real sick. I went to the medical center and found out I was dying of liver cancer. Since then, I have gone through more than $80,000 of medications.
“It was really bad, but I kept on recording until I finish my most recent CD in 2016.”
A look at the list of over a dozen musicians who recorded on this production is like reading off a roster of San Antonio’s crème de la crème.
To top it off, Little Joe recorded “Nuestra Canción” with his carnalito. He also supported his little brother’s “Canta Conmigo” CD by releasing it on his Tejano Discos Internacional label (TDI Records 139).
Vic Nash Espinoza wrote “Nuestra Canción” and Dr. Pete A. Sánchez, who manufactures Little Joe’s salsa, penned four more original tunes. If you haven’t heard Gilbert make his tenor sax sing, just catch one of Wild Bill Perkins’ Calle Seis performances.
Furthermore, this month everyone sailing on Chicano Cruise II will see and hear Little Joe and Gilbert sing in duet in what will truly be a rare, memorable performance.
Unfortunately, this cruise is completely booked and you will have to wait for the next cruise, meanwhile keep checking at www.chicanocruise.com or call (702) 9540-0298.


Scream Queen


Scream Queen 2017
It was mid-November, I found myself in “Wonderland Land of the America’s” indoor mall.
There were many venders to visit. Selling a wide variety of goods from comic books, trinkets and bats under glass, quite interesting to look at. It’s a bargain hunter’s delight.
One thing I must point out. I have been to many conventions and comic cons. Some of the same kinds of things I looked at were cheaper here. The price to attend was Zero. That’s the best deal of all! Wonderland mall have a wide range of events going on all year long just keep an eye out for them. https:// www.facebook.com/wonderlandoftheamericas
The Bedouin Belly Dancer was on hand entertaining a cheering small audience . Many of the dancers did several different styles of dances. All preformed with grace and dignity. If you would like to give it a try belly dancing; check out www.asheba.com

Halloween started early with the Scream Queen contest. The outfits they dawned and of course a good scream determine the winner. To me and many others they are all winners. The contestants were wonderful.
The third place winner did “Creep” me out a bit. Other than that it was a perfect day.
Story and pictures by Joseph Martinez
rivercityattrctions.com