Story and photos by Ramón Hernández
Both musicians that passed on were not household names because both fell under the umbrella of the bandleaders.
For years, countless of bands covered “Juana La Cubana,” “La Gallina,” “El Colesterol” plus countless other hits, but each time we heard them on the radio or announced at clubs, it was always the latest hit by Fito Olivares y La Pura Sabrosura. However, the voice that interpreted all these hits was Fito’s brother and drummer, Javier Olivares.
Other commercial breakthroughs were “La Negra Catalina,” “Aguita de Melon,” “La Ranita” and countless others.
Fito, whose real name is Rodolfo, wrote all those best-selling records and his saxophone drove La Sabruosura’s. Brother Jaimé augments Fito’s saxophone, but it was Javier who sang the songs.
Javier, was born in Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico on April 26, 1954, but was a long-time resident of Pasadena, Texas where most of the family now lives
The Olivares brothers, Javier, Jaimé and Fito relocated to Houston in 1977 and formed La Pura Sabrosura in 1980 and started to enjoy great success in the late 1980s. And for the record, their other brother Joél, was never a part of the group, but Javier’s son, Miguel Martín, has been the group’s percussionist for over a year.
Javier had been hospitalized for two months and it was after surgery to treat stomach cancer that he passed away peacefully on Sunday, June 10 at age 57.
As is life, the show must go on and on Friday, June 22, La Pura Sabrosura performed at Graham Central Station in a concert dedicated to Javier’s memory with Fito Olivares Jr. replacing his uncle on drums and Eagle Pass-native Adrian Díaz was introduced as the new voice for the group.
The second musician, Leonel Pulido, was born in La Palmita, Nuevo León, Mexico, but the well-recognized accordionist lived in Elsa, Texas for most of his life.
In January of 1974, his nephews, Joél “Gordo,” saxophone; Roél “Flaco,” saxophone; José Roberto “El Primo” Pulido Jr., bajo sexto and vocals; and he, on accordion, formed the original Los Clasicos. The rest as they say, is history.
On Tuesday, June 19, Leonel suffered a heart attack as he was being transported in an ambulance to Edinburg Regional Medical Center when he died enroute. He was 67.
As an acclaimed accordionist, Leonel’s musical legacy will live on through his hundreds of recordings with Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos.
May both musicians rest in peace, amen.
“Although real estate made up ninety-five percent of his adult life, Abie Epstein’s legacy was his creation of the San Antonio Sound,” Henry Peña stated during his opening remarks at Esptein’s memorial service.
“No one can take the San Antonio Sound away from him,” Richard “Pache” Acosta of the former lead singer of Al and the Pharoahs.
“He had his finger on the pulse of this city,” former KONO personality Wild Bill Riley said. “He knew the DNA of this town and that will never be duplicated. You could not play the music of San Antonio unless you played something produced Abie.”
“He had something that you can’t learn from a book,” former KONO disc jockey Chris Kelly added. “Music is worthless without someone to coordinate and his chemistry was perfect.”
Henry Hernández of the Royal Jesters, who was unable to get the time off work to attend said, “Above all, he was a friend and a mentor to me and many musicians during the time Óscar Lawson used to engineer at his studio. In our case, we started out on Harlem Records, but we were aiming higher, so we went to Abie.”
Peña, who had been friends with Epstein since high school, was there with his him from the formation of his band, Henry and the Kasuals, recording for Epstein’s record label and doing distribution with Epstein’s record company.
“As a teenager in San Antonio, every high school had a garage band, but it wasn’t ‘a band’ unless you recorded at Abie’s recording studio. We just wanted to be on vinyl and hear it on the radio, than the teenagers in high school would buy the music to keep it going. Abie also helped me in radio and television,” Peña continued.
When Peña reached twenty-three and felt he was on top of the world, Abie gave him the best advice a friend could offer, he said, “It doesn’t work that way, get your real estate license and you’ll never be out of a job.” So Peña when to San Antonio College for six weeks and today he continues to be a successful real estate man.
Most at Epstein’s memorial were family and real estate connections. The only entertainment figures present were Peña, Acosta, a former drummer with the original Kasuals; Roger “Pache” Ruiz, who played drums with The Commands, the Playboys plus JJ and the Dell Tones to name a few. Also Alfredo “Güero” Cortinas, a middle 1960s bouncer and body guard at the Cadillac Club and Jesse García, the curator of the Westside Sound.
The three most moving tributes came from Abie’s wife Angela, his daughter Cheryl and his son Jason, who played one of his father’s recordings. It was also interesting to note that all the musicians present, including his nephew Nathan Wilson (his sister Esther Epstein’s son), were all drummers.
This writer could continue with paraphrased information borrowed from other sources, but will instead guide you to the best written obituary, which is by Héctor Saldaña and can be read at MySanAntonio.com.
Epstein died on Friday the 13th from two heart attacks. He was 74. Six days later, Dick Clark, another music icon died of a massive heart attack at 82.
Steve Jordan’s music lives on.
It’s been one and a half years since el sabio del acordeon passed on and while there are countless recordings available for years to come, his youngest sons, Esteban III and Ricardo Jordan, have taken their father’s legacy one step further by continuing to perform his music through live music performances.
“We’re carrying the torch forward,” Steve III, as he prefers to be called, and Richard said during an interview at their Westside home.
Steve III, was born in Harlingen, Texas. His brother Ricardo was born in San Benito, Texas and both grew up with their father and mother, Nelda Pérez.
“We grew up with Silver and Boni (their uncles Silvestre and Bonifacio Jordan, timbales and drums), Charlie (Hettrick) and all the musicians because they would practice at home, but I didn’t realize dad was so well known until my elementary school teaches would tell me, ‘you know, you’re dad’s famous.’ However, I was a child and I thought everybody loved music and jammed at home.”
“We grew up going fishing with my dad,” Ricardo added of the simple down-to-earth life they lived.
This is about the time when Steve would go to Los Angeles and perform with Santana and Jerry García in shows that drew Linda Ronstadt, Bruce Willis and numerous other Hollywood actors. In fact, even the Gispy Kings flew in from Spain to see the accordion wizard do his magic; and the video to prove it can be seen on www.youtube.com.
“When we got older, dad flew us up to an outdoor concert in Houston and we were blown away by the huge crowd who had come to see our dad. That was impressive.
“A few years later, when I was about eight or nine when my dad wanted to see where I was at and got me to sing along with him; and I made my debut singing ‘La Postera’ with dad and Frankie Caballero as the opening act in Combes, Texas.”
The Jordan brothers later followed their father to San Antonio where Steve III attended Rayburn Middle School and John Jay High School. The first instrument he learned to play was the alto saxophone as a member of the marching band. Then he went back to the Rio Grande Valley where he graduated from Donna High School. His younger brother trailed by about three grades.
Steve III was eighteen when he started learning to play guitar and bass plus do backup vocals. This worried his mother, who because of their father did not want her sons to follow in his footsteps. However, after two of Steve’s musicians quit and moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan and left him in a bind, in order to fulfill a commitment in Houston, Steve asked his sons, “Who wants to play bass and who wants to play guitar?”
Steve III, who was now also playing congas, thought it was easier for Ricardo to learn bass because it was a lot simpler.
“We made it a point to learn and with dad teaching us, it wasn’t too hard. In the past, he had to show other musicians over and over, but with us, there was no problem. So we practiced and learned thirty tunes over three weeks. And before Christmas in 1999, we went and did the gig at the Casino Ballroom in Houston and Christmas Eve at Rio Nilo (now Fuego) in San Antonio. After that we did the Tejano Conjunto Festival in Rosedale Park and we were on our way,” Steve III recalled.
When Steve III switched to congas, his father was able to do the guitar part with his accordion; and between Steve, his two sons, they sounded like six musicians and were able to put on a kick-butt show.
Once they immersed themselves, their innate talent surfaced and Steve III added soprano sax, flute and keyboards to the long list of instruments he now plays. Ricardo also plays keyboards, drums, other percussion instruments and both brothers play accordion. Then Steve told them it was time to step up to the microphone and start singing lead vocals.
“To us, it was like wow,” Ricardo said.
It was circa 2001 when the Jordan brothers moved back to the Alamo City and they became the house band in Saluté, owned by Azeneth Dominguéz, Steve’s caretaker and girlfriend of 27 years.
“Ya cuando estaba falleciendo (As he neared death) he was unable to sit in one sport for more than one hour and was thus unable to travel and we had to fulfilled artistic contracts for our dad in Phoenix, Chicago and Ohio.”
I last time this writer visited with Steve at his home, he said he had hundreds of unreleased tunes he had recorded over many years. Those have yet to be released, but Steve III says that project is still in the works. In addition, they are also compiling a set of their own original recording for future release. Meanwhile they do have a four-song promotional compact disc which contains “Viente Años,” “La Mucura,” “Sopilote Mojado,” and instrumental; and a progressive accordion very Steve Jordan innovative style version of “La Bikina.”
Rio Jordan was the name of their father’s band and his two younger sons are now forging ahead with the same name, but today the group consists of Steve III, vocals, flute and percussion; Ricardo, bass and vocals; Juanito Castillo, accordion; and Alejandro “Alex” Valdez, drums.
Robert Luis Pérez fills in whenever Juanito is unable to perform and they sometimes add Rick Cortez on saxophone.
For a long time, many fans thought the two brothers were twins, however Steve III has let his hair grow out and he now looks just like a taller, güero version of his father.
Steve III and Ricardo inherited their father’s 24-track recording studio and are spending every day perfecting their sound as they prepare for a major gig at Casino Del Sol in Tucson.
“We’re full-time musicians and our only thing is the music,” Ricardo said. “We all play accordion and we have our father’s legacy backing us up”
“As for gigs, we are able to do four hours y somos (and we are) Jordans, so a majority of our repertoire is dad’s music, some originals plus some standard covers. So it’s pretty much my dad’s same show, but we do incorporate some new stuff too.”
Steve’s last compact disc and musical goodbye was “Carta Espirtual” on Jordan Records and it, as well as the Jordan brother’s promo CD, is available at www.estebanjordan.com, now under reconstruction. For booking call (210) 649-6570.
Axel Martínez, Puerto Rican composer and lead singer with La Orquesta de Pedro (Gonga) López passed on January 30.
Ezequiel “Zeke” R. Saucedo, who with Sam De León convinced Emilio Guerrero to form Charro band, died in Corpus Christi on January 30 at the age of 57.
Danny Yanez, who many musicians referred to as “an accordionist’s accordionist” because of his progressive style, passed on Febuary 4, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Eddie Galván, a longtime Miller High School band leader, former Corpus Christi Port Authority commissioner, and a founding member of the Texas Jazz Festival, went to be with our Lord on February 15, sixty-one years and two days after the grand opening of the Galván Ballroom. He was 83.
Antonio “Tony” Ambriz Garza, who helped launch his sons’ musical careers in Tejano through Los Musicales, which in turn served as a springboard for others well-known vocalist went on to be with the Lord on March 27 after a stroke and leukemia weaken his body and he died of natural causes. He is survived by his wife, Barbara, daughter, Rebecca E. Gómez; and sons, David Lee Garza, Adam and Richard; plus 12 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Huey P. Meaux a.k.a. the Crazy Cajun was a controversial studio and record label owner who helped define the Gulf Coast sound through hits by Sunny (Ozuna) and the Sunliners, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Freddy Fender. The 82-year-old legendary producer died at his Winnie, Texas home in April 23, two months after this writer had the privilege of being granted an exclusive interview for the books on Ozuna and Fender.
Víctor Manuel Sánchez, who was born on July 27, 1954, died on April 29 and the U.S. Army Veteran was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
Santiago Cerón, a Dominican sonero-songwriter born July 25, 1940 and recorded 32 albums during his illustrious career, died of a heart attack on May 10.
Humberto López Lozano a.k.a. “Capirucha,” who owned KMIQ, KXTM, KHMC and KLMO plus formed the Tejano Music Video Network went to be with our Lord on May 16 after battling a long illness. The Tejano Roots Hall of Famer was 74.
Juan Ignacio Murillo a.k.a. El , who played bass with Siglo 21, Brown Express, was a founding member of Mazz and founder of The Force, died peacefully in Brownsville, Texas on May 18.
Snowball was the name he was best known under, but his real name was Ramiro De La Cruz, a guitarist with Óscar Hernández y Los Algres del Valle, Carlos Guzman y Los Fabulosos Cuatro, Fandango, co-founder of Los Unikos and founder of Snowball and Company featuring Laura Canales and most recently performed with Los Mensajeros de Cristo. The McAllen native and Tejano Roots inductee was 68 when he passed on May 20.
Gloria Valencia de Castaño, the “First Lady of Radio and Television” in Colombia, left us on May 24.
Manolo Otero Aparicio, one of Spain’s most famous balladeers died of cancer on June 1 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. On the personal side, he was married to actress-singer María Cantudo, the mother of his only son (Manolo Jr.) and Brazilian beauty Celeste Ferreira. Hence the reason he spent most of the last decade performing all over South America.
Javier Villanueva a.k.a. “The Dean of Tejano” and co-founder of the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame died surrounded by family in Alice, Texas on June 10 on his 61st birthday.
Abelardo “Cha Cha” Jiménez Sr. was a conjunto music legend, who sang with el Conjunto Bernal prior to forming his own Los Chacos. The Raymondville, Texas, who spent most of his life in Alamo, Texas and was inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame in 2003 died from liver cancer on June 15. The singer, who replaced Snowball in Los Fabulosos Cuatro when he was drafted into the Army, is survived by his wife, Marina, and three children, Abelardo Jr., Jessika and Ronica Jackson.
Joe Ramos of the Brownsville, Texas based Ellos passed on some time in the latter part of June, but web searches in Rio Grande Valley newspaper obituaries have fail to turn up any information, therefore we are asking any readers that know his date of death, or family contact number to please contact StreetTalk at (210) 614-6146.
Manuel Galban, the Grammy winning Cuban guitarist with the Buena Vista Social Club died of a heart attack on July 7. He was 80.
Facundo Cabral, an Argentine vocalist, traveled to 165 countries as a messenger for world peace and was once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize was at the wrong place at the wrong time when gunmen – planning to kill a promoter in Guatemala – opened fire on his vehicle while en route to the airport on July 9. The world-famous literary arts author, songwriter and protest singer entered the musical field as El Indio Gasparino, before settling on his own name. A highly spiritual human being, he loved Jesus and the writing of Ghandi, Borges and Whitman.
Albert “Cornelio” Reyna Jr. died an unexpected death in a Mexico City hospital on August 8. He is survived by his wife, Norma Alicia López, and their four children: Alberto Alejandro, César Cornelio, Sebastián Eduardo and Fernanda Romina. Before dying, Reyna had recorded a tribute album to his father.
Guillermo Zarur Collado, a Mexican actor born July 20, 1932, died on August 8. He was 79.
Enrique Cáceres Méndez, who replaced Johnny Albino as lead vocalist with Los Panchos, passed on August 22 in Mexico City. He was 75.
José “Pepe” Ontiveros Meza, composer and lead vocalist for Los Canelos de Durango, never cameo ut of a coma in a Culiacaán, Sinaloa hospital and was declared dead on September 8.
Capulina, the beloved Mexican actor-comedian-TV personality whose real name was Gaspar Henaine Pérez, died on September 30.
Frank Ramírez Ontiveros, actor born July 6, 1959, died October 4, 2011, he was 52.
Raúl Salazar, harmónica player and the third voice of Cuarteto Armónico in Mexico passed on December 13. Other members of this popular quartet are Carlos López, lead vocalist; Julio Salazar, second voice; and Antonio Córdoba, fourth voice.
Silvestre Amadeo Flores died on December 17 at the age of 79. This beloved pioneer accordionist, who in 2008 dedicated his life to Jehovah God, began his musical journey in 1949 and he continued to play into this century. As Villanueva, Flores was also associated with the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame.
Pedro Armendáriz Jr., who was most recently seen by all Univision telenovela viewers on “La Fuerza del Destino” as Señor McGuire, died of cancer on December 26. The ultra well respected actor was 71.
During 2011 it was rumored that popular actors and televisión hosts Xavier López and Chabelo had died. The same was said of Fidel Castro, but there was no truth to any of those falsehoods.
In closing, let me quote an unattributed saying and that is, “Lo importante es vivir estando vivo.” It loses something in the translation, which is “What is important is to live while you’re alive.”
By Roberto Álvarez
Steve’s body was cremated and a memorial service was held on Thursday, August 19.
According to Héctor Saldaña, Steve’s children: Steve II, Steve III, Richard, Anita and Mary Ann Jordan plus siblings Bonificio (Boni), Ramón and Guadalupe (Lupe) plus the Grammy Awards winner’s longtime companion Azeneth Domínguez left Steve’s house on South San Joaquin Street heading a parade of people that resembled a New Orleans funeral procession. They walked south to Castroville Road where they turned right and walked one block to Dahlgreen Avenue where they turned left and proceeded until they reached San Martínez de Porras Catholic Church.
The church was filled with family, an assorted of friends, fans and countless music industry peeps from vocalists, band leaders, musicians, songwriters, recording engineers, television and radio personalities, community leaders, college and university professors, poets, booking agents, promoters and a film maker.
Among them was Johnny Canales, Charlie Hettrick, who played bass with Rio Jordan during the 1980s and ‘90s; Ray “Quick” García, Steve’s former booking agent; Beto Salinas, Beto Ramón, Clay Shorkey of UTA, Juan Tejeda, Gus Garza of KPFT in Houston, Alberto “Alegre” Calvo of Norteño 720, Manny “El Picante” García if B-Net Radio, Rodolfo López of Conjunto Taller and poet Neftali De León.
Musicians and singers included Juanito Castillo, Mingo Saldivar, Sunny Sauceda, Arturo “Sauce” González, Jorge Alejandro, Larry Lange, Little Henry, Gilbert Escobedo, Randy Caballero plus engineers who record them Gibby Velásquez, Tony González and Moses Olivo. And that’s only the handful of VIPs that were spotted leaving the church as many left immediately after the service and did not stay for the post-reception in the church hall.
On Saturday, the squeezebox wizard’s three sons celebrated their famous father’s life with a tribute concert at Saluté. The North St. Marys Street venue was filled to capacity. Fans stood all the way into the rear room and a few even opted to seat in the outdoor patio.
Castillo wowed the crowd as he demonstrated why he was handpicked by the master accordionist to succeed him as Steve II of “That’s My Boy” fame and his two younger brothers sang many of Steve’s songs to the ultra receptive crowd.
Next, Steve II says, they plan to turn the show into a “Despedida (Farewell) Tour.” The only disappointment is that no one was allowed to take pictures and as Steve III said, “It worked for my father and that will remain to be our policy.”
No one wants to die. However, it is one of the certainties in life and no one, no matter how rich, famous and healthy they are, will escape death. Last year, fans mourned the passing of over fifteen Latino celebrities.
Of course Micheal Jackson, Fawah Fawett and other world famous luminaries got all the press, while Hispanic deaths went virtually unreported and in some cases without even an obituary or a mere mention.
The most blatant offensive recent obvious oversight of Hispanics was the total omission of not even one Latino character in the movie, 2012. Does that mean Americans of Mexican, Cuban or Puerto Rican descent won’t be around in two years? It made this writer with a vociferous cry of protest clamoring to know why?
Not much has changed since the 1940s and 50s, discrimination still exists, but it is now subtle. Sadder yet, even Latino publications are guilty of this inadvertent error, so here for our reader is a selected list of Hispanics celebrities who passed on in 2009, plus Sandro, who died hours before this edition of Street Talk Magazine went to press.
JANUARY 6: Musician and publisher of El Placazo, Manuel “Manny” Castillo Jr., also barrio activist and founder of the San Anto Cultural Art center and the man mainly responsible for the “Gateway to the Westside” W. Commerce Street mural lost his fight with cancer. The mural pays tribute to deceased vocalists such as Lydia Mendoza, Eva Garza, Valerio Longoria, Randy Gariby plus many other musicians. He was 40.
JANUARY 14: Internationally known actor/singer/dancer and founder of the Nosotros Foundation Ricardo Montalban died of complications from congestive heart failure. This writer last saw Montalban at St. Victor Catholic Church in Los Angeles two weeks prior to his death. He was 88.
APRIL 1: Mexican singer/actor Pedro Infante (Torrentera) Jr., son of Pedro Infante (Cruz), died in Los Angeles due to pneumonia. He was 59.
JULY 15: Conjunto singer/songwriter Lucha Nieto died in San Antonio. She was 79.
AUGUST 16: Carlos Ocaranza a.k.a. “El Loco Elizalde,” as his cousin Valentín Elizalde, was assassinated after finishing a concert in Guadalajara, Mexico. He was 32.
OCTOBER 11: Panamanian singer/songwriter/Christian evangelist Basilio Antonio Fergus Alexander, who was simply known as Basilio and was very popular during the 1970s and ‘80s, died at his home in Miami due to bronchopneumonia. He was 62.
OCTOBER 13: Al Martino, best known for his version of “Spanish Eyes,” died a sudden death at his childhood home in Springfield, PA. He was 82.
OCTOBER 17: Pastor Freddie García, author of the best-selling book, “Outcry in the Barrio,” and national renowned minister, who received a national Achievement Against the Odds award at the White House, died due to kidney problems. He was 71.
OCTOBER 20: Brazilian/Italian songwriter Alberto Testa, best known for “Quando, Quando, Quando,” died in Rome, Italy. He was 82.
NOVEMBER 4: Mexican singer/actor Jorge Vargas died after being operated for colon cancer that was detected one month prior. He was 68. His ex-wife, Lupita D”Alessio said his death was actually due to bacteria contacted following the operation which prevented him from responding to treatment.
NOVEMBER 14: Guillermo “Memo” Lozano, a pioneer Spanish-language announcer and voice-over talent in television and radio, who was rather to as a rarity and “secret weapon” in voice ads by the Wall Street Journal, died of complications after open heart surgery. He was 78.
NOVEMBER 20: Bajo sexto player Louis Ayala Gonzales a.k.a. “El Carabinero” died of congestive heart failure in San Antonio. He was 73.
DECEMBER 7: Carlos Lico died of cancer in Mexico City. He was 76.
DECEMBER 10: Argentine protest singer Mercedes Sosa died of kidney disease. She was 74.
DECEMBER 15: Legendary bajo sexto maker Alberto V. Macias died in San Antonio. He was 72.
DECEMBER 27: Emilio Aguilar of Los Aguilares died due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 70. Los Aguilares 50th Anniversary Dance scheduled for Saturday, January 16 at Randy’s Ballroom will go on as scheduled. “That’s what dad would have wanted,” said Miguel Ángel Aguilar, Emilio’s son.
JANUARY 4, 2010: Singer/actor Roberto Sánchez, known artistically as Sandro “El Gitano,” and considered to be the Argentine Elvis. In need of both a lung and heart transplant, he ran out of time and died of pulmonary emphysema. He was 64.