Mixed Company is A Band Without A Band
As most people, brothers Tony and Mike Barragan have been keeping Mixed Company for decades. So when it came to name their band, it was a no brainer.
Their father, Johnny, played guitar with Los Tres Amigos and their mother, María, merely sang at home, but home is where most began to be shaped and molded. There were five brothers and two sisters in the family but only Mike and Tony took off where there father left off.
“As a result, I have been singing since I was five,” Tony said of his first musical influence.
Tony was born in 1948 and it would be another eleven years before Mike was born. As it turned out, Mike was three years old when Tony joined an unnamed group which consisted of himself on lead vocals and bass; Mike Sánchez, guitar; Joe Bocanegra, tenor sax; Raúl, tenor sax; and Chon on drums.
Shortly thereafter, they evolved into the Royal Kings and would open for Sonny Ace, the Sunglows plus Little Henry and the Laveers at El Patio Andaluz, the Edgewood canteen and other venues. As musicians came and went, the original Kings spun off into Jr. Jesse (Vallardo) and the Teardrops, and the original Kasuals, which is the group of musicians that was led by Tony in 1964. Henry Peña had his own band and the two groups often fought each other for gigs.
In 1966, Tony joined the U.S. Air Force and Peña became the lead vocalist for the Kasuals. When Tony finished his four years of active duty, Bocanegra was playing saxophone with The Lovells and Tony was able to get in as their new bass player.
The Lovells featured Bobby Piñeda on lead vocals and in 1971 Tony’s 12-year-old brother met Tony Jiménez and got hired as their band boy, or what is now called a roadie. It was also this same year that Tony married the former Melba Espinoza.
Next Tony and Mike joined Felíx Solís y Sus Cuatro Estrellas whose line-up was now, Anthony Hernández on vocals; Frank Castillo, guitar; Tony, bass; and Mike on drums.
“I only lasted two months because I became a registered nurse, than dedicated myself to my wife, my family and my job. However, Mike stayed on as a drummer and roadie,” Tony said of his departure.
In 1982 Tony joined the U.S. Army reserves as an officer and during this time was called for duty during Desert Storm/Desert Shield. After ten years with the army, Tony transferred to the Air National Guard. After ten more years, Tony retired from military service serving 24 years. Tony also retired from nursing two years later after serving 34 years at the local VA hospital. It was during this tenure that Tony remarried to the former Michele Moore.
“I remember those days very clear because Tony would bring home records by Sunny and the Sunliners on Teardrop, then Key-Loc Records and I liked what I heard,” Mike said. “That’s what I consider the albums Tony brought home as my first influence. However, I patterned myself after my idol, David Marez, because he was very smooth in his younger days with the Royal Jesters.”
Tony was gone, but Mike loved music too much to quit. Instead he continued to roadie, play drums and learn to play keyboards as he performed alongside Laura Canales, Monsanto and the Dallas-based Alma 60. Mike however did follow in Tony’s footsteps when he joined the U.S. Army Reserves.
“But then a U.S. Navy recruiter convinced me to go active duty with the Navy and see the world. So I got to see most of the places I would see in books and yearned to visit and it became a dream come true for me as I did three West Pacific cruises on a Navy oiler as a machinist mate. Another cruise took me to Singapore, India and Africa.”
In Summer of 1982, Mike received his honorable discharge, came back home and as luck would have it, Eddie De La Fuente walked into the store where he was selling Atari video games and offered him the vacated lead vocalist slot with Orquesta Juventud. Yvette Navaira was lead vocalist at the time with Leroy Urrabazo as backup vocalist and sax player. Needless to say, Mike accepted the offer.
Three years later, Mike joined Alexander’s Good Times Band de Alex Aranda as their lead vocalist. Alex played guitar; Robert Aranda, bass; and Sandra Urriegas played trumpet and sang.
Word of Mike’s vocal prowess got around and in 1986; Danny Guerrero offered him the lead vocalist position vacated by Tony Rubio with Fifth Avenue Band. They were already good, but Mike made them better and in 1989 they won a Pura Vida Music Award as “Most Promising Band of the Year.”
Then following his brother Tony’s example, Mike formed his own band with Genaro Calzado, guitar; Leo Guerrero, bass; Danny Triano, flute; Adrian Ruiz trumpet; Danny Rodríguez, trumpet; Jesse Rubio, flugelhorn; Louis Villarreal on drums; and named it Crosswind.
In 1991, keeping the same musicians, he named the same group of musicians Mixed Company. The difference is that he brought in Greg Galindo as the lead vocalist for Crosswind and the same musicians alternated back and forth as both Crosswind and Mixed Company as Mike juggled the band and a full-time job working with senior citizens as an activities director at nursing homes, a position he attained in 1985.
Latin Times Magazine named Mixed Company the “Most Promising Band,” they got picked up by Coors Light and Betty Jean Prieto became their manager in 1994.
By 1999, the venues featuring live Tejano music had drastically diminished and bands were finding it harder to harder to find gigs. So Mike started spinning records as DJ Mike.
Mike yearned to sing and he also missed sharing the stage with his brother, but it would be another eleven years before Tony agreed to revive Mixed Company; and why this name?
“Because we were playing a mix of music that is loaded up into our computer and everyone had a Tejano kind of name,” Mike explained.
The difference is that they did not have live musicians and that’s why their slogan became “The band without a band.”
“Mike and I got together after a long hiatus and who would image the success we’ve had in such a short time,” said Tony.
“San Antonio is very hard to please, but people welcome us with open arms and that’s an awesome feeling, but I think that’s attributed to loving what we do and it shows.”
Clearing the air on their unique use of the computer, Mike said, “When I hear the word karaoke, I cringe because we are not doing karaoke. Look at a performance by the Black Eye Peas. They are not backed up by a live band. You see a DJ behind them so call us the Black Eye Beans if you will.
“We entertain. We don’t just stand there and follow the little balls over lines of lyrics. We know all the songs by memory. So that frees us to give the audience a good show. And once people get over that, they go, ‘Oh my gosh.’ They forget we don’t have a band, let go, get up and dance.”
The brothers alternate doing lead vocals, but are also known to throw in a duet here and there. “Together, we do all the songs that have harmony, but the norm is me on lead vocals and Tony doing segunda voz; and we also have a super intro that was recorded by Bobby López. After the intro we do three to four songs in a row, than we talk to the crowd.”
Even without a band, Mixed Company’s is so good that some clubs now feature them as a headline act. Last year, Mike released a solo compact disc as DJ Mike and the feedback is that most of the vocals are better than the originals. The same applies to the awesome musical arrangements.
And this year, their “Al Fin” CD, on Discos Severo, is getting airplay all over the state because of the radio-friendly “Botones,” “Loco Con Tu Cariño” and the hauntingly beautiful version of “Hoja Seca.”
When buying their music, don’t mix them up with Mixed Company, the classic rock band from Sacramento, California; Mixed Company, the convention party band from Atlanta Georgia; the progressive country, traditional southern gospel Mixed Company from Tulsa, Oklahoma; or closer to home the Mixed Company country band doing quinceañeras in West Texas. The list goes on with Mixed Company bands in seven other states plus overseas places such as London, England and Scotland’s No. 1 wedding band. All have web pages and are all over www.youtube.com, but our own guys are at www.mixedcompanyentertainment.com.
So be sure to specify that you want San Antonio’s own Mixed Company. For bookings contact Tony at (210) 288-5653 or Mike at (210) 643-1213 or 828-2105.