Rita Vidaurri Keeps Setting Goals
“My next project is to record another compact disc,” Vidaurri said during an interview at her Northwest side home.
Vidaurri was the Alamo City’s ambassador to Mexico three decades before the birth of la Onda Chicana and what is now known as Tejano music. Her accomplishments are countless, yet today’s generation is not aware of her achievements.
For example, San Antonio has had three female vocalists that achieved international fame and fortune when Mexico opened its doors them. They were Rita Vidaurri, Gloria Rios and Eva Garza; and before anyone starts calling us about CheloSílva and others, remember the ‘key word’ is San Antonio.
During her heyday, from the mid-1940s to the late ‘50s, Vidaurri was one of Mexico’s most famousranchera music singers.
“In 1938, when I was 14, I recorded my first 78 rpm single for Bluebird Records with my sister Enriqueta. Three years later, singer-songwriter Lorenzo Barcelata was so impressed with her voice that he gave her his own guitar and taught her how to strum a few chords. He became her padrino and nicknamed her “La Calandria.”
After her mother, MaríaJesúsa“Susie” Castillo, and strongest supporter died, and Vidaurri went to work at an arsenal as a weapons inspection. Then her father, Juan, took her to Monterrey where she auditioned and was hired at XEMR and she worked with Lalo González before he became known as El Piporro. Next Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno personally signed the necessary papers for her to obtain a work permit.
Vidaurri’s new goal became to conquer Mexico City, where it wasn’t long before actor-comedian Germán “Tin Tan” Valdes landed her a job at El Patio Nightclub, the Mexican capital’s most elite venue during their glamour era. Her life became a fairy tale come true as she was billed as “La UltimaSensación en Ranchera” and began to share the same stage with Jorge Negrette, Pedro Infante, Toña La Negra, Tito Guízar, Pedro Vargas, Antonio Aguilar, LuchoGatica, Gloria Marín and Adalberto “Resortes” Martínez was her opening act.
Next, four films – “México En La Pantalla,” “Ay Jalisco No TeRajes,” “El Peñon de las Animas” and “El Tesoro de Pancho Villa” — under her belt turned her into a genuine movie star. And if that weren’t enough, she entered and won a bathing suit and legs contest in 1946.
As Vidaurri’s reputation grew, so did the demand for her to perform outside the country, so the following year, she toured Cuba with Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot. In summary, she spent the next four years touring all over Colombia, Central America and as far north as New York where she shared the stage with EydieGorme y Trio Los Panchos. The proof is in the countless of boxes filled with scrapbooks and rare vintage photographs.
Meanwhile, Vidaurri continued to come home every six months and by 1954, she had recorded several albums and at least forty singles for José Morante’sNorteño International Records.
By 1957, the living legend was so hot that she was paid $500 by Jax Beer to become their spokesperson and poster girl. The poster touted her as “La BellezaMorena de Tejas.” The photo session was conducted in New York and soon her image graced the walls of every place that sold Jax Beer in the United States.
On the personal side she bore twins – Leo and Linda Palewich –from her first marriage and a son, Rogelio César González, with her second husband. Next she wed Hillman Edward Eden. He became her manager and this union produced one son, Eduardo Eden.
Backtracking a few years, she and Resortes were stiffed by Ramiro Cortez after they worked at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles; and after performing in Merida, Cartagena, Barranquilla and Bogota in Colombia, that tour promoter skipped out on her.
But Vidaurri had the looks, talent and intelligence to go to the best hotel in Bogota, audition and land a job that enabled her to earn enough money to get back home.
“Familiar with this and other horror stories from other artists, her husband refused to let her continue to sing. We settled here and I became a housewife and mother,” the Hall of Fame inductee with her trademark streak of white hair said with a hint of remorse. Thus the music pioneer hung up her microphone in 1961.
Although Vidaurri enjoyed great success as an entertainer, her personal life was filled with tragedy and she underwent the worse experience any parent can endure, the death of three sons. Leo, who earned three Purple Hearts in Viet Nam, died from asbestos poisoning, Rogelio, who served in Korea and Germany, died in an accident involving an 18-wheeler and Edward was accidentally stabbed in the heart. He was 21.
Vidaurri recounts these three tragedies each time before singing her version of “Amor Eterno” during which her voice cracks with emotion and one can hear the pain and sorrow of losing three sons, her parents, her brother Juan and a sister. At the end of the song, there is not a dry eye in the audience. Her heart-breaking interpretation of this tune alone is worth the price of admission to any of her concerts.
Thank God, this local treasure has been acknowledged and recognized for all her achieves. And thank the Lord that after three heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery, she is still with us, but what is also surprising is that this former bar owner, two to be exact, Vidaurri continues to work for a living.
“I just finished doing four years at the Methodist Hospital and I was just hired to work with kids at St. Theresa (a.k.a. as the Little Flower Basilica).
“I need to work because I can’t be alone and stay at home 24 hours a day,” Vidaurri said with a laugh.
She has also unofficially adopted singer-musician and KEDA disc jockey Mark “El Tacuache” Webber, whom she affectionately and gratefully refers to as, “Mihijo.”
Yes Vidaurri has come a long way since being born in an alley. “I’m proud to have been born in the Westside, on Montezuma Street and yes, as Eva Garza and Gloria Rios I am proud to have grown up in the Alazan Courts in my beloved City of San Antonio.
This is one of the reasons a photograph of her Jax Beer poster is now hanging at Mi Tierra. However, it would have been a greater honor to have included Vidaurri’s image on the restaurant’s mural.
In closing, we would like to let it be known that this Energizer Bunny’s next concert will be held at Our Lady of the Lake University during the month of May. And don’t forget that her new work-in-progress will contain a bilingual version of “Crazy,” “No Me VuelvoaEnamorar,” “La Differencia” and other goodies.
Furthermore, she has not stopped performing at social events and special occasions. All one has to do is call Vidaurri at (210) 733-8269 and this former bathing suit beauty, poster girl and movie star will be more than happy to turn your function into a memorable event.