Roxanne is Divine
By Ramón Hernández
Roxanne hails from Devine. She is a fox and is delightfully divine.
The adjective is also fitting because this young songbird has truthfully and honestly been the recipient of lifesaving divine intervention, but more on that later.
For starters, Henry Balderrama of La Patria is her maternal cousin and his son, Rick, is her second cousin. Therefore, she was born into a musical family.
“Henry lived in Castroville, but I was five and living with my grandmother, Arcilia Balderrama née Guajardo Gonzales in Devine when his entire band would show up for backyard barbeques, set up and perform. And I was always amazed with the sound they created because their style was first, second and third voices. So I was just in awe of their harmonies,” Roxanne said during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
Growing up, she loved to sing as she cleaned her room, but she did so with her door tightly shut; and it was not until Christmas Eve 1989, when her little sisters and cousins put on a show for the family, and as they finished, they pointed to her and said, “It’s your turn.” Then, to entice her, they started pulling out money.
“I chose to sing ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline. However, I sang with my back to them because I was that shy. When I finished, everyone was very quiet and I was thinking, ‘say something, do something’ because I didn’t know what to think of their silence. Then they burst out clapping,” Roxanne said of the evening her family found out God had blessed her with a voice.
Highly impressed with her vocals, her mother’s brother, Albert Gonzales, who played bajo sexto with El Conjunto de Beto Sáenz brought her some David Lee Garza tapes and numerous Tejano records; and after listening to them was influenced by Laura Canales.
“He told me that I needed to sing Tejano because it was hot, yet I never imaged myself singing, much less in Spanish,” Roxanne recalled.
Two months later, the then 11-year-old warbler auditioned for and was hired by Brown Image, a country-and-western group founded by the four Gonzales brothers.
Recalling the first time she sang in front of an audience, Roxanne said, “That moment you set foot on stage, you forget all about the entire world because it’s just you, the microphone, the crowd and the vibration of the live music behind you motivating you, giving you the drive and the energy that music brings to you. And I love to dance as I sing. So I’m all over the stage.”
In October 1990 and now 12, she became Roxie T., the lead vocalist for Cariño, a Pearsall, Texas-based Tejano band featuring David Rios, bandleader and drums; Tony Gonzales, accordion; Fernando Ortega, keyboards; Manuel Del Toro, guitar; and Albert Valdez on bass.
“It was complete dedication and good preparation for what was ahead, so I practiced even if I was sick, but I never neglected my studies and still did my homework.”
A year later, when Tejano music was in full bloom, she recorded “Con Permiso Por Favor, “written by her cousin and vocal coach Jesse “Chuy” Flores. Also “La Lamparita,” as a demo for Manny Guerra. It was so good that a week later, Manny asked her mother, Hazel, if he could sign her.
“I always had my books with me and he could see that my education was very important to me. So he thought about it, decided I was too young, that I should finish school because there was still plenty of time for the music.”
In 1992, the now 14-year-old female vocalist joined La Distancia, another Pearsall-based Tejano band. This one featured Rick Chávez, keyboards; Art Rodríguez, guitar; Albert Valdez, bass; and Leo Ortegon on drums.
Next came a six-month stint with Latin Sounds and after this, her fourth band, in late 1994, she decided to form her own group with Tony Gonzales, accordion; Joe Rángel, keyboards; Del Toro, guitar; Moses Garza, Jr., bass; and Ortegon on drums.
By 1995, her band had evolved into Rudy Cortez, accordion; Jessie Martínez, keyboards; Jessie Flores, guitar; Art Hernández and Leonard Esquivel on bass; Javier Villarreal, sax; and Jimmy Edward Treviño, Jr. on drums and Manny released “Descubreme” (“Discover Me”). The single made #1 in Lubbock, where it stayed on the charts nine weeks.
Roxie T and her hit generated a lot of press as the San Antonio Tejano Review and the Corpus Christi Tejano Review wrote rave reviews on the record and full-page articles on who was then, the president of the Business Professionals of America and high school percussionist.
La Prensa de San Antonio’s write up described her voice as sweet and her spirit free … “The moment you hear her sing, the second you see her energetic performance, you’ll agree she’s going to make it big in the Tejano music world.” Then the article ends with “Watch out, because with a wink, a smile, and a song, Roxie will steal your heart.”
In May 1996 and as can be expected, the National Honor Society member graduated from Devine High School with honors. Now she was free to pursue her dreams and goals. The Tejano market was in a slump, but she forged ahead despite fewer venues.
In 2002, the voluptuous singer replaced Missy García as the lead vocalist for La Ralea, which was made up by the former musicians from Cariño and La Distancia – Gonzales, Rángel, Rodríguez, Valdez and Ortegon – in what seemed to be divine intervention.
Then came that inevitable, fatal day on July 31, 2003 when she was jogging and struck down by an F-350.
“A couple that stopped to help the driver look for me found my tennis shoe in the road, but they couldn’t find me. After the police and sheriff’s deputies arrived, they led volunteers on a search party and it took them three hours to find me on the other side of the road. I had landed on a fire ant mound and it served as cushion for my head, but the ants were crawling all over my face and neck. My left leg was broken in three places, I had bled out through my femoral artery and my left arm was pretty bad.
“I was also DOA when they found me. The lady who stopped to help happened to be a nurse and revived me with CPR. Air Life was called, than up in the air, in the helicopter, my heart stopped again and flight nurses revived me again. I was flown to University Hospital where my heart stopped one more time,” Roxanne said.
“After I was revived a third time, a team of doctors decided my body needed to rest and induced me into a coma. After a few days they gave me a blood transfusion and I woke up all by myself.”
When she was released, doctors told her that she would not walk for two to three years and eight months later she proved them wrong by taking her first steps that led to her full recovery.
God had given her the precious gift of life four times. Now he touched and healed her physical ailments. What we do with his gifts is up to us, we just have to keep on praying and never lose hope.
Faced with medical bills, living expenses, other mounting bills and being unable to perform, much less walk, it was time to reassess her priorities and decide how to take care of her earthly problems.
“I’ve always been very spiritual, but when something like this happens, you have to stop to reflect. Every test builds character and I’m a work in progress,” Roxanne said, her words coupled with a sweet smile and a mesmerizing gaze.
“I got home and immediately started researching nursing schools and determined I could become an LVN in one year as opposed to going for RN, which requires three to four years of studies. In winter of 2006, I passed the boards, was certificated and went to work for Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a civilian nurse for STDC (the South Texas Detention Complex).
“After I became an LVN, it was not a question of never singing again. It was going to get done.”
Fate stepped in 2010 when Randy Caballero included Roxanne in two recordings in the movie soundtrack of “In Search of the American Dream.” She sang “Bello Amor” with actor-scriptwriter-director Baldemar Rodríguez plus co-wrote and sang “What It Takes” in duet with Hugo Guerrero.
The following year she rejoined La Ralea with whom Roxanne stayed until 2012. Then the band started to record, but the project never came to fruition, so in September 2013 she decided to take action and entered Gilbert Velásquez’s studio. The curvaceous songbird performed a couple of her new tunes at the 2014 Tejano Music Convention in Las Vegas and her compact disc, which was released on J-Rod Records, was released last October. A month later, she sang alongside Rubén Ramos and David Marez during the grand finale at the Tejano Music Awards.
Not one to procrastinate, she formed her own band with Marcelo Gauna on accordion; Chris Guerrero, keyboards; Jimmy Castillo, guitar; Red Balderrama, bass; and Joe Posada, Jr. on drums; immediately after the awards show.
“Siete Dias,” the first single off this singer-songwriter’s “Desperté Soñando” CD is presently on KXTN’s playlist and now she is promoting “No Te Voy a Rogar” all over Texas and the rest of the United States.
This writer’s personal picks are her heartfelt renditions of Henry and Ricky Balderrama’s “Perdonarte No Puedo” and the poignant “Lo Que Me Lastimaste,” her own composition.
“Today I look at myself in the mirror and I think that God was good to me. I love what I do and my hope is to go as far as I can go, to go above the bar because what I bring to Tejano music is that I sing each song as it has been lived. That’s why I picked tunes that I could relate to for the album, because I want every song to be believable to my audience. I want to make them feel the hurt, the happiness or the passion in every word that comes out of my mouth.
For an insight into Roxanne’s psyche and credo, one must read the inspiring liner notes in her CD which began with “All honor and glory belong to our heavenly Father … for always being there and shinning a path to this unbelievable place … This project began in a dream and He did the rest.”
“I’ve lived all kinds of different situations and circumstances; and because I’m a survivor, I want to incorporate my nursing and visit hospitals and help people. In fact, I’m starting a health blog on YouTube. It’s called Cardio Cumbia and Wellness combining activity and diet,” the thirty-something starlet added.
Roxanne has had her share of discouraging setbacks, but thanks to God, has conquered countless difficulties and obstacles, therefore we at StreetTalk & River City Attractions know that with her tenacity, determination, and perseverance, Roxanne is going to achieve the stardom she deserves.
So there’s much more to Roxanne, but only a few inches of newspaper space to share so much more, as the fact that in spite of her youth, she has a son, Daniel, who plays guitar, has a pretty good vocal tone and will most likely follow his mother’s footsteps.
If you’ve never seen her in action, Roxanne will be performing at the First Annual Hunter’s Festival Friday in Pearsall, Texas on Friday, September 18.
For bookings, contact Hernando “Spiderman” Abilez at (210) 772-1271. You can also e-mail him at [email protected].