Serapio Herrera is Back!!!
Remember Los Sonics, who were the rage from 1965 to the mid 1980’s?
Well, their lead vocalist, Serapio Herrera is back and the group has since evolved into Cincuenta Veinte. However Serapio’s musical history dates back to his childhood when as a tot he loved to sit and listen to the 45 rpm records that his older sibling would bring home following a dance.
at one of the venues owned by their big sister Víctoria “Vicky” and her husband Juan Rangel.
“They owned the Schumannsville Dancehall, the Wagon Wheel in Solms and the Fiesta Ballroom, the largest venue in New Braunfels,” Serapio during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
“It was music by Roy Montelongo, Rudy and the Reno Bops and Gilbert and the Bluenotes, who were all hot and good looking. I wanted to be just like them and it was my dream to meet all those artists. However, I never got to meet Rudy Tee.”
So it was no surprise that at twelve, he learned to play organ and joined The Illusions. A year later, in November 1963, the tall, skinny, lanky kid formed Los Sonics with the help of big sister Víctora “Vicky” Rangel and his brother-in-law Juan Rangel who owned the Wagon Wheel in Solms, the Schumannsville Dance Hall and the Fiesta Ballroom, the largest venue in New Braunfels, Texas.
“Furthermore, Ramón Ayala, Cornelio Reyna and all the artists hired by my sister would come to house to pick up tortillas, which my mother, Dolores, made for them.”
The original Sonics featured Henry Alemán on lead vocals and Serapio on keyboards and vocals. Lupe Esquivel, guitar; Frank Esquivel, bass; Juan Moreno, sax and vocals; Fernando Parra, tenor sax; Tony García, trumpet; and Mario Guerrero, drums; made up the rest of the Sonics, whom Serapio’s father, Valentin, would drive to gigs at the Royal Sport in Seguin and other towns/venues in a camper.
“This is also when I asked myself, do you want to go to school or be Elvis Presley, so I dropped out to be Elvis,” Serapio said with a laugh.
“I remember we would play at a bingo hall out of San Marcos where Big Papa and Big Momma would pay us 50 cents each for a 30-minute set, but he later raised it to 75 cents.”
After meeting Carlos Guzmán and becoming close friends with Juan Hinojosa, they took their first official publicity photo and later, impressed by Guzman’s Pontiac station wagon, they followed suit.
By 1968 Alemán and Moreno had left. Lupe had gone to Viet Nam and he was replaced by Ray Vallejo. His brother Frank Esquivel, as well as Fernando, Tony and Mario were the originals, who with newcomers Emilio Gómez, saxophone; and Curtis Dean, a Black singer who grew up in a Mexican neighborhood and spoke fluent Spanish replaced Alemán.
By now they were also sharing the stage with the likes of the Royal Jesters, Little Joe, Sunny and the Sunliners, Alfonso Ramos, which featured Rubén Ramos on drums; Augustine Ramírez, Joe Bravo, Roberto Pulido plus many others in large venues all over Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan where fans would yell for Serapio to sing “Clavelito,” his signature song since 1967.
When Uncle Sam called Serapio to duty, he joined the U.S. Army Reserves. Moreno took a hiatus from his own band and together with Curtis, who sang in Serapio’s style filled in during his six month absence.
After recording 26 songs and a self-titled album for Valmon records, in 1973, Los Sonics — who were now Serapio, Lupe Esquivel (back from his U.S. Army stint), guitar; Héctor Montañez, keyboards and vocals; Jesse Zamarripa, bass; Mike Copado, tenor sax and vocals; Óscar Zamora, trumpet; Nicky Barboza, trumpet; and Roy De La Garza on drums — switched to Bego with whom they waxed “Piquito Negro,” “Boquita de Flor,” “Dos Vidas En Un Corazón,” “Nuestro Abismo,” “Cariño Con Ternura” and “Para Que Vuelves.”
Then came a few singles with Mex-Melody. In 1978, Los Sonics now considered of Alemán, their original singer; Lupe and Tony, two other original members; Juan De La Garza, keyboards; Alex De León, bass; Herman Flores, trumpet; Nick Barbosa, trumpet; and Arturo “Art” Garza on drums.
A year later they recorded an eight-track tape, “Viva Los Sonics,” on Sonic Production, their own label, a single for Leos Records and a bilingual version of “My Way” and “Mona Lisa” for Vivo, a label owned by Larry Nolan.
In 1980, they became Serapio Herrera y Su Orquesta. In 1981 Freddie Records released “El Primero” in 1981 and “El Unico” was released by Joey Records in 1983.
His father Valentin, whom the musicians nicknamed Cuco, traveled with the band since day one until he got ill and could no longer follow them. After his father’s passing in 1986, Serapio was devastated, but he performed that same weekend because that was what his father would have wanted.
Before his father died, Serapio had discussed going into business. He obtained his GED, than kept his promise when he enrolled at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas in 1988. Then he went back home and opened County Line Transmission because it’s in the middle of the Comal and Guadalupe county lines on Texas Hwy 46.
Serapio performed sporadically until the early ‘90’s, but his transmission shop required his full attention and he decided to quit the road while he was still young and settle on the security of a successful business, but as they say, once a musician, always a musician so his love of the stage and traveling never died.
After a quarter of a century away from the limelight, fans still remembered him, his voice, his hits, his showmanship, his dynamic heartfelt performances and they started to coax and encourage him to return because they missed him.
Then fate stepped in when he ran into the Charanga King, Hugo Guerrero, who in turn introduced Serapio to singer-songwriter Humberto “Beto” Ramón. After Beto belted out one new composition after another, each one better than the previous song, Serapio knew he had to get into a recording studio and interpret these six killer tunes.
To add variety to the production, Serapio asked Mike Copado, a former Sonic and friend, to write a song for his new compact disc and he penned “Ay Amor Cómo Te Quiero.”
To satisfy his die-hard fans, Serapio also re-recorded “Clavelito,” but with an accordion flavor. As a personal note to program directors, “Imaginate,” which is super radio friendly, is already receiving heavy rotation on many radio stations followed by the title track; and if your format is onda grupera, then “Nunca Cambies” is the cumbia that will fit your format.
“I am very aware that everything we do every minute and every second of our life should be in God’s name so I recorded ‘Con Los Brazos Abiertos,’ as an expression of my thanks to God for granting me this production and for all the blessing our Lord and Savior has bestowed on my wife (Alicia) and I.”
This is perhaps the most beautiful tune in his CD since Serapio pours his heart and soul into this composition which could also easily become an international secular hit.
Because he was the youngest of ten children, Serapio took his childhood nickname and named his own label Bebe Records.
This year, the youthful looking 62-year-old vocalist summoned original member Juan Moreno, keyboards and vocals; David “El Primo” Herrera, accordion; Paul Cantú, guitar; Juan Ramos, bass; Arturo “Art” Garza, drums; and they became Cincuenta Veinte.
“I named the group after the title song of my new CD because we all may be fifty or older, but our hearts are still twenty. In other words, we are still young at heart.”
In closing, Serapio thanks his family and friends, all the musicians that backed him up during his musical career plus those that have passed through his life and the new friends that have come into his life and offered to help him in any way the can in resurrecting his career.
For more information go to www.serapioherrera.com (still under construction) or www.facebook.com/home.php#!/serapio.herrera.1?fref=ts; and to see Serapio in action, check out his many videos on YouTube. Now that you know Serapio is back, one can book him and Cincuente Veinte by calling (830) 625-3626.