Tag Archives: little joe

Need To De-Stress? New Tejano Music Will Help!

There’s upheaval in the world. And we’re still in a pandemic that has caused all sorts of financial and personal stress. I find solace in listening to music and my music of choice is Tejano.

The Tejano music industry, like the rest of the industry, has been hit hard by the pandemic. There’ve been cancellations that have turned into small and big livestream events. I’m glad to see that some of my musician friends are still surviving, even if it is one livestream at a time with studio work thrown in there in between. But it has not been easy.

Other artists haven’t been able to do much in the form of livestreams. Logistically and technically it can be tough. But others have released some live material digitally.

In 2020, the Tejano music world was celebrating the return of icon, Joe Lopez y El Grupo Mazz. The pandemic abruptly stopped the tour bus, but lucky fans are getting to enjoy a live album recorded during Lopez’s recent Freedom Tour. And it’s a well-recorded live album!

Lopez goes through his string of hits seamlessly with the newest rendition of MAZZ, featuring Bam Bam Ramos on Keys/Squeeze, Danny Rodriguez on Bass, Aaron Holler on Drums, Joaquin Cura on guitar, and Alberto Gonzalez on percussion. It’s a keeper and enough to keep fans excited about the post-COVID19 return.

The legendary Little Joe y La Familia also released a new live album, Better Than Ever. It’s one of a string of live albums Little Joe has released throughout his career. Recorded at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi for a LJ birthday celebration, the band goes through a playlist of classics as only La Familia could.

And Bobby Pulido also released Live in Las Vegas. The album was recorded during the Tejano Music Convention and features his dad, Roberto Pulido, and Emilio’s brother, Raulito Navaira as they pay tribute to musicos who have left this world. Those hits, along with the standard Bobby Pulido playlist of hits make for a great live album with strong production values.

So, if you’re in need of live music, there are options. And luckily, some bands have been able to put their live shows on tape.

Even during a pandemic and social upheaval, nuestra cultura y music vive! And it’s keeping many of us going, too.

La*45 II and Tejano Music During the COVID19 Hiatus

Tejano Music isn’t just a genre of music. It’s a way of life. A part of our Chicano culture. Musica that grew from singing old songs while picking crops, at family fiestas, and around a huge fire in the back yard. A music and culture that has thrived and struggled, much like its listeners.

And having been a listener and hard-core fan since my first Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos concert at a school stadium in Crystal City, TX in ’77, it’s a way of life that I’ve enjoyed and have had to help defend from corporate types (and local rodeos and finicky fair-weather fans) that simply want to kill it for whatever reason. Well, even during The ‘Rona, La Onda continues to breathe and it breathes life into stay-at-home fans.

Yes, watching the Cheeto Jesus ruminate about bleach injections can cause one to easily spiral. But thanks to some of my favorite bands and musicians, mental health has been within reach of my cell phone or my laptop as these músicos set-off to survive during this pandemic. Livestreamed concerts by artists like Los Texmaniacs (Max and Josh), Michael Guerra of The Mavericks, David de La Garza (of La Mafia), and others have provided some respite from the current situation. Gracias a Dios for all of this talent that many of us take for granted.

But these concerts aren’t free, although, they’re not forcing you to pay. These bands have been knocked off their tour buses and have taken to opening up Venmo, Paypal, and CashApp accounts so they can make some survival money as their livelihood instantly dried up in March. So, if you see a livestream concert with a payment link, give a little! “No sean codos,” as my Pop used to say.

All of this said, I was so happy when I saw that one of my favorite bands, La*45, was going live on Facebook to present their new production, La*45 II. No, it wasn’t a concert, but a listening session from their recording studio. It was intimate and full of studio and road stories, along with some pretty lofty conversation about music-making and theory. It was mind-blowing, though I think we would have been left in tatters if they’d not been as humble about their talents.

La 45, self-dubbed “the NextGen Chicanos,” is one of those special bands made up of the usual pieces, but also with a powerful 5-piece horn section. Yes, one of those big bands that bring up memories of Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia, Latin Breed, The Royal Jesters, and Tortilla Factory. Compadres Mike Torres III and John Ontiveros, La Familia alums, have put together some pretty impressive elements that not only record great music, but reproduce it live to near-perfection. And their long-awaited 3rd album is finally here.

The first single, Como Me Alegro, was released a year ago while production continued on the album. A hard-driving ranchera with excellent use of the horns and an accordion break, it’s one of those tunes that floats you to the dance floor. Another single is both a tribute to and a collab with the King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe Hernandez, Traigo Mi .45. Yes, the band is named for this classic tune and Torres, III and Hernandez trade-off on delivering the lyrics. A similarly classic-sounding tune is Asi Lo Quisiste, with the addition of harmonies from Torres, III’s better half, Amy, and an amazing sax solo.

The horn section gets quite the workout with a couple of sweeping tunes:  The  cumbia, Cumbia de la Media Noche and a samba, La .45 Anthem. The anthem includes some amazing drumming, trumpet, sax and guitar solos from Will O’Rourke, John Ontiveros, Ricky Ray Hernandez, and Estevan Ramirez, respectively. Moriria Por Ti has a Roberto Pulido-feel to it with its dual sax performance and Tejano cumbia sound. [Shout out to Ricky Ray for being a Texas State Bobcat!]

Although the album has an R&B feel, it is How Could This Happen, that shows off that ability–vocally and musically. La 45 is known for their ability to move from Tejano to Cumbia to R&B and back in a live setting.

Solo Un Juguete, with its Steve Gadd drum intro and keyboard-heavy melody, brought memories of the 80s which saw the introduction of synthesizers to La Onda. [Side Note:  Mazz did a similar drum intro in 1984 with the intro to Ay Muchacha from the Standing Ovation album, for all those historians out there.] Mike and Amy Torres collab on another modernized classic, Con La Misma Tijera. Herbie Lopez’s organ backdrop injects the classic sound into the tune. Que Bonito, offers a jazzy tenor sax intro by Hernandez before heading into a signature ranchera.

All in all, La 45 II is a nice package of cruizin’ music that soothes and causes general happiness. At least, that’s what it did for me. And, next time there’s a super dance in San Antonio produced by Henry Pepsi Peña and featuring La 45, we’re there!

One more thing. The eye-catching artwork on the cover and in the liner notes is by Chicana artist Bianca Mireles. She’s a West Texan who is now based in New Hampshire. Check out her work on her insta.

And get your copy of La 45 II at La45Music.com. You can get the digital version for $10, or, for $15 download it and receive the CD in a week or so. I did the latter.

 

 

 

 

Night 2 of Festival Chicano One For The History Books

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Miller Outdoor Theater and the hill were filled to capacity for Night 2 of Festival Chicano. The crowd was energized for what was going to be a night filled with Chicano sounds and the bands did not disappoint.

Kicking off the night were Los Monarcas, a local conjunto that has been around for 45 years. Personally, it was when a record-store-owning buddy of mine (Turntable Records-Austin) asked me almost 30 years ago if I had ever heard of them. It was that first cassette that got me hooked with the sounds of acordeon, bajo, bass, and drums. Los Monarcas’ one-hour set was one huge medley of rancheras and polkas led by brothers Pete and Mario Diaz and complemented by a fat bass line and hard-hitting drumming. Hit after hit, they never stopped–even when one brother took on the acordeon duties to give us a rousing rendition of Ring of Fire. They fired up the crowd for sure.

This was also the first night that San Antonio’s La 45 would visit Houston, and boy, were they overdue. The outfit, which features a 5-piece horn section and 10 musicians led by Mike Torres, III and lead trumpeter John Ontiveros were introduced to the crowd by Henry “Pepsi” Peña, who offered a history lesson on Tejano music. Peña is a legendary SA radio personality who still promotes Chicano Soul concerts in the Alamo City. La 45 would offer up tune after tune, including Amor de Madrugada, some Latin Breed classics, R&B oldies giving them a flavor all their own. Showcasing the musicians, LA 45 gave opportunities to every member to give a taste of their chops with solos, with John Ontiveros earning the spotlight a few times. Joining them on accordion and keys was Herbie Lopez, an accomplished musician from the days of Conjunto Bernal. The crowd embraced La 45 after they gave so much of themselves.

After the presentation of the proclamation honoring 40 years of Festival Chicano by Houston Councilman Robert Gallegos, it was time for the headliner–Little Joe y La Familia.

No doubt, La Familia is one of the most precision-based bands in the business, and credit goes to Little Joe who demands it. Launching the show with an instrumental version of Las Nubes, the band switched gears to LJ classic, Prieta Linda, as Little Joe walked out on the stage wearing a zarape and mariachi pants. At almost 79, Little Joe showed no signs of slowing down–physically or vocally–taking us through memory lane with Por Una Mujer Casada, Ni El Dinero Ni Nadie, Recuerdas Querido Amigo and more. He would give his lead trumpet player, Carlos Salazar, the opportunity to belt out Jurame–one of my fave ballads. Later, Melinda Hernandez of Sister Sister came out for an impromptu tune, Baby Baby. After the show closers, Las Nubes and Borrachera, Little Joe came back for an encore with Por Un Amor. Needless to say, the crowd was satisfied and a bit overdosed with the best music.

Little Joe didn’t just perform, he also politicked a bit. Reminding us of the terror coming out of the White House. When he walked  out and saw the capacity crowd, he sarcastically stated, “You all are beautiful. Beautiful rapists, murderers, drug dealers…” to which we all laughed, but also felt reminded about how culture and politics really do mix. He gave mention to the violence in El Paso, Odessa (the postwoman who was killed was daughter of one of his compadres), and everything else that is going on. He urged folks to register and vote, and to vote locally and not just in federal elections as that is where most decisions that affect us are made. Finally, he also did a tribute to his dad, performing a song his dad wrote about himself, La Cotorra, about his days of selling weed and doing a little time in the pen. LJ’s response song was a tune he wrote about his dad, Always My Hero. A very poignant moment to remind us we aren’t perfect, sometimes we make bad decisions, but we are about family and we push forward.

Saturday is the final night, featuring Elida y Avante, Los Garcia Brothers, and Tejano Highway 281. I won’t be there, so, if someone wants to write something up, I’ll post it here.

Que viva FESTIVAL CHICANO!

y que viva DANIEL BUSTAMANTE!

40th Annual Festival Chicano Set To Launch on Thursday

Thursday night is the first night of the 40th Festival Chicano at Miller Outdoor Theater. Beginning at 7PM, thousands of folks seated and on the hill will enjoy the music of Grupo Fuerte, Los Desperadoz, and Jaime De Anda (JDA).

Festival Chicano is a weekend filled with music, culture, and community enjoyed by thousands every fall. Earlier this week, Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council approved a resolution honoring the festival.

It’s safe to say that creating Festival Chicano wasn’t an easy feat, according to festival founder and director Daniel Bustamante. In an interview with Tony Diaz at KPFTs Nuestra Palabra show, Bustamante tells us that he had to fight his way into Miller Outdoor Theater.

Festival Chicano first started with a concert held at Moody Park in the northside of Houston on Easter, 1977. After attracting over 10,000 spectators, the City of Houston was a bit upset because of crowd issues. The fact that there were limited facilities, parking and other issues didn’t sit well with the City. Bustamante offered the idea to use Miller Outdoor Theater.

The City and the MOT folks weren’t too keen on the idea. Maybe it was the thought of 10,000 Chicanos converging on a major facility, but the excuse to first deny the Festival was that the facility was for “fine arts.” Of course, it wasn’t like Bustamante lacked an infrastructure. With the support of Little Joe y La Familia and with the intent to empower a community through culture, there was little doubt that the event would be a success.

It took a few more years to finally get to the MOT. After the HPD murder of Joe Campos Torres and the pushback at Moody Park, the City may have become more receptive. With Little Joe’s support, the first official show at Miller was held on April 1980. 40 years later, the festival continues with capacity crowds and the very best music in Texas. Little Joe has played every year, except for one, and will get to celebrate his 79th birthday on Friday.

Friday features Little Joe, La .45, and Los Monarcas. The festival closes on Saturday with Elida Reyna y Avante, Los Garcia Brothers, and Tejano Highway 281.

THE MUSIC

Los Garcia Brothers, Los Monarcas, and Grupo Fuerte are considered hard-core conjunto bands, led by the acordeon and the bajo sexto. Fuerte and Monarcas are local favorites, while Los Garcia Brothers, dressed in zoot suits, travel from Eagle Pass.

Los Desperadoz are also a conjunto but with a more progressive slant to their music. They recently released a new album, so, I expect they will put on a good show. And speaking of good shows, Jaime De Anda, a showman and killer acordeonista in his own right, will showcase his new band, JDA. De Anda recently went solo after separating from the group he founded in Houston, Los Chamacos.

Of course, Little Joe (y La Familia) is a living legend who continues a heavy touring schedule showcasing an amazing horn and rhythm section. La .45 is led by a couple of former members of La Familia and also offer up a 5 piece horn section that plays original and old school favorites. Elida Reyna y Avante are also touring behind a new album. The powerful-voiced Reyna is sure to wow the crowd with her cumbias and rancheras, and a big sing-along is expected for Luna Llena. Finally, Tejano Highway 281 is an up-and-coming band from the Rio Grande Valley with a style that brings together conjunto, Tejano, and country. Expect to be impressed.

I expect to be there for at least two of the nights. I’ve got a DJ gig on Saturday, but I’ll probably play some of the music from the bands I’m missing. Check out Festival Chicano, wear your favorite candidate/political t-shirt, and take in nuestra cultura.

¡QUE VIVA DANIEL BUSTAMANTE!

¡Y QUE VIVA EL FESTIVAL CHICANO!

Check Out Little Joe’s San Antonio [VIDEO]

The title track of Little Joe y La Familia’s recent album San Antonio has been offered up as a music video for the masses, thanks to Lupe Moya and LM Media Solutions. What is a gift to the city from the Grammy winning Chicano icon is a horn-heavy ballad dedicated to the various attractions and the welcoming spirit of San Antonio. San Antonio’s multicultural atmosphere is known worldwide and Little Joe catches it all in the tune and the video. The rest of the album is pretty awesome, too. Check it out:

Little Joe Endorses Lupe Valdez for Texas Governor

The King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe Hernandez, has endorsed Lupe Valdez for Texas Governor. In fact, he proudly supports his prima. In a video released (above) by the campaign, Hernandez explains his reasons, the one resonating the most, “This race will be fought, not bought,” an obvious hit at the price tag hanging from Greg Abbott.

Little Joe y La Familia is performing today at a rally in support of Lupe Valdez, Sylvia Garcia for Congress, Lina Hidalgo for County Judge, and Adrian Garcia for County Commissioner, Pct. 2 at 2:30PM at the East End Event Center on Dahlia Street. 

I’ll tell the Latino community this:  There are a few Dem insiders still stewing over Valdez’s Dem primary win, and there are apologists for the right who simply won’t support her or donate to her campaign while giving to others. And there are others raising and sending money to candidates in other states. It’s up to us to spread the word about Lupe Valdez. Es Nuestra and she’ll fight for all communities.

Festival Chicano Friday: Little Joe, Latin Breed, and Isabel Marie

Friday was another big night for La Onda Chicana. Thanks to Festival Chicano organizer, Daniel Bustamante, this one was one for the history books.

The evening began with a reminder from Bustamante:  Tejano is not dead. As much as the gringos in the business or the gringos at the rodeo want to tell us, it’s just not true. Thousands attending a weekend series of concerts ought to tell everyone this. Is it a struggle? Of course! But one only has to watch the musicians on stage to show that they love what they do. And the crowd loves them for it.

The most poignant reminder of the struggle was when Bustamante brought out the producer/promoter for 13 year-old Isabel Marie–one of the newest additions to the Tejano music industry. Abraham Quintanilla came out and offered a few words and also reminded us of that awful day 21 years ago. But that through all that has affected his family he continues to seek out and offer new talent shows his determination. Tejano isn’t dead.

isabelmarieIsabel Marie took the stage first and offered up a set of cumbias, rancheras, and even wowed us with her rendition of Selena’s No Me Queda Mas. At 13, she has a pretty powerful voice. As a stage performer, she is poised, but at 13, she also shows off that awkward stage a teen goes through. (If a crowd applauded me, I’d be a little geek’d out, so it’s understandable.) Still, she showed range, emotion, and the ability to keep a crowd engaged for an entire show. Great job, Isabel Marie. Keep at it!

adalbertoThe Legendary Latin Breed was up next with Adalberto Gallegos at the helm. Hundreds of years of experience took the stage–even Adalberto was a member at age 19 in 1976. Kicking off with 1988’s Latin Breed Medley, they continued on to Yo Lo Comprendo, Todos Dicen, and even ventured one of Adalberto’s solo hits from 1990, Tristes Recuerdos and a hit that I once owned on a 45 rpm record (kids, look that up), El Cisne. Adalberto wowed us with If You Need Me, too. All of this backed up by a precision-based horn section and the bass action of Stanley Revillas and guitaristics of Steve Velasquez.

littlejoeThe crowd loved every performance, but there was no doubt that they were waiting for The King of the Brown Sound–Little Joe. Another band of highly experienced, highly disciplined musicians, La Familia took off in fine form with a medley of Little Joe’s best ballads–Rebelde, Recuerdas Querido Amigo, and Por Un Amor. Then came Redneck Mes’kin Boy and Mi Nena. Then came some blues music with Lonely, Lonely Nights, which Little Joe delivered impressively, backed up by amazing horn and guitar action. Bass master Mike Torres, III delivered on cumbia El Alacran and percussionist Sam Jones on My Girl. The night continued with hit after hit, including Cartas Marcadas, and the big finish with Las Nubes and Borrachera. Of course, the encore brought folks back to their seats and then to their feet with a sing-a-long of Jose Alfredo’s classic, Ella.

In between, Little Joe reminded the crowd of thousands to register to vote–Mi Familia Vota will be there all three nights. Of course, he also gave ol’ Trump a tongue lashing, including, “Vamos a darle en la madre a Trump!” which basically is the equivalent of, “Let’s knock him the f*** out!” Great crowd response to that. Finally, Little Joe’s white duds were in honor of El Leon de la Sierra, Alfonso Ramos, who passed away this last week.

chicharronesNo doubt, by the end of a La Familia gig, one is tired but oh so happy. And after three performances by everything from new talent to two bands that have been around for five decades, one can take a Saturday morning to re-energize with some chicharrones con huevos and then return to Miller Outdoor Theater in the evening for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, Ram Herrera and The Outlaw Band, and Little Miss Dynamite Shelly Lares.

Event: 37th Festival Chicano ~ OCT 6, 7, 8, 2016

Time to lock-in Festival Chicano on your calendar! See you there! (Note:  Saturday line-up changed as Mazz is unable to make it. Ram Herrera added to the line-up with David Lee Garza headlining.)

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Little Joe Wows MOT Crowd–Again!

Little Joe y La Familia headlined Friday night’s line-up at the 36th Annual Festival Chicano. Energized by another SRO-out crowd–including thousands seated on the hill–La Familia returned the favor with an energized show packed with hits and a couple of surprises.

Ljoe1Heading toward 75, Little Joe has not lost the voice and stage presence that made him an international superstar who has recorded and toured with greats, such as Willie Nelson and Tierra. Kicking off the gig with a medley of his early hits, such as  Cuidadito and La Bola Negra, the hits continued. Even Little Joe felt the energy of the crowd when the they joined him on Prieta Linda.

One surprise was LJ giving the main mic to bassist Mike Torres, III who belted out the salsa-tinged cumbia, El Alacran. Later, Little Joe would belt out Cartas Marcadas, Chicano national anthem Las Nubes, Borrachera, Cuando Salgo a Los Campos, and the tried and true Pa’ Todo El Año.

In between, Little Joe would bring out Neal Sharpe who would offer some R&B, as well as Houston Jazz pianist/keyboardist and La Familia alumnus Gilbert Sedeño for an instrumental version of Mañana de Carnaval–flawlessly and without having rehearsed prior to the concert.

LjoeDanielA poignant moment came when Little Joe brought out Festival organizer/founder Daniel Bustamante to recognize his most recent achievement:  Recognition by Mayor Annise Parker as an Hispanic Heritage honoree for Arts in the Community. Daniel will receive his award on Monday, October 5. A well-deserved recognition after 36 years of organizing an even which attracts thousands of Chicanos/Mexican Americans for a weekend of beautiful music and culture.

Earlier in the evening, we enjoyed the sounds of Cañonazo and Acordeon powerhouse AJ Castillo. So, it was a great night of dancing in your seats (since the union ushers didn’t allow any dancing in the aisles.) The best way to celebrate this event is with friends and family and I was lucky enough to enjoy it with both. Until the next Festival Chicano, ¡Que viva La Musica Tejana!

Kudos to Council Member Robert Gallegos for attending the event. It was a great opportunity for some hand-shaking, especially during the hour-and-a-half prior to the event while folks were picnicking. Too bad other candidates didn’t take this opportunity to do the same; although, I did hear of a few at the other festival down the street. Anyway…

10kfriends

Me and 10,000 of my closest friends.

Thursday: Leticia and Little Joe in Houston

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He’s been a very public supporter of Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte at his concerts, so, it is great to hear that Jose Maria de Leon Hernandez–Little Joe–will be in Houston on Thursday to rally support for Van de Putte.

Little Joe (and his brother Johnny who now lives in California) has deep roots in Texas political culture and has always been up to the task of rallying the people for anything having to do with voting, legislation, and even public health issues like diabetes. He’s still a prominent voice for change and progress, especially in the Mexican American community.

Here are the details for the rally and performance:

Houston THURSDAY 5:30pm
CWA Hall, 1730 Jefferson St., Downtown Houston
Featuring a performance by Little Joe!
Other speakers TDB