Lalo moves to the City

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Privately, the fifth-grader showed her how he had learned to tap dance by watching movies.

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He felt transformed in his black hat, white gloves and black-face makeup, amazed that his scars were no longer visible. Miss Davis had to drag me offstage that day, and I have been addicted ever since. The following year, as a sixth-grader, he entered a citywide classical music contest, along with two other Latino classmates. When they won, nobody was more surprised than Guerrero.

We were so proud. I was only 12 but that contest had a great impact on me… That was when I really began to think that music was the road that I should take in my life.

December 31st, 2017

Despite the childhood traumas, Guerrero continued to explore his love of music, in all styles, Spanish and English. Gonzalez and Los Madrugadores the Early Risers.

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Soon, the teenager had formed a trio with two high school friends, Manny Matas and Rudy Arenas, who called themselves Eddie, Manny and Rudy. Later, Guerrero started a duo which he considered his first professional experience because he actually got paid. They played guitars and harmonized beautifully, earning 25 cents an hour at first, raised to 50 cents when they got popular.

One of their customers was a friend of Guerrero from high school, Gilbert Ronstadt, whose family owned a hardware store in town. Ronstadt had a young daughter who was thrilled to hear the music whenever the group came by his house to visit. Even at late hours of the night, the girl would rush downstairs to hear them play, sitting cross-legged on the floor, still in diapers.

Many years later, Guerrero says he was surprised to hear her on the radio singing English pop music.

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The little girl with the big eyes had become a big star, Linda Ronstadt. Despite his patriotic fervor, Guerrero had not yet been to Mexico. When his family briefly moved there, it was both a shock, and a cultural eye-opener. In , when he was a senior in high school, the Guerrero family moved to Mexico City, joining the Depression-era repatriation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Although their stay was brief, it was a tough adjustment for the teenager. After three months, the family was back in Tucson.

Guerrero claims his mother became the first woman in Arizona to give birth to a baby, his sister Mona, by caesarean delivery.

For Guerrero, it was another abrupt dislocation requiring more adjustments. By then, his class had graduated and he refused to return to finish with younger students. Twenty years later, when he was well-known as an artist, he performed for an assembly at Tucson High School, and the principal surprised him with an honorary degree. After returning from Mexico, Guerrero started playing again with his quartet, now under a new name, Los Carlistas.

They got the name from a local youth club which itself was strangely named for an obscure, 19th century pretender to the Spanish throne, Prince Carlos. Guerrero never liked the name, nor having to explain it, but it was chosen by majority vote. Robles got the group gigs on a popular morning radio show in L. They performed live at the historic California Theatre, now demolished, where they rubbed elbows with recording stars they admired, such as Las Hermanas Padilla and the duo Chicho y Chenco of Los Madrugadores.

When the group was booked to play Omar's Dome, an exclusive Hollywood nightclub, they were too broke to buy costumes. So they improvised a peasant look, buying yards of white muslin to sew shirts and pants with draw strings at the waist, making ponchos out of curtains and huaraches from old tires. They topped it off with straw hats from F. Los Carlistas wore those very same costumes when they appeared in the film Boots and Saddles , starring Gene Autry. Although their part is uncredited, when the film played in Tucson, the band got marquee billing above the famous singing cowboy: Starring Los Carlistas with Gene Autry.

At the time, a wide variety of Latin music styles — from samba to tango, mambo to mariachi, conga to flamenco — was gaining widespread popularity among mainstream audiences.

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At the popular Club La Bamba, near Olvera Street in the heart of the city, Guerrero and the quartet serenaded the mostly white customers, strolling around their tables between floor shows. The place would become a hotspot for emerging Hollywood stars. Guerrero watched one of these stars emerge on the La Bamba dance floor.

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She was part of a father-daughter show team known as the Dancing Cansinos, Eduardo and Margarita. Guerrero claims a bartender there invented the famed tequila cocktail and named it after the lovely Margarita, although others also take credit. Be that as it may, the young performer went on to become a huge Hollywood star under her stage name, Rita Hayworth. Despite the gigs and the glamor of L. Guerrero took a day job trimming the lining out of old rubber tires, a job that left cuts on his arms and hands.

But his luck was about to change. A chance encounter on a downtown street would take his career to the next level. Guerrero was walking down Main Street when a stranger, attracted by his fancy cowboy boots and white hat, stopped and asked where he was from.

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That man turned out to be the famed composer and producer Manuel S. Their serendipitous meeting was the start of a long and fruitful recording collaboration. To his amazement, Guerrero later learned two of his songs would be recorded by the hugely popular Hermanas Padilla. However, only one side is credited to Guerrero.

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Frontera has all four of those early songs by the group on Vocalion 78s, all credited to Guerrero. Los Carlistas went on to record a dozen more records in the next few months. His trademark became his versatility. The following year, Guerrero married his first wife, Margaret Marmion, the daughter of a hotel maid whose father had passed away.

He serenaded her at the reception and asked her to be his girlfriend. Having suffered so much from discrimination, I wanted to spare my children. I thought their lives would be easier if they were lighter—complected than me. Skickas inom vardagar. He has been called "the father of Chicano music" and "the original Chicano hepcat. Lalo Guerrero is an American original, and his music jubilantly reflects the history of Chicano popular culture and music. Lalo's autobiography takes readers on a musical rollercoaster, from his earliest enjoyment of Latino and black sounds in Tucson to his burgeoning career in Los Angeles singing with Los Carlistas, the quartet with which he began his recording career in During the fifties and sixties his music dominated the Latin American charts in both North and South America, and his song "Cancion Mexicana" has become the unofficial anthem of Mexico.

Through the years, Lalo mastered boleros, rancheras, salsas, mambos, cha-chas, and swing; he performed protest songs, children's music, and corridos that told of his people's struggles.

Riding the crest of changing styles, he wrote pachuco boogies in one period and penned clever Spanish parodies of American hit songs in another. Lalo's story is also the story of his times. We meet his family and earliest musical associates including his long relationship with Manuel Acuna, who first got Lalo into the recording studio and the many performers he counted as friends, from Frank Sinatra to Los Lobos. We relive the spirit of the nightclubs where he was a headliner and the one-night stands he performed all over the Southwest.

We also discover what life was like in old Tucson and in mid-century L. Now I have decided that it is time to set some things straight about Lalo Guerrero.

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