In Paris: Lalo Guerrero Concert
February 8, 1998
by Mark Guerrero
On February 8, 1998, I performed with my father, Lalo Guerrero,
at an American music festival, which took place at the Cité
de la Musique in Paris, France. The festival took place
over two days, Saturday and Sunday, February 7 & 8.
On Saturday, gospel music was represented by the Shaw singers,
featuring the Reverend Johnny Shaw; country blues of Mississippi
was represented by a trio led by R.L. Burnside; and in the
Texas blues category, it was the legendary Clarence “Gatemouth”
Brown showing how it’s done. I heard some of Brown’s
set from backstage and was impressed with the sophistication
and virtuosity of his 5 piece band, Gate’s Express.
On Sunday, it was Chicano music’s turn, represented
by two artists, my dad and Flaco Jimenez, the legendary Tex
Mex accordionist and former Texas Tornado.
The Chicano music portion of the
show happened as a result of the efforts of Roxanne Frias.
Roxanne is a Chicana, who grew up in West Covina, California
and graduated from Stanford University. She’s
lived in Paris for many years, where she has hosted television
and radio shows. Roxanne is tri-lingual and highly
motivated by her love for music, particularly Chicano music.
She called my brother, Dan, who negotiated the deal and made
arrangements for the journey. According to said deal,
my dad could bring two musicians with him for backup.
My dad asked me to come since I knew most of the songs he
wanted to perform for the Parisians and wanted to do a father-son
thing. We thought we’d mix some rock and blues,
with some comedic and traditional Mexican genres. He
also wanted me to do two of my songs in the show. The
next step was to find a bass player. As fate would have
it, my dad ran into Lorenzo “Lencho” Martinez
at a revival of the play “Zoot Suit” in San Diego.
Lorenzo had played guitarrón for an event or two for my dad
and had done a great job, so Lencho was invited to join our
little group. We wanted to have a drummer, so we asked
Flaco Jimenez’ son, David, if he would play with us
since he would be there anyway, and he agreed. So we
sent David a tape with the songs we were to do and began rehearsing
with Lorenzo. We decided on a twelve song set, which
represented a good cross section of my dad’s material.
We selected pachuco boogie, blues, comic songs, ballads, corridos,
and rock & roll songs (see program song list below).
Once word got out about the concert, filmmaker Sean Carrillo
volunteered to bring a video crew and document the trip.
I’m grateful for that, since this experience is now
documented on video as well. Sean’s been editing
the footage and will soon have a documentary of our Paris
experience, including some concert footage. The L.A. Times
also sent journalist Michael Quintanilla with us on the trip
so he could write an article, which eventually appeared in
the L.A. Times’ Life & Style section on March 11,
1998. The title of the piece was "The Musique Man"
and in bold letters beneath the main title, "In Paris
Lalo Guerrero, the Father of Chicano Music, Has Crowds Dancing
in the Aisles and Shouting for More."
On Thursday, February 5, 1998, we
boarded a plane at LAX bound for Paris, France. My dad,
my brother, Lencho, and I were picked up at the airport in
Paris by Roxanne and taken to our hotel, the same one that
would house Flaco Jimenez and his band. The next day,
after a short rehearsal in the hotel room with Flaco, we were
taken to a radio station to promote the Sunday show. Flaco’s band also came along. My dad and Flaco
did interviews and performed a song together live on the air.
I also performed one of my songs on the air (“Oh Maria”)
with the accompaniment of Flaco on accordion. After
the radio broadcast, we all went out to a Tex Mex restaurant
that night and had a good time. (Paris has every kind
of restaurant imaginable, many of which we sampled.)
When we weren’t promoting the show or rehearsing, we
managed to do some sight seeing; Notre Dame Cathedral, the
Eiffel Tower, and lunch at the Louvre. Paris is
indeed a beautiful city. Our rehearsal took place on
Saturday afternoon in a rehearsal room at the venue.
We were treated in a first-class manner, whether it was food,
drink, or equipment needed. We were provided with the
amplifiers we requested and when we asked for a cowbell, it
appeared it in matter of minutes. After rehearsing with
David Jimenez, it was apparent he was great on the corridos
and other traditional forms, but wasn’t experienced
with sambas and some of the other genres. In stepped
Max Baca, who was there to play bajo sexto with Flaco.
It turns out he’s also an excellent drummer. He
jumped in and played the remaining songs we needed.
It was a little harrowing having only one day to rehearse
twelve songs with two drummers, but it worked out great.
(Max Baca later would play with the Super Seven with Cesar
Rosas, David Hidalgo, Freddy Fender, et. al). Flaco’s
band consisted of Flaco Jimenez, accordion; David-Garcia Jimenez,
drums; Max D. Baca, bajo sexto; Louis Mendez, bass; and Raul
“Nunie” J. Rubio Jr., lead vocals.
The next day, Sunday, the show was
upon us and we were a little nervous. After all, it
was our first gig, plus we had only one day of rehearsal with
the drummers. Not to mention we were in Paris, France
playing for an audience of 800. Not a bad debut for
our new band. It was a late afternoon show in an indoor
theater with a balcony. After all the anticipation and
preparation, the 45 minute show flew by and we got a great
reaction throughout the performance. As planned David
Jimenez played drums on the first six songs to be replaced
by Max Baca for the final half of the set. It went without
a hitch with both drummers doing a fine job. I played
lead guitar and was musical director for the band. I
also sang lead vocal on two of my songs, “On the Boulevard,”
a bilingual rock song with a Latin groove, and “Oh Maria,”
a rock norteño-style polka in English. Both songs received
a very good reaction. It was the most emotional show
I’ve ever played, given it was my first time playing
live in a band with my dad. Also, we were performing
Chicano music in France, in effect being ambassadors of Chicano
music. When our show was over the ovation was incredible.
The audience clapped in rhythm and whistled, which is a compliment
in that and other parts of the world, and it continued for
minutes. Flaco did his set with his band and got the
crowd up and moving. I was invited on stage with Flaco’s
band for their finale, which was “La Bamba.” I had a great time
playing with Flaco and his band. Next Lalo and
Flaco performed three songs backed by our band, “El Borlote (Compadre Pantaleón),” “El Chicano,”
and “La Minifalda de Reynalda.” The audience
loved the show. Chicanos had invaded France and were
victorious. After the show, both bands, Roxanne, the film crew, the
journalist, my brother, and the whole entourage, went out
to dinner at a Mexican restaurant to celebrate the concert.
The restaurant was so authentic that it literally felt like
we were in Mexico. We ate, drank margaritas, and had
a blast. The food was good, the drinks were flowing,
and there was even a good Mexican mariachi playing.
We couldn’t have asked for a more fitting ending to
the trip. My dad got buzzed and went up and sang a few
songs backed up by Lorenzo Martinez on guitar. Flaco
got up and played too. It was a memorable and amazing
day and the entire trip to Paris was a special experience
for all of us.
Lalo Guerrero, and Lorenzo Martinez (Paris, France 1998- Seine River and Notre Dame Cathedral