Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson. It’s a beautiful day in the Old Pueblo. And I want to thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored or rock and roll radio station. This week, we discuss the impact of Lalo Guerrero on Tucson and on music.
Tom Heath: Today is December 22nd. My name is Tommy Heath and you’re listening to Life along the Streetcar.
Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday. Our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on hidden gems. Everyone should know about from a mountain to the U of A and all stops in between you get the inside track right here on 89.1 FM streaming on Downtown Radio dot org are also available on your iPhone or Android by using our very own app. Just head over to the App Store and get yourself down town. on radio Tucson If you want to get us here on the show, you can do so by email contact that life along the streetcar dot-org. We’re on Facebook. We’re on Twitter and just recently we launched our web page. So you can view almost all of our past episodes on Life along the streetcar.org.
Tom Heath: Well, we’re going to start today with a last minute gift idea. You may know that Tucson Trolley Tours is a project that I work on. And it’s a volunteer thing that I do every Saturday from 9 to noon. So we do the show here on Sunday. And we do a tour on a bus that looks like a trolley. It’s a three-hour tour, from 9:00 to noon, if you want information on that head over to TucsonTrolleyTours.com and check it out.
Tom Heath: If you have any interest in fantastic last minute gift ideas, you may want to check out our gift certificates. It’s like the show is brought to life every Saturday from 9 to noon. It’s Tucson Trolley Tours a, we’re having a lot of fun doing it and look forward to seeing more people on that tour each and every week.
Tom Heath: Christmas Eve 1916 on the corner of Meyer and Simpson, Eduardo Lalo Guerrero was born. He would grow to become a champion of his Chicano Mexican heritage, and he was recognized worldwide for his singing and prolific songwriting. In his younger years he performed all over Tucson and his talent eventually led him to Los Angeles.
Tom Heath: Lala Guerrero was of a generation known for the Pachuco period, a time when Chicanos expressed their growing cultural identity and Independence. They flowed right into the Zoot Suit influenced clothing, language and song.
Tom Heath: We recently sat down with a couple of men who briefly crossed paths with Lala Guerrero and got their impressions of his impact Ruben Lopez Moreno will be 92 on Christmas day. He grew up on Convent Street just a stone’s throw away from Lala Guerrero’s home. He went to school with Lalo’s younger brothers and tells of a time when everyone played music and sang, Lalo just did it a little bit better.
Tom Heath: Señor Moreno was joined in the interview with his son, also named Ruben, who is a successful musician here. He’s had a wonderful career with Mariachi Luz de lunL and the younder Moreno has also toured with Calexico. He’s helped numerous schools create a mariachi program and he’s been performing throughout Tucson and all over really for over 40 years. Just had a little bit of a unique perspective of we wanted to share that with you here today.
Señor Moreno: Lalo’s family lived just a half a block away from us.
Tom Heath: Yeah in Barrio Viejo. Okay. How long did you live in Barrio Viejo?
Señor Moreno: All my life. Yeah, I grew up in there forever on what did the Navy then? I wanted that I breathe Korea and It came out. I want to go biking in Tucson Tucson.
Señor Moreno: Okay. Did you grow up in a did you have a large family?
Señor Moreno: Was Three Brothers one sister. He was a third brother. So to Two Brothers and a sister, right?
Ruben Moreno: He is the youngest
Señor Moreno: you’re the baby of the family.
Ruben Moreno: Yeah.
Tom Heath: So we wanted to do a little story about Lala Guerrero and I think a lot of people know who he is, but you have a very unique perspective you grew up next to him. So, you know him as a before he was famous. Yeah. Oh, yeah. What was he like as a kid?
Señor Moreno: Lalo? Well, He’s older and I am so but I used to see him every time he’d come to the Plaza theater with the Carlistas
Tom Heath: Did you know him before he was playing playing music or did you did you get to know him after he was already playing music before he started playing music?
Tom Heath: I knew him because I went to school. With a younger brother. Okay. It was in his class and And we’ll never hit the performing at the Plaza theater was I’d be there.
Tom Heath: So he was doing that as a as a young man is a okay just kind of just trying to figure out his place. He wasn’t even didn’t know he was going to be Lala Guerrero at that point.
Ruben Moreno: You know, because he loved music and in that expression because in those days almost everyone could sing or play because that’s the best way to win and Conquer a heart a sweetheart. Because anybody could Flowers or candy, but if you can sing to her you can convey and specialness that flowers and candy can’t do.
Ruben Moreno: So it’s it’s something that the whole culture developed, the Romantic aspec the serenade, you know, that’s you know, they goes back hundreds of years, you know where the typical image is singing to the girl in the second-floor bedroom from a balcony and you bring the Mariachi to serenade her to show how much you’re interested in her, and and if she thinks you’re worthy or cute enough to know when she might invite you in or to come back in the morning when the parents allow you back in or the you might get hit with a bucket of water to go away. So that was the time of the culture, you know much longer. I mean, we’re talking primitive TV, you know before TV radio was just maybe starting to come out but that was still what carried over from the generations before radio and TV. Well,
Tom Heath: what street was your house on? What was it on Meyer?
Señor Moreno: I lived on Convent.
Tom Heath: Okay. How long was he in Tucson? Do you know is he was about 25 or so and he moved away?
Señor Moreno: He lived in in Tucson most of his growing life, but outside of that he lived all over the world. He sang very well. Yeah, he would sing it las fiestas.
Ruben Moreno: He was a local talent that everybody went to like The local talent that was here and because he was so good they kept on doing it to the point where he branched off and I eventually eventually went to California, but would still come back because it’s as his Barrio Viejo song indicates. It was something always pulling him back and sense of community and home. So
Tom Heath: when did when did you meet him?
Ruben Moreno: Oh God, it was later in his life
Tom Heath: because he’s already moved to LA and
Ruben Moreno: Oh yeah he was famous his sons were up and grown up and you know his his life went over there because that was a source of opportunity with that many millions of people. Is more performing opportunities, more career opportunities for moving from television to radio to you name it and he was also a great composer and so he could get more work. So to speak and saturate that market easier than the limitations of a small town like Tucson.
Ruben Moreno: He got out there and I knew of him through most of the recordings they would play because they had all those recordings were talking his biggest claim to fame because of course he led the Pachuco movement coming out of, California. That was the first thing to kind of give them an identity, you know because the Pachuco was an american-born Hispanic that spoke both languages and those that spoke correct Spanish, it’s like hearing you somebody speak in American English hillbilly twang or something because it was not completely Spanish. It had a lot of slang American a lot of slang Spanish because they were kind of that new age like kids that they invent their own Expressions, they were doing it then and they had embraced both the Swing Era music and also the the slang for the streets to give them their identity.
Ruben Moreno: So that’s what I wanted to speak of like for example, his earlier works with with a trio. So I would say he got into this kind of a swing feel. You know that this is his report.song You might have heard that one already. So, you know that didn’t you?
Ruben Moreno: So he’d be a Storyteller. So a lot of these companies you told stories in Spanish and English. That’s what I heard. This telegram, this is afro-cuban Mambo, hit huh? So it’s versatility was such that it allowed him a great field of expression. But then he got into the satires in the parodies the Disney parody. He did on Pancho Pancho Lopez King of the Barrio. And so he you know, the Davy Crockett him down but I don don don don and he put his lyric in a satirical form that made You laugh and that was his whole thing. He wanted to engage in entertaining any form possible and by coming up with a parodies it kind of Drew on what American Idol or imagery of a profound Pioneer, you know, and so you might have Davy Crockett but we had a Poncho Lopez, you know, so these parodies is what made him engaging to those that can understand his Spanish in English.
Ruben Moreno: And he knew he was getting famous when Disney sued him. So so that meant that word of this had reached Disney to the point to where he had to pay a royalty, you know, so that’s so that’s when the course other opportunities opened up. And as long as Disney got their royalty, they gave more songs to try to make parodies of.
Tom Heath: That is Ruben Marino were interviewing him and his father also named Ruben about Lala Guerrero. We will be back to that interview and just a moment. But first I want to remind you that you are listening to Life Along the streetcar on Downtown Radio. FM in available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot-org, welcome back.
Tom Heath: We’re going to finish up our interview with Reuben Lopez Moreno and his son Reuben Moreno about their paths Crossing with Lalo Guerrero and what they see as his impact on Tucson and our music.
Tom Heath: Did you know, did you know Lalo Guerrero as a funny person, did he tell jokes was he a funny person?
Tom Heath: He was a regular person a modest you used to to kid around with people around him, you know and to him he wasn’t popular.
Ruben Moreno: Because he grew up with you know, so he was still one of the little boys or friends or Chums, you know, and he never wanted to give the illusion of teams are unreachable run accessible/ And even though he became almost internationally famous. He never let that get in the way of what started him here in Tucson, and I remember him coming over to the house and singing, you know it his visits and we get a bunch of people together that were friends of his and
Tom Heath: this is after he moved away to La he would come back and
Señor Moreno: We’re talking to last 10 years of his life. He was as long as he is physically able he’d come over and come over for one reason or another but they throw a party for him to just appreciate his really amazing talent kind of a an audience from to perform for because he was always a willing to perform
Señor Moreno: his family. He lived a lot of oh half a block away from where we lived.
Tom Heath: He lived on Simpson or Meyer
Tom Heath: Were you were you musically inclined? Did you play any instruments where you a singer?
Señor Moreno: Everybody played guitar out there, but you you would say that it wasn’t professional
Ruben Moreno: so there’s like there’s a level of one serenading hoping to make an impression. And there’s also THE EXTENTto what I get paid to do that. Yes,
Tom Heath: I had cousines it that played pretty much professional. Although they never pay recorded.
Ruben Moreno: When you think of any suppressed culture at the bottom of the social caste system, you know jazz blues came out of the suppressed slaves of the South. Mariachi was at the lowest level of the Mexican Echelon and grew to become more and more present in the culture to the point where it started appearing in movies. The movies depicted the hero as I get a landowner. The landowner had peons that would work for him. From that culture came the expression of the music the movies depicting now the hero is a singing Hero. He’s a John Wayne you can sing, so around him was a mariachi, but the Mariachi came out of with muslin cotton pants with a sash, they didn’t have leather belts. They weren’t Charo Completo, to be a Charo Completo you have to pass a ritual of over 18 different events and get pointed by fellow Charters to see if you’re there yet. If you’re not there you don’t pass it. But until you do now only then by their standard of judging where you are allowed to wear the uniform that I with Mariachis were
Tom Heath: so that would that be the kind of the music that while ago, I would have grown up with like playing it mariachi music?
Ruben Moreno: He would have heard that from the movies because of movies made you heroic I mean, this is before TV. So the the seen a that’s this the movie theaters were like bigger than life and they work because the screen is in 20 by 20 in and you’re seeing these Heroes bigger than life. The Mariachi’s in the theater audience would see mariachis in the theaters wearing a nicer outfit. Now the producers dress them up no more session what we call it the Muslim cotton pants and sashes and shirts. They put them in a Kind of a a Charro outfit but not as adorned with a silver button because this is just a tuxedo of the day with the man who had the wealth to wear it.
Tom Heath: So the movies then portrayed that so then
Ruben Moreno: right so we’re in the audience of my ancestors were watching that imitates the art, right? So we start wearing outfits and for 20 years for two decades the Taro associations who earned as you know, former pissed off that wheel only Mariachis Arena same thing. Are you crazy you haven’t earned as I wanted to kick our butt. It’s but because of the depiction of their music and their culture in the musical form you they eventually subsided when industrialization took over and it was less and less attention to it. And now it’s almost an accepted way to present mariachi music in an outfit of the Charo,
Tom Heath: but he expanded it so much.
Ruben Moreno: Well, he stretched it because he can cross to other genres because he was Americanized and yet it’s managed was is fluent is the best so He saw the fit for the hybrid Chicano and knowing that when he played it live people liked it. He should record it. I love it, you know, so he did get radio time when you’re launching that the people who didn’t have that much TV that when you were a kid, how much TV did you ever see? How much what television did you ever television your house as a kid growing
Señor Moreno: up Harley? Hmm. It’s about radios are car radio. One radio and a guitar,
Ruben Moreno: you know that he had his Niche that he came from but like anything you want to stretch to do what else what else can you do? So he got into now the Zoot Suit movement made a lot of hits and in there were some I parodies and then you got into the satirical parodies and any went later later in his career last 10 years before he passed back to the sentimental or the nostalgic which is were Barrio vehicle came, which was one of his later recordings as he drew full circle to where he came from.
Tom Heath: Would it be safe to say that his style of music made it more recognized around the United States and places that were you might not have heard mariachi music you might have heard Lalo Guerrero because of his more because he stretched to that but he would still pull people into like that that romantic that bad
Ruben Moreno: because but we draw this again from the tradition that where it came from which is have Vacquero the ranch of the Charro completo. And when I play the music today. I am saying thank you to his sacrifice to what he had to do to endure the discrimination and all the things because you know, they wanted to keep us in one place and subjugated and and only Propel their own to the top and yet we needed to create our own genre in our own image to create value for us so that we weren’t forgotten to pushed aside because until you have an identity that merits Applause or recognition, do you have Something you can relate to the compared to the American heroes and artists. So we need in our own artist. And so we had them in genres that were specific to our culture. But Lalo could win them from both sides English-speaking or Americanized mixed, you know, Mexican-American Chicano or even the hardcore Mexicana could relate to him because he saw that he was different but still bringing positive attention to the culture.
Ruben Moreno: And that’s that stretch, that expansion. I think how create through Latos efforts in recordings a place where people may not have paid attention because maybe they didn’t understand Spanish, but he spoke enough and say enough in English to win them over to where they picking up now Spanish word. It’s an international ideal to come and break the feudal system of caste and come into the world and make your own destiny and Ascend to anything that hard work could get ya
Tom Heath: you it seems To me from what little I know of music that individuals like Lalo Guerrero and Calexico that those are types of people that translate music so that you can explicitly that’s that crossover I guess is what you’d prefer to take what they they take they don’t lose their history and their culture. They just expand on a way that makes it more attractive to people that would not otherwise fully embrace it.
Ruben Moreno: Well they stay in the fringes and say, you know, and now when you connect to them by seeing language on a style that’s their style or a style they I recognize okay. It’s like getting sugar to medicine and once they’ve since what it is and see the good in it will then understand to embrace it to where it now becomes part of their library of songs that they want to have available.
Tom Heath: Once you once you’ve made that transition you help someone even further that and now they want to go more they want to go farther back
Ruben Moreno: Right! Because now they have a following and so that means there’s an audience for it. Let’s feed it with more of that. And that’s a new genres come out of the are targeted market and how Lalo started his genre of the suit suits and in some people music will always evolve.
Tom Heath: So the music you’re playing these days is based upon the original sort of three-chord Mariachi. It’s become to exert more.
Ruben Moreno: It’s much more sophisticated as any other classical style. The movement of mariachi. It’s embraced more of the sophistication of movie soundtracks of of classical Symphonies, but it’s also pick out some jazz to it and picking out darker and more colorful cords.
Tom Heath: That’s that’s what I’m gonna get. It seems like with with the time frame where Lala grow really sort of made that transition or or broaden. His audience was at a time when American generals just sort of experimenting with jazz and yeah figuring that out and that A lot of freedom to musicians too great to
Señor Moreno: use in a pivotal point in history.
Tom Heath: It was very experimental for music in general. Does his does he have any influence and over your music in any way are you
Ruben Moreno: I think yes in the sense that I can play those American crossover Tunes because we have an American audience every musician will it will eventually stretch we heard of Mariachi Solomon Hill play Tchaikovsky at the Christmas concert at the Fox Theater was Blow Away phenomenally good
Tom Heath: I’ve seen metal Archie.
Ruben Moreno: Yeah, look what they’re doing with punk rock hard. Was it heavy metal, but they make it fun because they do a lot of parody any throw in Mariachi and I love that. It’s a great stretch. So to me, yes, that’s another example of embracing and taking your style into the known style of another genre the American rock and making a parody satire and fun with it. It’s hilarious. It’s a great show.
Tom Heath: It’s about its it would be almost disrespectful to not take it to a different level. All right, you given a foundation? That doesn’t mean that’s the end all that’s that’s the starting point Mike you can build on that foundation.
Ruben Moreno: And that’s why I play with such pride. Yes. That’s what I teach my students you owe your parents and ancestors this honor them by playing it right and taking it to places where they’re proud of you.
Tom Heath: It was Ruben Moreno being interviewed with his father Ruben Lopez Marino about Lalo Guerrero really touching stories about how you know, a lot of Growers a regular guy and my matter what his success was he always kept his roots here in Tucson. Well, my name is Tom Heath. You are listening to Life along the streetcar in downtown radio 98.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot org that is going to do it for episode.
Tom Heath: Number one one five. 115 is in the books will be available for download probably tomorrow. You can get our features with Ruben Moreno and his dad Ruben Lopez Moreno. I will also have the full show available for podcast get all that from Downtown Radio dot org and head over to our specific page which is www.LifeAlongTheStreetcar.org.
Tom Heath: We are approaching a year-end and that means New Year’s resolutions. Next week. We’ll talk with someone that set a goal five years ago. Go is a New Year’s resolution. He’s still honoring that today and doing something new each and every month for five years as part of his commitment to a New Year’s resolution more about that next week. My name is Tom Heath. You have been listening to lifelong A Streetcar and I greatly appreciate the fact that you tune in and check us out and those of you that share us thank you for that as well.
Tom Heath: And I’ll leave you with music today from a Ryan Hood. We always start the show with them and we like to leave you with a little holiday music from their holiday album. This is a song I can tell it’s Christmas. My name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a fantastic week and please tune in next Sunday for more Life along the streetcar.