at Tucson's Puro Mexicano Film Festival
November 3, 2006
by Mark Guerrero
On November 3, 2006 there was a screening of the documentary,
"Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano," at the beautifully
refurbished Fox Theater in Tucson, Arizona. It was part
of the "Puro Mexicano Film Festival. The documentary
was produced by my brother, Dan Guerrero, along with his co-producer,
Nancy De Los Santos. My involvement was as music consultant.
Also, my song "The Ballad of Lalo Guerrero" was
utilized with the end credits. The documentary had been
airing on various PBS stations nationally and had previously
screened in Los Angeles, but this screening was special because
it was in my dad's hometown. The documentary was extremely
well received by the audience. It is an extraordinary
piece of work. I don't think it could have been done
any better. It tells my dad's story in his own words
and features luminaries such as Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt,
Los Lobos, Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez,
Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Luis Valdez, and Culture Clash
rhapsodizing about my dad and his music. Since the screening
was in his hometown there were many people who knew my dad,
as well as relatives on both sides of my family. After
the screening, my brother conducted a brief question and answer
session about the documentary. I came on next, as part
of a four-piece acoustic group. We performed six songs
that were also very well received. How the group was
formed requires some background information.
On a previous trip to Tucson I had met an extraordinary musician
by the name of Tim Wiedenkeller. Tim's a world-class
player on banjo, mandolin, and guitar, in addition to being
a great singer/songwriter. I asked him to be a part
of this event, not only because of his talent, but because
he had written a song that was ideal for the event.
It's a song called "The New Old Pueblo," which was
inspired by the very barrio in which my dad grew up, then
called Barrio Libre. It's now called Barrio Viejo, which
is also the title of one of my dad's greatest songs.
Tim's song bemoans the changes that have occurred in the barrio
through the years. Part of it has been torn down for
a convention center and many of the traditions have disappeared.
On July 3rd and 4th, 2006, I traveled to Tucson and had the
pleasure and privilege to sing harmony, along with Mindy Ronstadt
(a niece of Linda), on Tim's recording of the song, which
is part of his upcoming CD, "Soul House."
I sang on several other tracks as well, including another
great song and favorite of mine, "Love & Peace &
Happiness Will Reign," a song Tim had the honor of performing
for the Dalai Lama. So I asked Tim to be a part of the
event, where he would back me and perform "The New Old
Pueblo." To round out the group we asked Tim's
girlfriend and musical partner, Debbie Daly, to sing harmony
and his friend and recording engineer, Jeff Rodenkirch, to
play upright bass. I sent them a cd of the songs we
were to do a couple of weeks ahead. It so happened that
the night before our concert, Tim was having a concert at
Tohono Chul Park in Tucson and invited me to sing with him
there as well. The concert was outdoors at night under
the stars, among beautiful trees and shrubs, in cool and pleasant
weather. There were a couple of hundred people there,
a sellout at the venue. Tim did a phenomenal set of
his music, covering multiple genres including bluegrass, classical,
folk, East Indian, Spanish, and more. He also played
banjo, mandolin, and guitar. Debbie Daly would sing
harmony and play guitar and percussion on selected songs.
Bobby Ronstadt (a cousin of Linda) was doing the sound engineering
and played accordion on a couple of songs. Even Tim's
ten year old daughter, Anza, joined in and played an East
Indian instrument called the tambura on a song. I sang
harmony with Tim and Debbie on "The New Old Pueblo,"
"Love & Peace & Happiness Will Reign," and
a couple of others. I had a great time and the show
The next day we got together with Jeff, the bass player, to
rehearse for the Fox Theatre show. We rehearsed a couple
of hours and just had time to get ready and get down to the
theater. The set we performed was the following:
Two of my songs- "Mexican Moon, a song about my grandparents
on both sides of the family, and the aforementioned "The
Ballad of Lalo Guerrero". We then did "The
New Old Pueblo," which got the great response I had expected.
I then changed the pace with my dad's hilarious "Tacos
for Two," a parody of "Cocktails for Two."
We ended with two more of my dad's songs, "Los Chucos
Suaves" and "El Chicano." "Los Chucos
Suaves" is a pachuco classic my dad wrote and recorded
in 1949. The song was later used in the play and movie
"Zoot Suit," as well as on Ry Cooder's 2005 album,
"Chavez Ravine." "El Chicano" is
an upbeat corrido that expresses my dad's Chicano pride.
For this song my brother Dan came out and sang lead.
It was the first time my brother and I performed together.
The show went very well and the response was great.
Tim, Jeff, and Debbie all did a great job and Tim's guitar
playing wowed the audience. After the show, we had a
reception at El Centro de Las Americas. Friends and
family enjoyed food and drink in the courtyard. A good
time was had by all and memories of Lalo Guerrero, the original
Chicano, were in the air.