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Papa Lalo

Lalo Guerrero, the Father of Chicano Music, dies at age 88

By Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr.
Published on LatinoLA: March 20, 2005


Papa Lalo


From El Editor:

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting and listening to Lalo Guerrero a few times.

Many years ago, as I tried to make a living as a photographer, I took the pictures for the wedding of one of his nephews, Danny Guerrero.

Lalo sang a couple songs, accompanied only by his guitar, from the choir loft. I climbed the stairs to take a couple shots, and I watched, and listened, transfixed.

Years later, I enjoyed a noontime concert at downtown's California Plaza, where he sang many of his well-known songs, telling charming stories between tunes.

The last time was at last year's Cinco de Mayo festivities at Olvera Street. He was strolling through the historic alleyway, the one he made famous in his song "Pancho Lopez," accompanied by his son Dan. I greeted them both and got to shake his hand.

His songs were the highlight of the play and movie "Zoot Suit." I introduced my daughter to Lalo with "Papa's Dream," the CD he did with Los Lobos.

He'll be missed. His legacy as the Father of Chicano Music, a forefather of Chicano culture, will continue, sin duda.

?íDescana en paz, Lalo!

- Abelardo de la Pe??a Jr.

Lalo Guerrero - (b. 12-24-1916 - d. 03-17-05)

Lalo Guerrero, internationally recognized as the 'Father of Chicano Music' passed away in Palm Springs, California on Thursday, March 17, 2005. He was 88 years old. He died of medical complications after being in a nursing home for the last few months. There will be a memorial mass in Palm Springs next week and a few days later the burial and mass will take place at the Cathedral in Lalo's hometown of Tucson, Arizona. There are plans to organize a memorial concert in Los Angeles to celebrate Lalo?s life and achievements.

Lalo Guerrero is survived by his two sons from his first marriage to Margaret Marmion of Tucson, Arizona, Mark and Dan Guerrero, the latter a prominent television producer. Lalo is also survived by his present wife Lidia Guerrero and her two children who were adopted by Lalo, Patricia Lowey and Jose Guerrero. Lalo's sisters Teresa Mallic, Mona Wood and Connie Abbot, all of Tucson. Lalo's brothers, Gene Guerrero of Moreno Valley and Ruben Guerrero of Phoenix as well as by his granddaughter Maya Guerrero, daughter of Mark.

Lalo Guerrero was born on December 24, 1916 in the Barrio Viejo of Tucson, Arizona. He was one of twenty-four children with only eight surviving to adulthood. His parents were Concepci??n Guerrero of Sonora, Mexico and Eduardo Guerrero of La Paz, Baja California. They were married in Cananea, Sonora and moved to Tucson in 1911 where they raised their family and remained the rest of their lives.

Lalo was greatly influenced by his mother, Concepci??n, who sang and played the guitar beautifully. She was his first and only music teacher. It was his mother and father, Eduardo, who instilled a great love for Mexico in their young son, Eduardo, Jr. (Lalo).

Lalo is internationally recognized as the 'Father of Chicano Music.' The legendary Mexican-American singer and composer has enjoyed a career of more than six decades beginning with the classic 'Canci??n Mexicana,' composed while he was still in his teens in his native and beloved Tucson, Arizona. It remains the unofficial anthem of Mexico, first made famous by the great Lucha Reyes in 1941.

Celebrating his bicultural roots, Lalo Guerrero was a music pioneer and activist who was the first to write and record bilingual songs and the first to bring American swing to Mexican music. The 1949 'Pachuco' swing hits, 'Chicas Patas Boogie,' 'Vamos a Bailar,' and 'Los Chucos Suaves,' became popular again in 1977 when Luis Valdez brought them to the Los Angeles and New York stage in 'Zoot Suit' providing the musical with its biggest production numbers.

In 1995, Los Lobos asked Lalo to join them on the bilingual children's album, 'Papa's Dream,' which earned a Grammy Nomination.

In 1997, President and Mrs. Clinton presented Lalo Guerrero with the 1996 National Medal of the Arts at a White House Ceremony for a lifetime of creative achievement. Lalo considered this honor to be the pinnacle of his career.

Lalo was also an ambassador of Chicano music abroad. In 1998, Lalo traveled to Europe for the first time where he made his debut at the prestigious Citi de la Musique in Paris, France, exposing French listeners to Mexican-American music. He was accompanied by his two sons, Mark, a singer/songwriter who also performed and Dan, who produced the event as part of a three-day Festival of American Music.

Among Lalo's other honors, he was invited to the White House by both President Carter and President George H.W. Bush. In 1980, The Smithsonian Institution declared Lalo a 'National Folk Treasure' and he received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991.

Lalo has been inducted into the Tejano Hall of Fame and been honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Mexican Cultural Institute representing the Mexican Government, Luis Valdez' Teatro Campesino and Ricardo Montalban's Nosotros Organization. Los Angeles and his adopted home of Palm Springs, California have declared 'Lalo Guerrero Day' and proclamations have been awarded to him from numerous other cities and organizations.

'Canci??n Mexicana' was the first of hundreds of songs written and recorded by Guerrero throughout an extraordinary career on various labels including Vocalion (1937), Imperial (1946), RCA Victor (1957-72). His versatility is dazzling, writing and performing music in a myriad of styles unmatched by any artist - boleros, rancheras, mambos, cha-cha, salsa, tejano, comic parodies and even children's recordings with more than 25 albums of the hugely popular, 'Las Ardillitas de Lalo Guerrero.'

At the height of his recording years in the 1950s and 1960s, his music dominated the Latin American charts in the U.S., Mexico and South America with as many as three hits in the top ten at the same time. He wrote enduring melodies like the beautiful bolero 'Nunca Jamas' (1956) and the comic songs 'Elvis Perez' (1957) and 'La Minifalda de Reynalda' (1968), among many others that have become standards with today?s top artists still recording Lalo's hits from yesteryear.

Lalo's music has done much more than entertain. It has given a voice to his people. Lalo's corridos have told of the triumphs and struggles of Mexican-American heroes like Cesar Chavez and Ruben Salazar and brought their stores to a wider audience. He has used his unparalleled humor in songs of social protest like 'No Chicanos on TV.'

Lalo Guerrero has dedicated his life and career to the definition and enrichment of the Chicano experience in America. He has been quoted modestly, "I only wrote and sang about what I saw." But, in doing just that, he has become the musical historian of a unique culture, a culture with roots in two worlds.

Fellow Tucsonense Linda Ronstadt puts it best: "Lalo is the first great Chicano musical artist and the historian and social conscience of that community."

This prolific artist also created "Barrio Viejo" - a tribute to his beloved childhood neighborhood. It brought a standing ovation of 5,000 at the 1996 Tucson International Mariachi Conference where he shared the stage with Linda Ronstadt and Vikki Carr. He repeated that triumph writing a special English-language lyric for the 1998 Alma Awards that aired to a national audience on ABC with Jimmy Smits presenting Lalo with a special award.

To read, hear and see all about Lalo Guerrero, please log on to http://cemaweb.library.ucsb.edu/guerrero.html. This is the website at the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives, Dept. of Special Collections, Donald C. Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Memorial Services:

MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2005
12 noon
Our Lady of Solitude
151 W. Alejo Rd.
Palm Springs, CA. 92262
(760) 325-3816
(1 blk. west of Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs)
Pastor and Celebrant, Reverend Miguel Ceja

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
St. Augustine Cathedral
192 So. Stone
Tucson, Az.
First time there will be three Bishops for the Memorial Mass
Frances Quinn, Emeritus
Manuel D. Moreno, Emeritus
Gerald Skicanas

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