I remember hearing Viva Tirado on the radio back in 1970 (you couldn't help but hear it, it was on every station) and hearing that distinct sound of the Hammond B-3. The sound was El Chicano and to me the sound of Bobby Espinosa.
I was a freshman at Mt San Antonio JC and saw them perform. Man, was I in heaven seeing these cats play and hearing that sound. I have every record they put out over the years..
I work with Richard Duran on his "Thee Mr Duran Show" and met Bobby on one of the shows back in 05'. We hit it off from the start. I told him I had a band called Thee Rhythm Kings and suggested he come check us out, which he did. He loved the band. I asked him to jam with us and he did. We did Viva Tirado and boy what a thrill! From that point he would come and hang out with us, jam with us and when my keyboard player couldn't make a gig, he would perform with us.
In May of 06' I had a birthday party at my house and Bobby came down. Bobby was a very humble cat, and he came up to me with a gift and said "This ain't much, but I made, just don't open it till tomorrow". When I did, it was a picture he drew of me playing the guitar, kind of abstract, but you knew it was me. It's a cool drawing.
On it he wrote, "Mario, thanks for letting me sit in with your great band! God Bless you and Ernestina. Peace & Music! Bobby Espinosa!"
That gift was way better than a $200 gift certificate ! I have it displayed in my living room.
On our new CD, I wrote a track called "Vida" and it is an All-Star track. Bobby played organ on it along with Littlie Willie G, Joey Guerra, Ramon & Tony Banda and Ray Yslas. What a track.
Bobby asked me "What do you want me to play" and I'm like "Man, just be Bobby" and he brought the hot sauce to the fiesta.
I think that cut was the last recorded track he did in his life.
I went to the hospital to see Bobby a week before he left. I had my guitar player Chalo Ortiz with me (who did a brief stint with El Chicano). Bobby didn't seem to recognize Chalo, but he slowly turned and looked at me a gave a huge smile and said "Mario." I will not forget that moment for the rest of my life.
On March 20th there is a memorial service for Bobby which I will attend. It will be sad, but I know Bobby is at peace now. I was glad to have met him and played with him as well.
If you would like to hear "Vida" please go to : youtube and punch in Thee Rhythm Kings-Vida and hear for yourself.