and I Invade El Paso, Texas
April 21-23, 2005
by Mark Guerrero
Salas, original lead vocalist of Tierra, and I performed as
an acoustic duo in El Paso, Texas on April 22, 2005.
We hadn't planned the musical pairing, but circumstances gave
us the opportunity to do so. I had gotten a call from
an El Paso visual artist by the name of Carlos Callejo, who
had spent many years as an artist in East L.A. Coincidentally,
during that period he knew and worked with Steve Salas' father,
who is also an artist. Small world. Plans were
made for me to come to El Paso to perform as a solo.
A few days later, I got a call from Manuel Velez, a teacher
at El Paso Community College. This was one of the two
venues where I was to perform. The other was to be a
community event in a suburb of El Paso called Canutillo.
Manuel said Steve Salas was set to go to El Paso a week or
two prior and that it was possible that he could come during
my week instead and that we could perform on the same show.
Manuel had told Steve I was coming and Steve thought it would
be a good idea to come when I was in town. Steve and
I spoke on the phone and mutually agreed it would be more
interesting to perform on the same bill. At first, we
thought we would perform separately and do a few songs together.
We finally decided to do the whole show together. We
had a rehearsal at Steve's place in Montebello, California
and came up with a good set, consisting of Steve's recently
recorded reggae version of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man;"
a harmony duet of the Mexican classic "Gema," which
had also previously been covered by Tierra and my dad, Lalo
Guerrero; and Steve's hit with Tierra, "Together."
My lead vocals were my "On the Boulevard," "Oh
Maria," "Ay Yi Yi Yi (Nobody Told Me)," and
my dad's classic "Los Chucos Suaves." I didn't
know Steve could play guitar since I'd always known him to
be a front man singer, but he could do so very well.
We sounded great together and had a great time playing and
singing together. Steve and I had known of each other
since the early 60s when he was a member of The Jaguars with
the Salas Brothers and I was in Mark & the Escorts.
Both bands shared the same manager at the time, Billy Cardenas.
We also shared the same manager in the early 70s, Art Brambila,
when Tierra first formed and I was a solo artist. However,
this was the first time we had ever sung together. It
came together fast and easy.
Since I used the phrase "Steve Salas and I Invade El
Paso" for the title of this article, it would be appropriate
to say he cometh by land and I cometh by air to the West Texas
town. Yes, Steve decided to drive with his assistant,
Mary Alcantar, while I opted for air travel. We arrived
on April 21st and were put up at the Marriot Hotel near the
El Paso airport. Since I had flown, I arrived many hours
before Steve and Mary showed up. The artist, Carlos
Callejo, came to my hotel a couple of hours after my arrival
and took me to a down home Mexican restaurant in a barrio.
El Paso is on the border north of the Mexican city of Ciudad
Juarez and has a population of around 700,000. More
than 80% of the population is Latino. In some ways,
it reminded me of a gigantic East L.A. This made me
feel right at home. The next afternoon Steve and I performed
for a classroom of Chicano students at El Paso Community College.
I showed a short video on the life and career of my dad.
Steve showed a video of Tierra's 1982 performance on the nationally
televised American Music Awards. We also spoke about
our own musical careers and the "Eastside Sound,"
as well as Chicano music in general. We then performed
a few songs for the students. It was an enjoyable and
rewarding experience for us. Later that afternoon, Carlos
Callejo took Steve, Mary and I down to see one of his incredible
murals in the downtown El Paso courthouse. (I've included
some photos of the mural on my "El Paso Photo Gallery,"
accessible from the link at the bottom of this page.)
That evening Steve and I performed our set at a community
event in Canutillo. I used a great 12-string acoustic
guitar I borrowed from Manuel Velez' father, who's a local
musician in the El Paso area. I enjoyed playing it and
it added to the sound and style of our show. Hopefully,
Steve and I will perform again in the future, either as an
acoustic duo or perhaps with a band.
Flyer for Canutillo concert
and link to El Paso Photo Gallery below