DENVER - Su Teatro is pleased to announce the 2017 class of inductees to the Chicano Music Hall of Fame which includes a Colorado original, Conjunto Colores, who have been performing across Colorado and the US since 1978.
Also included is Robert “Rabbit” Jaramillo, a Pueblo, Colorado musician who is the last surviving member of the 1970s Chicano Band, Cannibal and the Headhunters whose top 40 hit propelled them to possible the biggest rock n roll stage ever.
The remaining legacy inductees, whose work stretches back into the 1950s, includes veterans Johnny “Ritmo” Rodriguez y Los Diamantes; Rafael “Raf” Lopez, Denver’s own “piano man”; and Cristela Garcia who was an early promoter of New Mexican and Tejano bands performing in Colorado.
In 2002, Su Teatro established the Chicano Music Hall of Fame in order to recognize artists and individuals who have made significant contributions to the musical traditions of Colorado.
During the last 15 years, Su Teatro has developed a Chicano Music Hall of Fame that recognizes the efforts of those people who helped raise the consciousness toward “music that was borne in Mexico but raised in the United States”.
The induction ceremony will take place on July 27th in conjunction with the 21st Annual Chicano Music Festival and Auction and will include a concert featuring current and previous inductees.
Watch for exhibits featuring memorabilia and mementos from this year’s inductees in Su Teatro’s lobby. Su Teatro’s 21st Annual Chicano Music Festival and Auction will be held July 26th through July 30, 2017. (For full schedule visit Su Teatro website http://www.suteatro.org).
2017 inductees Conjunto Colores began playing music together in 1978 and throughout the years the band became known as “Colorado’s Original Salsa Band.” Chicanos, as well as all music lovers, were introduced to “salsa dura” (hard salsa) through the band’s strong percussion and horn sections and fell in love with the sound.
Learning to enjoy and dance to Salsa music, provided by Conjunto Colores, provided a window to an exciting musical genre that spanned the Afro-Caribbean music of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the US. Under the leadership of Francisco Mejias, Conjunto Colores has grown in influence across Colorado and the US and produced three CDs filled with original music including La Hora Llego, Mi Planeta, En Otro Nivel, Lo Mejor del Conjunto Colores, and their latest project, Con Colores Se Goza.
They are truly a Colorado original. Growing up Chicano in the 1950s and 60s gave Robert “Rabbit” Jaramillo a special perspective to the world. He was a Mexican-American and “that was that.”
Similar to many Chicanos during that time, Robert began singing soulful doo-wop music in his band Bobby & the Classics.
In 1964, he and the band joined forces with Frankie “Cannibal” Garcia to form Cannibal and the Headhunters. They were quickly signed to a small recording label with what would become an anthem of their times, Land of a 1000 Dances.
Their signature break in the song became one of the most recognizable riffs in all of rock n roll music. The whirlwind “Rabbit” Jaramillo and the others experienced for the next few years was unthinkable for a Chicano from East LA in California.
The band appeared on stage in New York City with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Ben E. King, The Temptations, and Wilson Pickett who eventually covered their hit song. That year the band experienced another improbably accomplishment… opening for The Beatles during their 1965 national tour.
Performing in front of 55,000 people at Shea Statium in New York City was beyond what they expected. Today, Robert Jaramillo proudly considers himself a Chicano from Pueblo, Colorado and continues to create music within his Southern Colorado community of Pueblo.
Like most Chicanos, Johnny “Ritmo” Rodriguez began singing and performing music as a young boy, sneaking into clubs and auditioning for groups, including The Temptations. After attending college and joining the US Marine Corps, Johnny returned home to help his family in New Mexico.
He continued singing and started drumming before he sat in with a band in Alamosa, Colorado called Indian Nickel (inducted into the Chicano Music Hall of Fame in 2014).
He moved to Colorado, started a new band called Los Diamantes, and they found their musical voice in the Spanish music heard throughout New Mexico and Colorado. Johnny “Ritmo” Rodriguez y Los Diamantes became a staple in performances across Colorado from 1975 to the present.
His signature songs include Cruisin’ the Roads of New Mexico, El Rey, Guacamole, and La del Moño Colorado to name a few which were found on their numerous CDs that were locally produced on their own recording label, Rodriguez Records.
The band continues to play and has followers across Colorado, New Mexico and even Chicago, Johnny’s hometown. Cristela Garcia played a key role in the Denver organization founded by Francisco “Paco” Sanchez known as the Good Americans Organization (GAO).
Cristella was instrumental in expanding the musicians booked to play at the GAO to include Tejano and New Mexican music stars like Joe Garcia (Little Joe y La Familia), Ruben Ramos, Tiny Morrie, Baby Gaby and Al Hurricane.
Cristella took on the job of Promoter for the GAO and as such developed partnerships with businesses that helped promote the musical acts coming through Denver.
The work that Ms. Garcia did during those early years helped create the connection Denver, Northern and Southern Colorado formed with musical groups from across the region. Their live musical performances helped Chicanos from New Mexico and Texas maintain their musical roots.
Rafael (Raf) Lopez grew up speaking Spanish, Portuguese and English in his small hometown of Springer, New Mexico. His musical start on the piano began at church but did not stop there. His music made him a “citizen of the world.”
After serving in the US Air Force and studying music in Chicago and Colorado, he became the first Latino choir director for St. Leo’s Church which was located where the Auraria Campus stands today.
He continued playing his music in Chicago and Denver, honing his skills, and making extra money for school. Clubs like Mr. Lucky’s, Le Bistro, and the Scotch Mist were foreign places for a Chicano from New Mexico, but Raf was there to play music.
He became the head of the Music & Theatre Department for the Community College of Denver where many Chicano musical and theatre students felt at home with a man who could speak their language and understood their culture.
He was a staple in Denver’s night life and played with numerous traveling stage shows performing at the Auditorium Theater in Denver. Today, he continues performing as part of the Mile High Players at the American GI Forum in Denver. Although Colorado was once part of Mexico, the state carries traditions that reach back to the period of Spanish Colonialism and even further back into native and pre-European traditions as well.
Whenever you hear music created uniquely in Colorado you can hear all those influences blended within each song. Su Teatro’s 20th Annual Chicano Music Festival will take place July 26-30; a celebration that brings out the very best in music, art and culture.
Tickets are on sale now; prices for Festival passes are $45; individual event tickets vary. Call (303) 296-0219 or http://www.suteatro.org.
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