Lalo: My Life and Music

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He has been called "the father of Chicano music" and "the original Chicano hepcat." A modest man in awe of his own celebrity, he has sung of the joys and sorrows, dreams and frustrations of the Mexican American community over a sixty-year career. Lalo Guerrero is an American original, and his music jubilantly reflects the history of Chicano popular culture and music. Lalo's autobiography takes readers on a musical rollercoaster, from his earliest enjoyment of Latino and black sounds in Tucson to his burgeoning career in Los Angeles singing with Los Carlistas, the quartet with which he began his recording career in 1938. During the fifties and sixties his music dominated the Latin American charts in both North and South America, and his song "Canción Mexicana" has become the unofficial anthem of Mexico. Through the years, Lalo mastered boleros, rancheras, salsas, mambos, cha-chas, and swing; he performed protest songs, children's music, and corridos that told of his people's struggles. Riding the crest of changing styles, he wrote pachuco boogies in one period and penned clever Spanish parodies of American hit songs in another. For all of these contributions to American music, Lalo was awarded a National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton. Lalo's story is also the story of his times. We meet his family and earliest musical associates—including his long relationship with Manuel Acuña, who first got Lalo into the recording studio—and the many performers he counted as friends, from Frank Sinatra to Los Lobos. We relive the spirit of the nightclubs where he was a headliner and the one-night stands he performed all over the Southwest. We also discover what life was like in old Tucson and in mid-century L.A. as seen through the eyes of this uniquely creative artist. "In 1958," Guerrero recalls, "I wrote a song about a Martian who came to Earth to clear up certain misunderstandings about Mars. Now I have decided that it is time to set some things straight about Lalo Guerrero." Lalo does just that, in an often funny, sometimes sentimental story that traces the musical genius of a man whose talent has taken him all over the world, but who still believes in giving back to the community. His story is a gift to that community. The book also features a detailed discography, compiled by Lalo's son Mark, tracing his recorded output from the days of 78s to his most recent CDs.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
2003 Southwest Book Award Winner!""This is a book for everyone—not just Mexicans or Mexican-Americans, or music lovers. It's the human story of a remarkable man who was born in Tucson's Barrio Libre, learned to sing and play the guitar from his Mexican immigrant mother, and went on to, as Chicano labor organizer Cesar Chavez put it, 'chronicle the life of the Hispanic in this country better than anyone else has ever done.' . . . The book is as charming, moving and hilarious as the man whose song sobs (to the tune of 'O Solo Mio'), 'There's no tortillas, there's only bread . . .' " —Tucson Citizen"Although nearly unknown by Anglos outside the Southwest, National Medal of the Arts winner Guerrero, 85, is a heavyweight in Latin music. . . . This rich story of a venerated star of what has now morphed into world music is an obvious choice for many pop and world music collection." —Booklist
Library Journal
Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero is well known and loved in both Mexico and the Mexican American community as a superstar bandleader of the 1940s. A National Medal of the Arts winner, he is comparable to Glenn Miller but not on the same level as a composer like Duke Ellington. This slim memoir is written in a simple, conversational style. Vignettes cover every period of his long, rich life (he's 85 and still performs), from his childhood years in Tucson's Barrio Libre and earliest musical training to his rise to fame and fortune as a Spanish- and English-language recording artist. As a Latino, Guerrero faced discrimination and had to change his name to Don Edwards to record for Imperial Records. Those more trying moments are neither glossed over nor discussed with bitterness. Given that no other biographies are available and that Guerrero has influenced many contemporary artists (e.g., Linda Ronstadt), this would make a good addition to all music libraries and public libraries serving a Mexican American population. Bill Walker, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
The autobiography of singer Lalo Guerrero. Beginning his recording career in 1938, Guerrero sang and composed in a wide array of Chicano styles. Here, he writes about his life in music, beginning with his 1916 birth in Tucson and ending with the 1997 ceremony at the White House where he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816522149
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 1,294,018
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lalo Guerrero was born in 1916 and passed away in March of 2005. He sang and performed well into his eighties. Sherilyn Meece Mentes has written and directed thirteen feature-length films for the illustrated lecture field. She lives in San Clemente, California.

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Table of Contents

List of Photographs ix
Preface xi
The Dream 3
The Beginning 6
Mama 8
Papa 10
Our Mexican Roots 14
Raul and Alberto 18
The Old Barrio 23
I Go Out into the World 35
The Beginning of My Career in Music 38
Music and More Music 42
My First Love 49
Mexico City 51
Back to Tucson and on to Los Angeles 57
Los Carlistas 61
My First Records 68
The New York World's Fair 70
I Get Married 75
Our Gypsy Years 82
World War II 89
The Pachuco Years 96
On the Road with My Band 103
The Fifties 117
My Life with Pancho Lopez 120
I Go into the Nightclub Business 126
Elvis, the Martian, and the Three Little Squirrels 129
Lalo's Again 134
In the Fields 139
Papa's Dream 142
Lidia 145
Palm Springs 148
My So-Called Retirement 153
The National Medal of Arts and Other Honors 168
Afterword 181
Discography of Lalo Guerrero's Music 187
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