Friday, July 9, 1999

Randy Garibay ~ 1999

Getting called the "godfather" of this or that in music is almost as bad of a cliché as being dubbed a "new Bob Dylan." In the case of Randy Garibay, he has certainly paid the dues and bent the strings enough to be something of a Texas blues godfather, but more interesting is the man's extreme versatility. Blues musicians are most often known for their strict adherence to this deep yet narrow musical form; Garibay, on the other hand, splatters salsa on the mode by proving to be adept in everything from jazz to country to doo wop to a Mexican bolero. Put it all together and you have a unique style he calls his own "puro pinche blues."

His family were immigrants and he was brought up in the barrios of San Antonio and the migrant fields of the Midwest. He learned to play guitar at the age of 18 when his brother gave him a Sears and Roebuck model for his birthday, putting him in a group of many great guitarists that started out on these cheap but hardy axes. But he was a professional singer even before he was playing guitar, beginning as a teenage lead singer for two teen dream doo wop groups, the Velvets and the Pharaohs in the '50s. The latter band performed in Texas and Mexico and sang back up for Sonny Ace and Doug Sahm on some of his earliest recordings. Garibay was also a regular attraction at one of the hot San Antonio blues venues of the '50s, the Eastwood Country Club. This was one of the renowned blues clubs for touring performers. In the '60s he joined the Dell-Kings, which took him on the road, first to Los Angeles and then for an extended stay in the gambling Mecca of Las Vegas. The band became the house group at the Sahara Hotel, allowing Garibay the opportunity to work behind a variety of headline touring artists such as Jackie Wilson, Judy Garland, and Sammy Davis Jr. As the times changed the band became weary of its own name and the doo wop connotations it might have. The group was renamed los Blues as it embarked on a road trip that lasted off and on until the '70s. Garibay backed up rhythm and blues greats Curtis Mayfield and the O'Jays hitting the stage in top drawer venues as Madison Square Garden and the Waldorf Astoria hotels in New York City, Vancouver, and Honolulu.

But as the Doug Sahm song goes, "Texas calls me..." Garibary wound up back in his home state holding forth with his new band, Cats Don't Sleep, a nerve-wracking band name for any cat owner who also needs their rest. The group's 1997 album "Barbacoa Blues," named after a particularly tasty style of Mexican shredded barbecued beef, was praised by critics as if they were smacking over their lips on a mouthful of it. He has been a touring artist with the Texas Commission on the Arts since l999 and a featured performer at the 1998 Chicano Music Awards. He is also winner of the l996 West Side Rhythm and Blues Award and the Pura Vida Hispanic Music Award in l994 and l995. In 2001, pioneering Chicano filmmaker Efrain Gutierrez released Lowrider Spring Break en San Quilmas, which features eight original songs by Garibay on the soundtrack.

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