After being raised in a musical Mexican-American household in San Angelo, Texas, and schooled in the business of music by their professional-musician dad, sibling trio Los Lonely Boys won a Grammy award for their easy-rolling hit, “Heaven.”
Five albums followed the band’s 2003 self-titled debut, the latest of which is Rockpango. Rock, pop, blues, funk, soul and the band’s Tex-Mex music heritage all flavor Rockpango.
“We’re tying everything in,” Lonely Boy JoJo Garza said from San Angelo. “It’s a rock party. That’s why we call it Rockpango.”
The album’s title track is a prime example of Los Lonely Boys’ music synthesis. For many listeners, “Rockpango” recalls the blues-rock of Jimi Hendrix and Texas star Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“People are like, ?Man, that sounds like something Hendrix would have done,’ “ Garza said. “But that song actually is a traditional wapango. All we did was put Texican rock ‘n’ roll over a wapango beat.”
Garza and his brothers - Henry, a guitarist, and Ringo, a drummer - grew up singing and playing. Both sides of their family have been musical for generations. Their father, Ringo Garza Sr., was a member of a band of brothers, too, the Falcones, a popular conjunto group in the 1970s and ‘80s.
“At home it wasn’t a special deal to sing,” JoJo Garza recalled. “We didn’t realize that kids weren’t singing everywhere. But we had no choice about learning to play and sing. Whether we were gonna use it or not was another story.”
When the Garza brothers’ dad moved to Nashville in 1990 to pursue a solo career, he took his three sons along. They were his band.
“We looked like the Mexican Beverly Hillbillies in our station wagon,” Garza said of the move. “It was completely piled up with musical equipment and what little clothes and things we took with us.
“And it literally seemed like we were the one-percent demographic in Nashville at that time. There was nobody there like us. Our dad showed us how to deal with it, not with our fists but with our music. That taught us that music can break down boundaries.”
The Garzas performed constantly during their Nashville stay.
“Every day we played some kind of little bar,” Garza recalled. “That was a real big learning curve. And we learned about the Grand Ole Opry and the history of country music. It was a big thing for our dad and it rubbed off on us, too. We’re really into the country cats, Hank Williams Sr., Hank Williams Jr., Ronnie Milsap and, of course, Willie and Waylon and the boys.”
Ringo Garza’s talented sons, however, were in for a surprise.
“Our dad,” JoJo Garza said, “he looked at us and said, ?You guys are playing different. You guys are starting to pass me up.’ And it was sad because, if you’re the right kind of student, you don’t look to surpass your teacher. We said, ?What do you mean?’ Our dad just goes, ?Man, you’re just getting so fast. Y’all are learning so many chords that I don’t know, meho.’ “
The brothers launched their own group, Los Lonely Boys, in 2000. By 2004 they’d released the multi-format hit “Heaven,” sold lots of records and won a Grammy. Even so, they didn’t let success go to their heads.
“You never stop learning and you never stop growing and you’re never too good to get a spanking from your mama,” Garza said. “You gotta stay rooted, you gotta live in reality. But, definitely, people, no matter what field of expertise they’re in, man, if they’re doing something good for people, people should express gratitude and say, ?Man, we thank you for having that kind of heart.’
“And one thing we always thank our dad for, the biggest thing he taught us, was that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like. You gotta do your best. Don’t let nothing knock you down. You gotta keep going.”