Los Lonely Boys paid their red-state dues



By Steve Newton

Things are going pretty darn well for Los Lonely Boys frontman Henry Garza. His band’s self-titled debut CD sold two million copies and earned four Grammy nominations, taking home the hardware for the hit single “Heaven”. More importantly, the singer-guitarist just taught his four-year-old son, Niko, how to play his first chord: the ever-popular G. He’s got two other boys, aged one and two, so there might be an LLB2 on the horizon in a few years’ time.

Henry was 12 when he started playing professionally with his younger brothers, bassist JoJo and aptly named drummer Ringo. Music was an integral part of their upbringing: at family get-togethers everybody played something and everybody sang something. By the time that Ringo turned seven and was able to man the kit, the kids started backing their country-musician father Enrique on tour. As Garza explains from his hometown of San Angelo, Texas, it wasn’t easy touring the red states in a Mexican family band.

“It was tough, brother,” recalls the 28-year-old picker. “I mean, it’s real rough when you’re a kid and you’re playing all the little cantinas and bars everywhere, and there’s no sheets, no blankets over the doors or windows—you get to see the world at a young age, and it can be cruel, man. We used to play the most redneck part of Nashville, and as soon as we’d walk in it would be, ‘Hey, get those wetbacks off the stage!’ But once we got up there and played [sings] ‘Your cheatin’ heart’, there was like a switch that turned on. And for us that’s what it’s really about—the music, man.”

With all the Republican-driven hubbub stateside about building barriers to keep Mexicans out, it appears as if the racial divide in Dubya’s stomping ground is wider than ever. But according to Garza—who had an ancestor who rode with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa—it hasn’t actually gotten any worse.

“I tell you, brother, it’s really no different, it’s just that now everybody’s hearin’ about it. I guess somebody in the higher-ups decided to start counting! But we’ve been here forever, man, and all of a sudden they’re talkin’ about a line in the dirt. The line in the dirt was created years ago, you know, and for us it’s not even a thing, man.”

If ever there was an effective soundtrack for eliminating prejudice and bringing folks together, it’s Los Lonely Boys’ self-described “Texican rock ’n’ roll”. The trio conjures party music for the masses on its latest CD, Sacred, whether it be the hooky, uplifting, melodic rock of “Roses” (cowritten by the Garzas and original Doobie Brother Patrick Simmons) or the lowdown rebel country of “Outlaws” (featuring their good buddy Willie Nelson).

Although the brothers do stellar work in the studio, it’s in a concert setting that they really thrive. Check out their “Cottonfields and Crossroads” on the Live From Bonnaroo 2004 DVD to see how gutsy, Stevie Ray Vaughan–inspired Texas blues rock should be played. It’s obvious why Guitar World magazine named Garza its breakthrough artist of 2005.

“We play a lot different live,” the fiery Stratman notes, “and that’s what we’re about, playin’ live and having fun. Bein’ brothers and cuttin’ loose—there ain’t nothin’ like it in the world. It’s a great feelin’, man.”

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