SUMMER PACHANGA BANDS
Johnny “Ritmo” Rodriguez y Los Diamantes found their musical voice in the Spanish music heard throughout New Mexico and Colorado. The band became a staple in performances across Colorado from 1975 to the present. Their signature songs include Cruisin’ the Roads of New Mexico, El Rey, Guacamole, and La del Moño Colorado to name a few which are 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. Current band members include: El Rey, Johnny “Ritmo”, TJ, Ramon, Miguel, Toby … and the kids!
Jon Romero y Amanecer is one of Denver’s Premier Latin Jazz Ensembles established in 1997 by Jon Romero, a Native American from the Westside of Denver, Colorado. The band released their first of four CD Projects in 1999 entitled “Gracias Papa Santo”. The Band has shared the stage with Tito Puente, Tierra, El Chicano, Los Hombres Calientes, Pucho & the Latin Soul Brothers, Hilton Ruiz, Poncho Sanchez and many more major music events in Denver. Jon Romero has written, published and produced 18 original songs that have been aired on Public Radio and streamed on Internet Programs since 1999 on Jon Romero’s Independent Record Label “Jonnie Sage Records”. The Band has also donated their services to numerous fundraising events since1999. Musica de Colorado at its finest!
Johnny Garcia y La Compania, playing Tex-Mex, New Mexico and Country music, has been performing in the Denver metro area for a number of years. The band keeps their audiences happy by playing great music, having fun
onstage, and getting people on the dance floor. “Let’s dance!”
2017 CHICANO MUSIC HALL OF FAME
Hot and spicy with a touch of Latin Jazz is how Francisco Mejias describes the sound of Conjunto Colores, considered by many the first and still the best successful salsa band to come out of Colorado. The band has performed in China, the Philippines and across the U.S. The band was formed in the late 1970s by Octavio Figueroa. Gary Sosias and Francisco Mejias changed the name of the band to Conjunto Colores after Figueroa left for Los Angeles. Original members of Conjunto Colores were Gary Sosias, Francisco Mejias, Bernard Alvarado, and Jimmy Trujillo. Francisco Mejias took over leadership of the group in 1997 and gives credit to his band and their professional standards for their success. Conjunto Colores has opened for Tito Puente, Sonora Poncena, Bob James, Willie Colon, and Ruben Blades. They performed under the stars at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with Arturo Sandoval and Diana Schuur. Francisco and Jose Alberto Cabrera, the two current vocalists for the band, recall that their audiences in China didn’t quite know what to make of the band but the audiences loved them in the Philippines where they played seven sold out concerts in nine nights. Conjunto Colores has released several albums with original composed songs, under the leadership of Francisco Mejias, titled La Hora Llego (1999), Mi Planeta (2000), En Otro Nivel (2002), Lo Mejor del Conjunto Colores (2005) and Con Colores Se Goza. Although some of the members of the band have moved on and new members have joined, Francisco feels that “each group of musicians that have played with Conjunto Colores have brought new energy and excitement to the band.” Current members of Conjunto Colores are: Francisco Mejias-leader; Jose Cabrera-singer; Cristine Barbosa-singer; Howard Hernandez-Timbales; Jose Espino-congas; Dennis Jaramillo-bongo; Gonzalo Teppa -Bass; Victor Mestas-Piano; Tim Libby-Trumpet; Dawn Kramer-Trumpet; Adam Bartczak-Trombone; Darin Kramer-Trombone.
Robert “Rabbit” Jaramillo
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 and his brother Joe 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 musical break in the song became one of the most recognizable riffs in all of rock n roll music. The whirlwind that “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 improbable 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. Current band members include: El Rey, Johnny “Ritmo”, TJ, Ramon, Miguel, Toby … and the kids!
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 Hernandez (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 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.