Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano

What better way to celebrate Mexican Independence Day than to profile such an influential man, the original Chicano.

Born in 1916, Lalo Guerrero (whose birth name was Eduardo) was destined for greatness. Leaving his hometown of Tucson, AZ in his early twenties, Lalo started his first musical group called Los Carlistas. Los Carlistas went on to represent their home state at the New York World’s Fair.

In the 1940s he left Arizona all together and ventured out to Los Angeles where he appeared in a few films (particularly “Boots and Saddles” and “His Kind of Woman”) and advanced his musical career when he recorded for Imperial Records and fronted the Trio Imperial.

During the course of his career, Lalo wrote and composed over 700 songs over six decades, and all of these songs spanned an assortment of genres in Latin music. He also wrote children’s music and some of his songs included a bit of comedy. His first American hit was “Pancho Lopez.” This song was meant to be a parody of the American hit, “The Ballad of David Crockett.” The song was popular in both Spanish and English, but he never was able to perform it in public due to the criticism the song received. However, that didn’t stop Lalo from recording more parody songs including “Pancho Clause” and “Elvis Perez.” Lalo’s music has also been used in films and plays, particularly “Zoot Suit” written by Luis Valdez. He performed all over the United States and in Mexico. What’s amazing about Lalo is the fact that his songs have become standards in Mexico. He has written songs that inspire the Latino people about historical figures such as Cesar Chavaz, Ruben Salazar, and the braceros (experienced farmhands) and illegal aliens.

Due to his large list of credits and achievements, Guerrero has earned the title of the Father of Chicano music. In 1980 he was declared as a National Folk Treasure by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.  In 1992, he received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment of the Arts and in 1996 he was presented with the National Medal of Arts. In 2005 after his death, he was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame and he was also inducted into the Tejano Hall of Fame and the Mariachi Hall of Fame.

In the year 2006, producers Dan Guerrero (Lalo’s son) and Nancy De los Santos created a documentary about the life and career of Lalo. Our company, FILMLOOK Media and Post, had the opportunity to do post-production work on this project. I’d like to share with you an introductory clip of this documentary where you can learn a bit more about Lalo and listen to his music.

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