Guerrero, Lalo 1916-

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GUERRERO, Lalo 1916-


Born December 24, 1916, in Tucson, AZ; son of Eduardo (a railroad worker) and Concepcion Guerrero; married, 1939; wife's name, Margaret (divorced); married; second wife's name Lydia; children: (first marriage) Mark, Dan; (second marriage) Jose, Patty.


Home—Cathedral City, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Arizona Press, 355 South Euclid Ave., Suite 103, Tucson, AZ 85719.


Musician, composer, and actor. Has recorded numerous albums, some with musical group Las Ardillitas, including El celoso y la aelosa, c. 1970; Los 14 exitos de las ardillitas de Lalo Guerrero, 1991; and Papa's Dreams, 1995. Has also appeared in movies, including Boots and Saddles, 1935, and The Sun Also Rises, 1950, and on television, including The Steve Allen Show, 1955, and El show de Paul Rodriguez, 1993. Owner and operater, Lalo's (a nightclub), Los Angeles, CA, 1957-72.


Declared National Folk Treasure by Smithsonian Institute, 1980; National Heritage Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1991; National Medal of the Arts, 1996, for lifetime creative achievement; inducted into Tejano Hall of Fame; Lifetime Achievement Awards from Mexican Cultural Institute, Teatro Campesino, and Nosotros Organization.


(With Sherilyn Mentes) Lalo: My Life and Music, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2002.

Author's papers are housed in the California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives in the Davidson Library of the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Considered the father of Chicano music, Lalo Guerrero began composing songs in his teens and went on to work in Hollywood and perform throughout much of the United States. His repertoire of musical compositions includes everything from boleros and boogies to comic songs and children's compositions. Guerrero also served as an activist, highlighting the trials and tribulations of Mexican Americans and writing songs of protest, many laced with humor like his composition "No Chicanos on TV." At the age of eighty-five, Guerrero, who is considered a cultural icon among Mexican-Americans, coauthored his autobiography with Sherilyn Mentes.

In Lalo: My Life and Music Guerrero begins with his birth in the Barrio Viejo of Tucson, Arizona, on Christmas Eve in 1916. His mother, Concepcion, had twenty-seven children with only nine surviving to adulthood. She was also his musical inspiration as she played guitar and had a beautiful voice. Guerrero was still in his teens when he composed "Cancion Mexicana," which would become a Mexican classic and the unofficial anthem of Mexico after it was recorded by Lucha Reyes in 1941. Guerrero began his own recording career in 1938 in Los Angeles with the quartet Los Carlistas. Along the way, he found himself working in films, playing guitar and singing alongside movies stars such as Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, and Gilbert Roland.

But it was the music that drove Guerrero. During the peak of his recording career in the 1950s and 1960s, Guerrero's versatility in composing and performing was evident as he delved into a broad spectrum of musical styles, including rancheros, mambos, chachas, swing, and salsas. He even recorded an early rock and roll song in 1955 called "Tin Marin de lo Pingue." Guerrero also earned the respect of his community through protest songs and corridos, narrative songs that tell of the struggles of Mexicans and Chicanos. His activism, however, went beyond his music—he traveled to farming areas to help champion workers' causes, an activity that included writing songs focusing on the treatment of agricultural laborers. Guerrero also reached the young Mexican-American community through more than fifty albums for children's recorded in Spanish under the name Las Ardillitas ("The Squirrels").

Lalo: My Life and Music is primarily a series of vignettes covering all the major periods of his life. In it, Guerrero discusses discrimination in his own career such as the time he recorded as Don Edwards at the insistence of one of his record labels. "Those more trying moments are neither glossed over nor discussed with bitterness," wrote Bill Walker in a review for the Library Journal. Walker also noted, "This slim memoir is written in a simple, conversational style."

Always known for his energy and his ability to change with the times, Guerrero continued to work well into his eighties. In 1995, he recorded a children's album with the popular group Los Lobos in which the album's songs are intertwined with a narrative story of "Papa Lalo" and his trip with his children and grandchildren in a hot-air balloon. In 1998, he made his first trip to Europe to perform at the Cité de sone la Musique in Paris, France.



Guerrero, Lalo, and Sherilyn Mentes, Lalo: My Life and Music, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2002.


Christian Science Monitor, July 13, 1995, Kim Campbell, review of Papa's Dreams.

Library Journal, March 15, 2002, Bill Walker, review of Lalo: My Life and Music, p. 83.

Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1991, Dennis Romero, "The NEA Recognizes a Real-Life Folk Hero," pp. F1, F3; March 11, 1998, Michael Quintanilla, "The Musique Man," pp. E1, E6.

People, February 20, 1995, David Hiltbrand, review of Papa's Dreams, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, March 20, 1995, review of Papa's Dreams, p. 29.


Break Records Web site, (June 3, 2002), "Lalo Guerrero."*