Los Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys
A rarity in the modern music business, the Los Lonely Boys are a free-wheeling blues-rock outfit that have built a national reputation on the Adult Contemporary charts. Best-known for their sweet soul ballad "Heaven," the group consists of brothers Henry, JoJo, and Ringo Garza. They are the leading modern proponents of the Texican sound—equal parts blues ala Stevie Ray Vaughan, rock, and Tejano.
At the heart of the trio's sound is oldest brother Henry, whose stinging guitar phrases incorporate shades of Carlos Santana and Richie Valens with the best of classic Texas bluesmen Albert King, Albert Collins, and T-Bone Walker. As a vocalist his voice reveals a strong subtext of urban soul that is especially apparent in his love ballads. However, the group also believes in old fashioned rock'n'roll showmanship, ending each set with a blistering instrumental that features Henry and JoJo playing one-handed, tossing their instruments in the air and playing wild riffs with the bass and guitar. The group's ability to entertain while making authentic roots-rock, blues, and Tex-Mex has resulted in a solid national tour schedule for the young group.
Started Out with Their Dad
Born in Snyder, Texas, the Los Lonely Boys and their sisters, Chrissie and Carey, were raised in nearby San Angelo, an area filled with cattle ranches, cottonfields, and a nearby Air Force base. Their father, Enrique Jose Garza (Ringo Sr.), made his living touring with a popular conjunto band called the Falcones. "Our dad had five brothers and a sister, and they had a great conjunto band in the '70s and '80s," Henry Garza told CMT.com. "They did a mixture of stuff that nobody was playing back then, a mixture of conjunto with country music and Spanglish." It was the oldest boy, Henry, who first showed interest in making music at age four, when he wrote his first song. As he grew older, his father taught him guitar, which Henry in turn taught his younger brothers. Eventually the middle brother, Joey, a.k.a. Jojo, taught himself piano before switching to bass guitar, and young Enrique, re-dubbed Ringo Jr., began playing the drums.
When the senior Garza's brother—the drummer—died unexpectedly, the Falcones disbanded. Still itching to make it in the music business, Ringo Sr. began playing shows with his sons as his backing band. Just preteens, the boys honed their stage skills playing a mix of classic rock'n'roll, hard core country, and Tejano. As the band improved, their dad decided to chase his long-held dream of a career as a country singer in Nashville. The transition was rough on the youngsters, who were still in school. "We stood out," brother Henry told the Phoenix New Times. "Me and my brother JoJo were the only Mexicans in our whole school and so was my little brother [Ringo] in elementary school. We would have people come up to us and say, ‘What are you?’ and we would say, ‘Well, what are you? We're just human like you!’ They would just freak out. They thought we were Indians or Arabs or Iranians or something."
Living in the roughest section of Nashville, the brothers went to school by day and played gigs into the wee small hours of the morning with their father. As time wore on, the elder Garza saw that Nashville was never going to accept him as a modern country act, and he began to encourage his sons to pursue their own careers and accentuate their rock and blues leanings. Since they had been playing everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd and B.B. King to Ritchie Valens and Willie Nelson, this came naturally to the group. The biggest influence on the band came via the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Everytime I looked at him, it reminded me so much of my dad," brother Henry told Guitar Player. "They never knew each other, but they're the same breed of people with the same hands and the same look in their eyes. Stevie opened up my heart and eyes to the blues."
With and without their father, the band shuttled between Nashville and Texas, struggling to get a break. In 1998 they traveled to Athens, Georgia, to record their first album, which contained cover versions of songs they had been playing in clubs. "I was proud of it because it was our first real recording," Henry told Phoenix New Times, "but I wouldn't say that's who we are today." The band, now officially doing business as Los Lonely Boys, wouldn't find the right path until they went home to Texas to stay.
For the Record …
Members include Henry Garza (born May 14, 1978); JoJo Garza , (born Joey Sacarai Garza on June 4, 1981); Ringo Garza Jr. (born Enrique Garza Jr. on November 29, 1982). All three were born in Snyder, Texas, and grew up in San Angelo.
Singer-songwriters and rock band; began their career playing as a backing band for their father, 1991; released album on their own label, 1998; officially became Los Lonely Boys, 2000; signed with Epic Records, 2003; appeared on such televison programs as CMT Crossroads, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Austin City Limits, Saturday Night Live, The Jimmy Kimmel Show, The View, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the 2005 American Music Awards; appeared in the documentary/concert film Los Lonely Boys: Cottonfields and Crossroads, 2006.
Awards: Austin Music Awards, Band of the Year, 2004; Grammy Award, Best Pop Vocal Duo/Group, for "Heaven," 2005.
Addresses: Record company—Sony Music, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211, website: http://www.sonybmgmusic.com. Management—Loophole Entertainment, P.O. Box 16205, Austin, TX 78716, e-mail: [email protected] Booking—Monterey International, Inc., 200 West Superior, Ste. 202, Chicago, IL 60610, phone: 312-640-7500, fax: 312-640-7515.Website—Official artist website: http://www.loslonelyboys.org.
Kevin Wommack Made Them Stars
Los Lonely Boys figured they had everything to gain and little to lose by just staying put in Texas. The Lone Star State is one of the few areas of the country where local live music spots continue to thrive. Austin-based music manager/booker Kevin Wommack, who had seen them in Nashville, took them on. Not only did Wommack, a former musician, help them get gigs, buy gear, and arrange for transportation, he also aided them in their artistic development. "Their playing, harmonizing, personalities were all there when they were a cover band," Wommack told Pop Culture Press. "I helped them on songwriting and song structure - bridges, choruses, lyrics. … I also strongly suggested they incorporate as much Spanish into their music as they could."
Wommack encouraged the band to sharpen their set so they could play with genuine crowd-pleasing authority when opening for the likes of Chris Duarte, Jimmy Vaughan, and Taj Mahal. The manager also got Los Lonely Boys a high profile gig at the Farm Aid concert in 2002. Immediately they made a new fan of Willie Nelson, who has since toured and recorded with the band. Getting a major record label interested in them was another matter entirely. They recorded an album's worth of material with Nelson's nephew Freddy Fletcher and reworked the tracks with veteran producer Jim Gaines, but no labels were interested.
Los Lonely Boys wrote some new songs, worked in Nelson's Arlyn-Pedernales studio with producer John Porter, and were signed to a deal that shared label credit with Or Music and Epic. Their first album, Los Lonely Boys, was a first-rate mix of raucous blues, countryfied rock, and Adult Contemporary soul that sold over two million copies. The album launched the romantic hit "Heaven," which reached number one on the Adult Contemporary charts, and the equally fine "More Than Love," which hit number 31. Their newfound success was capped off by a 2005 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Duo/Group for "Heaven."
The eldest brother's reaction to the award was noted on the Los Lonely Boys website. "To see brothers like us," observed Henry Garza, "from where we came from, and even our race, do what we do and cross boundaries like we did … I think it's really cool for people to see."
Still Growing as Artists
With a hit album under their belts, Los Lonely Boys toured non-stop through most of 2004 and 2005. They released two albums that mixed longtime band favorites with live versions of songs from their first album. Both Live at the Fillmore and Live at the Blue Cat Blues demonstrated how far the group had come as musicians. Finally, they were able to create and release their second studio album, Saved, in 2006.
Expanding upon their vision, the Garza brothers brought in co-writers for two songs, the Doobie Brothers's Pat Simmons for "Roses" and Nashville veteran Gary Nicholson for "Outlaws." They also asked returning producer John Porter to play a second guitar so they could achieve a fuller rhythm base. More important, the band added horns. None of the brothers had ever learned how to read music, but thanks to their father they knew how to explain their wants to the horn section. Throughout the recording process Henry Garza recalled creative disputes with his producer. "I was constantly butting heads with the producer on this album," he told Guitar Player, "because I wanted to get the sounds I was hearing, not what he was hearing. It kind of cheapens it when somebody else comes up with your tone."
Although the initial single, "Diamonds," was only a modest hit, all the hard work and creative tensions seemed to pay off. Despite brother JoJo's 2006 arrest for marijuana possession and assault, Sacred hit number two on The Billboard 200 chart. That same year saw the limited theatrical release of a documentary/concert film that chronicled their rise to fame, Los Lonely Boys: Cottonfields & Crossroads. The success has allowed Los Lonely Boys to live a more luxurious life when they're home, and they even own a custom car shop in San Angelo, but don't look for them to quit the road anytime soon. "Family and music is our life, a way of life and that's very sacred to us," brother Henry philosophized on the band's website. "You come into this world singing a song and you leave it singing a song."
"Heaven," Epic, 2004.
"More Than Love," Epic, 2004.
"Diamonds," Epic, 2006.
Los Lonely Boys, Epic, 2003.
Live at the Fillmore, Epic, 2005.
Live at Blue Cat Blues, Blue Cat, 2006.
Sacred, Epic, 2006.
Texican Style: Live from Austin, Sony, 2004.
Live at the Fillmore, Sony, 2006.
Los Lonely Boys: Cottonfields & Crossroads, Sony, 2007.
Guitar Player, September 2006.
Hollywood Reporter, February 8, 2007.
"A Day in the Life: An Interview with Austin Music Manager Kevin Wommack," Pop Culture Press,http://www.popculturepress.com, Issue 62, 2006.
"Los Lonely Boys," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (February 9, 2007).
"Los Lonely Boys," Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com (February 9, 2007).
Los Lonely Boys Official Website,http://www.loslonelyboys.org (February 9, 2007).
"Los Lonely Boys survive the family biz in Nashville…," Phoenix New Times,http://www.phoenixnewtimes (December 11, 2003).
"Oye Como Va," Austin Chronicle,http://www.austinchronicle.com (February 19, 2007).
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