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Los Palominos

Los Palominos

Latin music group

To say that the members of Los Palominos were born into a musical family would be a Texas-sized understatement, given that one family is responsible for this immensely popular Tejano band. The four Arreola brothers, themselves the sons of a norteño musician, have for nearly two decades been delighting audiences both north and south of the Texas border with the danceable, bajo sexto and accordion-tinged polka-inspired sounds of the Tejano tradition. Despite their many years on the music scene, the Arreola brothers remained under the radar, not achieving major acclaim until the late 1990s.

At a very young age, brothers James and Johnny Arreola began singing together, working on vocal harmonies that would later become their trademark sound in bands to come. With the help of their musician father, the Uvalde, Texas-based Arreola brothers made their 1986 musical debut when they were still in high school, hence the name of their first band, Los Tremendos Pequeños (The Little Giants). The band was composed of Johnny Arreola on accordion, James Arreola on bajo sexto, Jorge Arreola on bass, and Jesse Arreola on drums. James and Johnny provided the vocal harmonies. In addition to slower-paced boleros, ballads, and rancheras, the band's repertoire also embraced the corridos, polkas, and cumbias long popular with Tejano music fans. When the brothers grew older, the band's name was changed to Los Tremendos de Johnny Arreola. This would eventually give way to the band's current name. While Los Palominos featured four siblings, there were actually six Arreola brothers, one of whom worked behind the scenes controlling the sound.

The band's big break came in 1989 at the hands of Oscar de la Rosa and Armando (Mando) Lichtenberger Jr., two members of the popular band La Mafia, who helped the Arreola boys produce a demo recording. According to the band's official website, it was this demo that opened doors in the music business and led them to the threshold of a new career. The band soon signed with Sony Discos, recording with them throughout the 1990s. Additional attention from the press, fellow musicians, and fans catapulted music sales to gold and platinum levels. The album Corazón de Cristal (Heart of Glass), released in 1994 with major success on both sides of the border, reached gold status.

"The brilliant vocal harmonics created by Johnny and James and backed by lowslung punchy rhythms deftly delivered by Jesse and George are reason enough to take this exciting goup of young troubadors seriously," declared the Tejano music webzine Ondanet. "That plus the fact that they can make conjunto cool for younger audiences is just further testament to their talent." According to Fonovisa, the band's record company, the secret to the group's distinctive sound lay in the use of keyboards, especially in the areas of tropical cumbia and romantic group cumbia.

In 1999 Los Palominos won both Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards for their hit song "Por Eso Te Amo" ("That's Why I Love You"), which spent several weeks topping world music charts. At the twentieth annual Tejano Music Awards, the band received an award for comeback album of the year. While they accepted a Grammy for Best Tejano Performance of 1999, the Arreola brothers rejected the Latin Grammy, joining fellow winners Los Tigres del Norte and Los Temerarios in their protest against the Latin Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (LARAS) for allegedly discriminating against Mexican traditional music. According to the bands (all of whom recorded for the Fonovisa label), the Academy showed a bias towards artists recording on the Sony label. While Los Palominos had recorded Por Eso Te Amo on the Sony Discos label, their switch to Fonovisa led them to join the other bands in rejecting the award. In late 2000 Los Palominos released the album Obsession and the hit single "Te Quiero Más."

In the late 1990s the band was affected by Jesse Arreola's bout with leukemia. The young artist fought back, recovering after extensive chemotherapy. "His battle with leukemia had taken a toll on Jesse because of his love for music. The fact that he couldn't go out and tour with his brothers really brought him down and probably was his driving force in beating the illness," La Mafia band member Lichtenberger recalled in Billboard.

Despite Jesse's triumph over his illness, the band still had its greatest tragedy in store. On February 4, 2001, the band's bus ran a stop sign near Port Lavaca, Texas, and Jesse Arreola was thrown from the bus. He landed in a ditch, and the bus then hit and killed him. The other band members suffered minor physical injuries, but the emotional injuries they experienced caused the band to announce its retirement. Given the clamor of fans demanding their return, however, the band's retirement lasted only four months. The youngest Arreola brother, Julio, took Jesse's place as drummer. From then on, the band would go onstage with the line, "Los Palominos are five, with one playing from heaven."

For the Record . . .

Members include Johnny Arreola , accordion, vocals; James Arreola , vocals; Jorge Arreola , vocals; Julio Arreola , vocals; Jesse Arreola (died on February 4, 2001, in Port Lavaca, TX), drums. Band-members were born into a Tejano family of six siblings, father was a norteño musician.

Debuted as Los Tremendos Pequeños, 1986, later called Los Tremendos de Johnny Arreola and Los Palominos; released gold album Corazón de Cristal, 1994; released several albums throughout 1990s; won Grammy for "Por Eso Te Amo," 1999; released Canciones de la Rockola, 2003.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Tejano Performance for "Por Eso Te Amo," 1999.

Addresses: Business—Los Palominos Enterprises, 518 S. Bates, Uvalde, TX 78801, phone: (830) 278-5359. Fan club—Los Palominos Fan Club, P.O. Box 3246, Edinburg, TX 78540. Website—Los Palominos Official Website: http://www.lospalominos.com.

In 2003 Los Palominos released Canciones de la Rockola, (Songs from the Jukebox), a tribute to the Mexican and Tejano artists who had shaped their genre. The album included covers of songs by groups like Los Cadetes and the legendary José Alfredo Jiménez. In order to preserve the 1960s mood, the band opted to forego some of the usual in-studio editing tricks and recorded the music live, laying down about four takes per song.

The Houston Chronicle wrote, "Largely underrated throughout most of their career—perhaps because of the group's minimalist traditional style—Los Palominos nonetheless are an essential piece of the Mexican-American mosaic. Their appreciation of seminal bands such as Los Alegres or Conjunto Bernal isn't a fad. It's their religion, exemplified by a genuine folk style that focuses attention on the often poignant lyrics and beautiful melodies."

Selected discography

Corazón de Cristal, Sony, 1995.

Por Eso Te Amo, Sony International, 1999.

Obsession, Fonovisa, 2000.

Canciones de la Rockola, Urbana, 2003.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, February 17, 2001.

Houston Chronicle, December 19, 2003.

Washington Post, February 12, 2001.

Online

"Biography," Ondanet, http://www.ondanet.com (January 3, 2005).

"Los Palominos," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (December 30, 2004).

"Los Palominos," Fonovisa Website, http://www.fonovisa.com/lospalominos.html (December 30, 2004).

Los Palominos Official Website, http://www.lospalominos.com/2004/default.asp (December 30, 2004).

"Three Mexican Bands Refuse Latin Grammys," CNN.com, http://archives.cnn.com/2000/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/02/wb.mexican.bands/ (October 2, 2000).

—Brett Allan King

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