Delgado Brothers are a great band, the real deal.
Their style is bluesy, but they're much more than a blues
band. Their musical palette also includes elements of r&b, and Latin.
The majority of their songs are bluesy in nature, but some
are simply melodic ballads. They have a Latin percussionist, who
plays congas, timbales, and shakers so their "bluesy" music
has a Latin rhythmic bed on which to lay. I think
they've referred to their music as Latin blues, a
description that has validity. They can sing, play, and write
great music. The eldest Delgado brother in the band is
Bobby, who lays down solid and lively bass lines most of the
time on a small upright electric bass. Joey, who is
the second oldest, is a great guitar player and a strong
lead vocalist. His guitar solos are soulful and
melodic and his sound is excellent, especially on his Gibson
335. He's an authentic blues guitarist. The
youngest Delgado in the band is drummer and lead singer
Steve. Steve Delgado is a great lead vocalist and lays
down solid grooves while he sings. There are few
drummer/lead vocalists in rock that can do both things so
effortlessly and well. Don Henley of the Eagles and Levon Helm of The Band come to mind. The brothers have
four albums to their credit,
which have received glowing reviews. They've played many
shows and festivals to enthusiastic and appreciative
audiences. They've shared the bill with blues greats
such as Robert Cray and Buddy Guy and their songs have been
recorded by British blues legend John Mayall. The Delgado Brothers roots go way back to the East L.A. music boom
of the 1960s.
The Delgado brothers grew up in East L.A., first living in the
Maravilla projects and then moving close to the Eastside Boys
Club on McDonnell Avenue before moving across the street from
the projects on 1st and Mednick. The latter house was a
converted malt shop. Bobby Delgado remembers people
walking into their house to use the restroom thinking it was
still a malt shop. While Bobby and Danny Delgado were at
Garfield High School, the family moved to El Monte, a few miles
down the 10 freeway from East L.A. They found themselves
unhappy students of Rosemead High School, where the culture was
completely foreign to them. The music scene was not like
at Garfield and the racial mix was such that they felt like a
tiny minority. The Delgado family has six brothers and
five sisters. All six brothers became musicians. The
first time all six brothers played together was at a Muscatel
Jr. High School talent show in Rosemead, California c.1969.
The eldest brother Eddie had just returned from Viet Nam and Danny from his
military service. At that show the youngest brother Steve
sang Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move" without playing an
instrument. Eventually he would become the drummer in the
family. The sixth brother is Jimmy. All six Delgado
Brothers went on to perform together for about ten years after
that. Before his stint in Viet Nam, Eddie played bass with the very popular East
L.A. band of the 1960s, The Ambertones, who made several
records, including a popular version of Ray Charles' "You Don't
Know Me," a rendition of The Romancers' "Huggies Bunnies,"
and some recordings on the White Whale label. (The
Turtles, the hugely successful band of "Happy Together" fame,
were also on White Whale.) Jimmy, another great guitar
player, played with the brothers on and off over the years,
eventually going off on his own and playing with different
bands. Danny (rhythm guitar) and the aforementioned
Bobby (bass) played with another very popular 1960s East L.A. band, The
Exotics. Between 1964 and 1966 I had a band called Mark &
the Escorts. The Exotics were our chief rival and
competitor in that period. Both bands were from Garfield
High School in East L.A., were in the same age group, and played
on the same bill all over the East L.A. circuit at venues such
Montebello Ballroom, the Big Union Hall, Huntington Park
Ballroom, and shows at our school, Garfield High.
In 1966, when we changed our name from Mark & the Escorts to The Men From S.O.U.N.D.,
we continued to play on the bill with The Exotics and the rivalry
continued. The first time I remember sharing a stage with
them was at the battle of the bands at a community center called
the Cleland House in East L.A. in 1964. We had three
battles with them that year and won two of the three. I
still have the trophies. Both bands were equally good in
their own style and the verdicts could have gone either way all
three times. In addition to Danny and Bobby Delgado,
members of Thee Exotics were Marty Caling on guitar, Felix Reyes on Farfisa organ, Henry Brumfield on drums, and Richard Alvarez and
Larry Avila on lead vocals. George Marchello was also a
vocalist for a time after Alvarez left the band. We would see the Exotics and hear
them do a given great song and think we'd better learn it too,
and from conversations I had with them years later they would do
the same when they heard us. The Exotics style was always
more bluesy than ours, although we also played r&b and bluesy
material. They sounded best doing Rolling Stones and Kinks
covers for example, while although we also did Stones and Kinks
songs, we did our best with Beatles covers and songs with more
harmonies. They were also lively performers, particularly
Danny and Bobby Delgado. It was the kind of rivalry that
ultimately made both bands better, one band striving to outdo
One of my greatest memories is The Men From S.O.U.N.D and The
Exotics, along with three other bands, playing for a Garfield
High School assembly, actually two assemblies on the same day
which included the entire student body. We were at our very
best during that time and on that show. We played The
Beatles' "Taxman," "96 Tears," "See See Rider" and "I Only Have
Eyes For You." Our lineup was yours truly on guitar and
lead vocal, George Ochoa on lead vocal, Ernie Hernandez on drums
and lead vocal, Richard Rosas on bass, and Tony Rodas on Farfisa
organ. The Exotics also played great that day. A
third band was called Euphoria and their bass player was Conrad
Lozano, the future bassist for Los Lobos. In the late 60s
after the breakup of Thee Exotics, Bobby, Danny, and Henry
Brumfield formed a power trio and played some East L.A. venues
as Hiram Josh. They played psychedelic music covering the
music of artists such as Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
They also dressed like those artists, wearing flowing robes,
feather boas, and other hippie garb of the period. Danny
was now free to let loose and play lead guitar and flourished in
the role. As good as they were, they found that they were
not re-booked a lot because the music wasn't danceable in venues
where dancing was the thing.
In the early 70s, Bobby started a blues jam at the family house.
Guitarists would line up sitting on their amps waiting for their
turn to play. Some great East L.A. guitarists would come
and play including Danny Diaz (later with Chico), a teenage
Bobby Robles (later with Thee Midniters), Rick Zamora, and a
young Louie Perez (later of Los Lobos) who sometimes didn't get
to the front of the line and would go home without playing.
Joey and Steve Delgado, young kids at the time were influenced,
inspired, and taught by these guitarists. It had a lot to
do with their love for blues and future style. In 1979, I saw the Delgado Brothers play at a club on the
outskirts of Hollywood. Five of the brothers were playing
together again and were great. Bobby had left the
group because he was married and raising two daughters. As
always, they had their bluesy style and great showmanship. I
recall them playing a great version of the Rolling Stones' hit
of that year, "Miss You." I also remember being particularly
impressed with the younger crop of Delgados, Steve, Joey, and
Jimmy, whom I hadn't seen before. The German owner of the
club insisted as part of their deal that he sing "Just the Way
You Are" by Billy Joel every night with the band. This was
a price they reluctantly had to pay for the gig.
Fortunately, I didn't have to endure his performance that night, probably having
arrived after his rendering of the classic song.
In 1984, I took a trip to Hawaii with my then
girlfriend. While at a small airport waiting for a
commuter plane to take us from Oahu to Kauai, sitting a few
seats away was none other than Danny Delgado. Danny was
with his current band who were on their way to a hotel gig on
Kauai. I made myself known to him and in a friendly good
natured way Danny said to his band mates "I used to hate this guy."
We all laughed about it, but the comment illustrated that our
former rivalry was very strong, almost as if we were in separate
enemy camps. I wound up going to their gig that night and sitting in with
them for a few songs. After the show, we hung out in one
of their hotel rooms, reminisced, and smoked the peace pipe.
Danny then told me that his brother Eddie was in Oahu playing at
the Hilton Hotel. When I returned to Oahu I showed up at
Eddie's gig. I tapped Eddie on the back and said "do you
guys know Huggie's Bunnies?" He turned around in total
surprise that anyone there could know of that song. I told
him I was Mark from Mark & the Escorts and he was once again
surprised to say the least. Eddie wound up staying in
Hawaii for many years, as did Danny, who is still there as of
this writing. Eddie currently lives in Nashville,
Tennessee. Jimmy also spent years in Hawaii, where he
learned lap steel guitar in both Hawaiian and blues styles. Joey and Steve did one six
week stint there and opted to come back home. The club
where they went to play folded after their first week so they
had to scramble and get another gig, which they kept for the
remainder of their short stay. They refer to that
experience as "Disaster in Paradise."
In the mid-80s, the Delgado brothers had a band called Aircraft,
which included brothers Joey, Steve, and Jimmy, along with Tom
"Slick" Macias on bass and Eddie Carone on vocals. They
were scheduled to play at L.A. Street Scene, an annual music
festival that took place on the streets of downtown Los Angeles,
but there was a cancellation over the terms of the contract .
A couple of years later, brother Bobby returned having formed
the new Delgado Brothers Blues band with Joey and Steve.
Added to the band's lineup was Billy Steinway on keyboards.
This new incarnation of the band made the best of a second
chance to play the Street Scene. On the bill with them was Joe
Louis Walker, who was an artist with Hightone Records.
Unbeknownst to the band, Dennis Walker (no relation) was in the
audience. This was significant and fortuitous because he
happened to be the writer of one of the songs on the Delgado
list that day, "Where Do I Go From Here." Dennis Walker
loved their version, which led to a record deal with Hightone.
When Bobby Delgado received the call from Hightone's owner Larry
Slovan, Bob didn't believe it was him and hung up the phone.
Fortunately, Larry called back and a meeting was arranged with
Dennis and Bruce Bromberg, who would be their producers.
The Delgados only had four original songs at the time so Joey
began writing songs in collaboration with Dennis Walker.
The album simply called "The Delgado Brothers" was released in
1987. A single was also released of a Joey Delgado/Dennis
Walker song called "Fair Warning." The album sold in the
neighborhood of 25,000 copies, which is a good number for a
small independent label. Nonetheless, after about a year
the Delgado Brothers were let go by the label.
In 1994, the Delgado Brothers broke up having tired of the music
business. In 1997, John "Juke" Logan, a great blues harp
player, started a record company called Mocombo Records.
The Delgados had recently reunited to do the Chicano Music
Awards in Pasadena, California, an event put on by a Chicano
radio host and educator known as Sancho. On that show
Logan sat in with them and according to Joey, "got their juices
going." This led to the Delgado Brothers co-producing a CD
with Logan called "Let's Get Back" on his label.
The band members on this CD were Joey, Steve, and Bobby Delgado,
with "Reverend" Ray Solis on percussion. Guest
musicians included two members of Los Lobos; David Hidalgo
(accordion/guitar/vocals) and Victor Bissetti (timbales),
Michael Thompson on keyboards (now performing with The Eagles
and Don Henley), and The Texacalli Horns (Taj Mahal Phantom
Blues Band). One of the first songs written for the album
was "Church of El Monte." Joey and Bobby wrote the music
and Juke attempted to write the lyric. The brothers
weren't too happy with the lyric because in invoked images of
low riders, El Monte Legion Stadium, and the old school Chicano
culture. Steve Delgado wound up writing the lyric and in
the process the brothers realized Steve was the lyricist of the
band. The church of El Monte became the name of their
backyard studio and really the family homestead itself where all
the music was made. The name fit because it was a
congregation of musicians playing music for its own sake and
enjoyment. It was soulful and there was a lot of musical
testifying going on, a secular gospel music. Music is very
spiritual and in its own way a religion to many. There was
jamming in the garage and playing in the open air in the
backyard. Sometimes there would be several bands playing
for eight solid hours without complaints from the neighbors.
This story and spirit is what the brothers wanted the lyric to
"Church of El Monte" to convey. "Let's Get Back" is an
excellent album that heralded the return of the Delgado Brothers
after their break as the title of the collection suggests.
One of my other favorite songs on the CD is "No Regrets," a song
written for percussionist Ray Solis' father Ramon, who lived his
life with that philosophy.
The best thing that came out of the "Let's Get Back" album is
that two songs from it were later recorded by no less than English
blues legend John Mayall. Mayall has had some of the
greatest English musicians in his band over the years including
Eric Clapton and Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. A friend of
Juke's was the drummer for John Mayall's Blues Breakers.
He took the
songs to Mayall who loved them included them on his next album
"Along For the Ride." John Mayall was having a bit of a
problem recording one of the Delgado tracks so he invited them
down to the studio to help. Joey and Bobby showed up with
their gear, but Steve couldn't make it due to responsibilities
at his day job. Joey and Bobby wound up playing guitar and
bass respectively on "If I Don't Get Home." Mayall was happy
with the results
and made them honorary Blues Breakers. The brothers also
got to watch and cheer on Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top as he played
guitar on one of the other album tracks. It was quite a
day for the kids from East L.A.
With the money the Delgado Brothers made from their songs on the
John Mayall album, they recorded an a CD called "A Brother's
Dream," which was released in 2003. It's the next
evolution of the brothers in songwriting and performing.
All songs in the collection were written by Joey and Steve
Delgado and cover lots of different grooves and styles. (David
"B" Kelley, the band's keyboardist co-wrote a couple of the songs.)
Although most of the songs are blues-based, their song "Picture
of You" is not a blues, but a melodic ballad with a conga driven
groove with an acoustic guitar in the mix. "Jennie" is another
such example. One of the highlights on the album is "Talk To My
Friend," a gospel-style song written for a departed friend.
The Delgado Brothers band lineup on this CD is Joey (guitar,
vocals), Steve (drums/vocals), and Bobby Delgado (bass), along
with David Kelley (B3 organ), and Ray Solis (percussion).
The Delgado Brothers took five years to record their next album,
"Learn To Fly," which was released in 2009. It was worth
the wait. It's the best work they've done. The songs
are great as are the musicianship and vocals. Once again
Joey and Steve wrote all the songs, but this time David "B"
Kelley co-wrote the music on all tracks. David "B" Kelley
is also great Hammond B3 player, a white boy from Indiana who
plays like a black Chicago blues man. Many of the tracks
on "Learn To Fly" have
amazing horn arrangements by Lee Thornburg, who tastefully and
brilliantly layered French horn, trombone, trumpet, and sax
parts which enhanced the songs. There's no better example
of this than the title track, "Learn To Fly." The horns
are reminiscent of a style one might hear on a Steely
Dan record, which is about as good as it gets. On a gospel
style song, "If the World," the legendary Chambers Brothers
testify along with Steve Delgado's soulful vocal. Here's
how this musical blessing came to be. The Delgados were
playing a benefit and the Chambers Brothers were also on the
bill. Joey told Lester Chambers he was a fan to which
Lester replied "I've seen you many times at Cozy's," which is a
club in the San Fernando Valley where the Delgado's had often played. This led
to the Delgados asking the Chambers Brothers to sing on their
album. At first the Lester didn't want to do it because
the Chambers Brothers hadn't recorded together in ten years and
currently were only singing gospel music. Joey had to sing
part of the song to them on the phone before he finally came
around. On the day of the session, the Chambers Brothers
showed up in a limo dressed to the nines in suits. They
proceed to sing their hearts out on the track to such a level
that Steve had to leave the studio for a spell because it was so
overwhelming hearing them. The song musically comes off as
a gospel song and the message is a sermon of its own. "An
infant's eyes see no color, a mother's heart knows nothing but
love, a father's trust can never be broken, a lonely child is
held through the night, If the world could be like this, no more
sorrow would exist." On "Learn To Fly" Victor Bisetti was
a member of the band on percussion and drums. Both "A
Brother's Dream" and "Learn To Fly" albums were mixed by John Avila,
former bassist for Oingo Boingo.
I went to the CD release party for "Learn To Fly," which took
place at a hotel in Monrovia, California in 2009. The
place was packed to see the Delgado Brothers play the entire
album live. It was a great show and the Chambers Brothers
were there for "If the World." Steve Delgado was standing
between the Chambers Brothers who towered over him like a couple
of redwood trees, but his singing made him stand just as tall.
I next saw them at the Taste of Texas in Covina on the bill with
Tierra and the Big Manny Band. The most recent time was in
a city park in Monrovia, California for the 4th of July celebration of
2011. This time on percussion they had the great Walfredo
Reyes, who's played with Steve Winwood and Lindsey Buckingham.
He's also the current drummer for El Chicano. As always, The
Delgado Brothers are just as good live as on record
and very enjoyable. They play with incredible groove and
soul. I'll repeat what I said in the first paragraph, the Delgado Brothers can play, sing, and write.
They're the real deal. Their CDs are available at
cdbaby.com and amazon.com, which you can access from the
links below. Their website is
This article is
based on an audio taped telephone interview by Mark Guerrero
with Joey and Steve Delgado on September 22, 2009 and Bobby
Delgado on July 7, 2011.