& Bobby Robles: Two Generations of Music in Los Angeles
by Mark Guerrero
singer/guitarist Edward “Lalo” Robles was a regular performer
at La Golondrina Café on Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.
He had read about the first Mexican-American to die in battle
in the Korean War, Santiago Rosas. Rosas had been given full
military honors at his funeral service in Los Angeles. Lalo
Robles was thinking about the fallen soldier on a bus on the way
to perform at Camp Pendleton for the Marines with other
performers from La Golondrina when someone on the bus suggested
that Robles write a song, any song. Robles was a fine tenor
vocalist and guitarist, but had never really written a song
before. The lyrics about Santiago Rosas came to him quickly.
He described it as “a moment of inspiration that I suppose comes
once in a lifetime.” The lyrics were set to music by Isabel
Young Wood, a member of the Mexican Civil Defense Corps, who was
also riding on the bus.
Robles returned to Los Angeles he searched for the mother of
Santiago Rosas and received permission from the family to record
the song. He found her living with her husband and nine other
children in a very humble home. Santiago, who was only eighteen
years old when he was killed, was the oldest offspring in the
family. Mr. Rosas was too ill to support the family and until
the time of Santiago’s death, the State provided $190 a month.
However, Santiago’s GI insurance was now being paid at only $150
a month and the State compensation had been cut off. Robles
recorded the song and instructed that the proceeds of the record
sales be turned over to the Rosas family. Famed singer Andy
Russell (a Mexican-American born Andrés Rabago Perez) said he
would record the song in English and likewise turn over his
share of the profits to the Rosas family.
English translation of Robles’ powerful and poetic lyrics would
be “This is a story that palpitates… It tells of the bravery of
a soldier. Aztec was his blood and his lineage. Two countries
recognize his loyalty….The war in Korea destroyed his life and
his dreams. Running to the aid of a Yank who fell, his daring
had put him in the line of fire. Under the blue skies, the
field of honor was stained crimson….His body was wrapped in
glory, a flag-draped casket. His name will always be enshrined
in the book of heroes. Santiago Rosas you are a good soldier.
You will always live in the hearts of all who fight for
liberty.” Robles was quoted as saying that the lyrics “sound a
little corny in English, I guess. The Spanish words seem a
little deeper.” I'm sure Lalo Robles was being somewhat
modest when he said that. I don't think they sound corny
at all in English, but I'm sure they sound more profound in
Spanish which is usually the case.
Robles also appeared in many movies in scenes where he played
guitar and sang and in small parts as a Warner Brothers contract
player. Some of the films in which he appeared are "Pillow
Talk" with Rock Hudson and Doris Day; "Pepe" with Cantinflas;
"East of Eden" with James Dean; "Come Fill the Cup" with James
Cagney; and the classic "Rio Bravo" with John Wayne, Ricky Nelson, and
Dean Martin, in which he also played and sang on the soundtrack.
Lalo also appeared in television shows such as "Hawaiian Eye,"
"The Spade Cooley Show," "The Betty White Show,"
"Daniel Boone," "The Doyle Dell Round-up," "The Tennessee Ernie
Ford Show," "The Art Linkletter Show," and "Wendy and Me" with
Connie Stevens and George Burns.
Robles was 33 years of age when he wrote the song and living
with his wife and five children in Monterey Park, California.
They went on to have nine children. Offspring number seven
went on to become one of the best guitar players to ever emerge
from the fertile music scene of East Los Angeles, Bobby Robles.
Bobby currently plays regularly with East L.A.'s legendary band,
Thee Midniters, but has also recorded and/or played with other
notable artists. He has recorded with Airto and Flora
Purim on their Grammy nominated album "Touching You Touching Me"
with Alphonso Johnson and George Duke; Steve Smith and Ross
Vallory of Journey; Indian pop star K.J. Jesudas on his album
"Ahimsa" with Alex Acuña; Americana artist Jerry Giddens with
Dave Alvin of The Blasters; Jackie DeShannon's "You Know Me"
album; and Clare Muldaur's "Sweetheart" album. Bobby's
played "live" shows with Jackson Browne, Alanis Morissette, Lyle
Lovett, El Chicano, The Jordanaires, Shirley Jones, Natalie
Cole, and Reba McEntire. At age 15, Bobby was in a scene
with Elvis Presley in his movie "Change of Habit." In
2012, Bobby had the honor of playing with Paul McCartney at an
fundraising event sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Tom Hanks.
Coincidentally, my father, Lalo Guerrero, also played at La
Golondrina Café on Olvera Street, probably a few years before
Bobby’s dad played the venue, and shared the same first name,
Edward, and Spanish language nickname, Lalo. Edward "Lalo"
Robles passed away in 1987. Bobby played with me in
September 2010 at “Fiesta Days” in Palm Springs, California as
part of a seven piece band. He did a great job playing a set of
my music and I look forward to us working together again. He’s
got a fine technique, a great sound, and can play well in many
styles, including rock, jazz, rockabilly, and Latin. The list
of artists he's worked with is testament to the diversity of his
guitar playing. I’m sure his father would be proud.
& Bobby Robles Galleries
Lalo Robles on guitar
at La Golondrina Restaurant on Olvera Street (c.