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Little Joe surprises fans at Tejano concert

Sunny Ozuna performed at the Plaza Theatre on Saturday during the Tejano Legends concert. (Vanessa Monsisvais / El Paso Times)

EL PASO — A star-studded bill of Grammy-winning Tejano giants got even better when Tejano favorite Little Joe Hernandez made a surprise appearance Saturday night in El Chuco.

Ruben Ramos and the Mexican Revolution, Sunny Ozuna and the River City Band — all playing Saturday night — were a strong enough draw to pack El Paso’s Plaza Theatre with more than 2,000 people.

But Hernandez’s special appearance turned the third Tejano Legends concert into a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see pioneers of the Tejano sound all in one show.

“This year is 50 years since I began enjoying making music. I’ve been a hand-me-down commodity in the homes of these families,” he said. “For me, to do this is just something that I know needs to be done.”

A founder of the Tejano Legends annual fundraiser for Centro de los Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos, Hernandez originally opted to sit out this year, but after a late cancellation he decided to come to El Chuco (an unofficial name for El Paso) for the concert.

Backstage, Hernandez told the El Paso Times that he traces his history with El Paso to at least the 1960s. He credited El Paso radio personality Steve Crosno for popularizing many Tejano songs throughout the region.

He said he had to come back especially because many El Paso households have enjoyed his music for generations.

“I’m a migrant worker. I picked cotton and met (activist) César Chávez in 1969 and 1970 and fell in step with the movement,” the three-time

Grammy winner said.

Hernandez’s appearance thrilled the audience, whose first glimpse of him came when he showed up on stage. Promoter Ramiro Guzmán joked with the audience before introducing Ozuna, but instead Hernandez came out and played “Knock on Wood” and “Pietra Linda.”

Ramos, who this year was awarded a Grammy for his album “Viva La Revolución,” described playing in El Paso as a great way to get in touch with fans. He added that he supports the cause because he, too, was born into a farm-working family.

“It’s exciting, coming to Chuco town. It’s always an exciting trip and an exciting concert for me,” Ramos said. “El Paso has been here for me since the 1970s, when I started my own band.”

Guzmán said a concert featuring big Tejano names brings back memories for El Pasoans, many of whom listened to Saturday’s musicians while working the fields, at backyard barbecues and dances, and while serving in Vietnam.

“Latinos still listen to this music when they’re out in the fields,” he said. “This is the music a lot of El Pasoans grew up with.”

Darren Meritz may be reached at; 546-6127.

Some interesting comments too. Cool Breeze from Houston writes:

Que aguite que no pude ir al bailongo! This is one of the final opportunities to see the Founders of Tejano/Conjunto Music appearing together. The years are passing too quickly, and nobody’s forever. I remember the first time I heard “A La Guerra Ya Me Llevan” by Little Joe and the Latinaires, at one of my Padrino Ricardo’s house parties, during the early Vietnam era. It was quite a mixture of family, patriotism, and a sound that was being promoted all over the Southwest by Uncle Stevie Crosno, and Ruben Gonzalez. Little Louie from Howell Electronics was also part of Crosno’s Hop!
Then there was Sunny and the Sunglows “Live at the Hollywood Palladium”. I used to sing Carino Nuevo to a new girlfriend, about once a week at a Spotlight Dance, or at the Ascarate Pavilion, or at the YWCA! Que Barbaro! Those were the days – Getting chased around the neighborhood by Officer Joe Messer after curfew, hanging out at the store behind the YMCA, playing football in the dark at the Art Museum….. Lovin’ my Chicano Life!
Tonight I get to read about the concert on the internet, getting homesick here in Baghdad, Iraq. Most of us can remember when we weren’t welcome at the Plaza Theater, and now my Heroes of La Onda Chicana play that venue. Un Fuerte Abrazo a toda la raza de El Paso! ARRIBA EL CHUCO! ARRIBA TEJANO MUSIC! ARRIBA CESAR CHAVEZ! ARRIBA LA RAZA!

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