Roberto Heraclio “Rocky Jr.” García only joined the band Norteño Los Huracanes Del Norte in 2005, but it has been part of his whole life.
García joined the band—which includes his father, Heraclio “Rocky” García, and three uncles—to play bajo sexto (Mexican 12-string guitar) and provide vocals. Rocky Sr. and the band’s accordionist, Jose Luis “El Chapete” Mejía, were not compatible with singing harmonies over romantic-themed material together, but Rocky Jr. was.
“I jammed with El Chapete and sang with him and my dad. My dad said, ‘You know what? I bet it’s time for you guys to come over here and start singing together,’ García told The Desert Sun in a recent phone interview. “I guess the reason I came in was to be closer to my dad and travel with him because I missed all of that growing up and going to school.”
Los Huracanes Del Norte celebrates its 50th anniversary and will perform on January 29 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.
Norteño music, a genre of 19th-century Mexican music that incorporates polka and waltz tempos, has been popular in the United States and Mexico for decades.
García said this tour is different from what the band is used to. The band members choose to perform at early night venues to accommodate families and older fans who cannot attend late night shows at nightclubs and dance halls.
“It’s a tough way of life”
The group has recorded over 900 songs since 1973, had several hits and toured throughout the United States and Mexico. García said his father and uncles would go out for a month and stay home for three days before hitting the road again in the 80s and 90s. He described his childhood in Portales, New Mexico, as “hectic” .
“Now they find out they missed a lot of things,” García said. “I thank God for what my family is, who my parents are and the business they chose. It’s a tough lifestyle, and it’s not for everyone. This contract with a Mexican band is hard work and a lot of sacrifice.
He and his four siblings were often put to work on their rural property when Rocky Sr. was home, but when the group hit the road the family was joined by four cousins and there was an opportunity to relax a bit.
“We were always freaking out the moment they came back,” García said. “We were all rushing to clean things around the house and the homework they left for us. It was weird too, because every time my dad came home, instead of us being excited, we were afraid we weren’t going to do something.
While most children were discovering alternative music and hip-hop, García listened to Mexican music on the radio. He wasn’t bilingual until third grade, and the family didn’t listen to music with English lyrics – they “listened to what we knew”. This meant that the only radio station in their area played regional Mexican music.
“Listen to the radio here and you’ll hear country, metal, oldies, classic rock and all these different music stations. Mexicans have a station in their area that plays everything that has to do with Mexican music,” García said. “We didn’t have YouTube and stuff, so we were listening to (regional Mexican music) and hearing about things through word of mouth.”
The band has a loyal multi-generational following, and it was often nervous about making mistakes and not knowing how to perform on stage during its first three years, but the crowd backed it up.
“When they started introducing the kids to us, they accepted us and took us on like we’d been in the group forever,” García said.
There’s a difference in the way the band tours now – the musicians are spending more time at home. García said his father and uncles are now grandparents. He enjoys watching his daughter play basketball and spending time with his son.
If the band is on tour, they can be found on the tour bus watching YouTube videos of other Mexican bands or doing what they really love – driving the bus.
“I usually put in six hours every time we’re on the road because I get really anxious in the back or sitting down,” García said.
If you are going to
What: Concert Los Huracanes Del Norte
When: Saturday January 29
Or: Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84-245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio
Tickets: $39 to $59
Desert Sun reporter Brian Blueskye covers arts and entertainment. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bblueskye. Support local news, subscribe to The Desert Sun.