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El Barrio del Diablo: FastForward to the Music – My 2nd Rock Show

December 1969: A couple months had gone by since the Steppenwolf concert and I wondered what band would be next to rock the county cow barn.

As I inked my drawings one evening with the local FM rock station on in the background, I flipped in delight when a radio spot announced the Iron Butterfly were scheduled to play the Coliseum.

ironbtflI was ecstatic. I’d been a fan for almost a year and owned their first three albums. BALL, their third LP, was played daily on my tired old turntable.

The previous year, “In a Gadda da Vida” was released to critical acclaim becoming a massive commercial hit for the band. The album produced an abridged single for AM radio play, clocking in at 2:52, while FM rock aficionados were treated to the entire seventeen minute psychedelic anthem.

The album was a study in itself. It sold 30 million records world wide, guitarist Eric Brann was a mere 17 years young when the LP was released, and the title song was recorded in one take. Very impressive by 1969’s standards.

On the day of the show I arrived around 4:30, and couldn’t stop looking at the marquee with the band’s name in big black letters. It was a wow moment for me – this event was my second rock show and I had a feeling I’d be witnessing music history along with several thousand other fans.

The huge delivery doors that faced Paisano Drive were still open and no one was around.

As I nonchalantly walked inside the Coliseum’s main floor I was immediately distracted and puzzled with the stage set up. It was centered on the east side of the venue atop the first few rows of bleachers, above the cement wall that separated the floor from the stands.

irnbtvBecause of this layout, the entire half of the seating on the east side was closed.

It looked odd, and it was unusual to see the staging so high up above where the audience would be – on the cement floor.

Gone was the intimate four foot stage that was predominantly used in so many of those late sixties–early seventy shows.

Eventually, my lingering was noticed and I had to leave and wait outside for the main doors to open.

Evening came and a large crowd had gathered in front of the main doors. Once we were let in, many fans walked down a big ramp that had been set up to allow access to the floor from the bleacher section.

I made my way to the tall stage as close as possible as hundreds of others had also joined in sitting festival style. At showtime, a local band called McKatush were first up – a garage type trio that covered popular hits like The Plastic Ono Band’s “Cold Turkey”.

They rocked it good, and what a gig it was for them to open for such a high profile and established rock band.

After intermission the lights dimmed and amid the cheers, I was puzzled to see a couple spotlights reveal several dignitaries alongside the members of the Iron Butterfly.

The band was being honored for their “In a Gadda da Vida” album’s mega sales and popularity in Mexico, and were presented with butterfly pendants that were placed around their paisley shirt collars.

The four guys stood sheepishly at the front of the stage as the presenters posed for a photo-op with the “band of the year.” The camera’s flash ended the impromptu Kodak moment and as some polite applause dissipated, the band quickly took their places ridding the the moment of the awkward formalities.

Eric Brann, Guitar • Ron Bushy, Drums • Lee Dorman, Bass • Doug Ingle, Organ & vocals

The opening guitar riffs to “You Cant Win” tore into the air.

It was loud and heavy, just as expected.

The band then cranked out “Flowers and Beads”, “Soul Experience”, “In the Time of our Lives”, without any banter in between the music.

As their set continued into the evening with their psychedelic colored compositions, the final entry was no surprise to everyone as the keyboard’s familiar intro notes to “In a Gadda da Vida” was met with thunderous applause.

In the middle of the long jam, during Ron Bushy’s trademark drum solo, guitarist Eric Brann stood close to the drum kit, bouncing in place as he hooted and hollered indian style.

The crowd loved the long anthem and rose to an ovation as the last note was played.

For the encore the band churned out the Iron Butterfly Theme; a slow, hypnotic instrumental from their first album, accented with Doug Ingle’s haunting background vocals within parts of the densely electrified music. I was in awe; the Butterfly enveloped the audience with a powerful and dream-like sound that closely paralleled their studio albums.

It was a show I have never forgotten.

I’ve heard first hand stories of what acid trips are like and in retrospect, The Iron Butterfly Theme’s layered effects and heavy production could be the epitome of tripping out on LSD.

Google the song and if you listen to all four minutes and thirty-five seconds, you’ll need to be snapped out of your trance when its over.

1969 gave way to the new year and after witnessing a couple of heavy rock acts just months apart, I wasn’t prepared for what was headed to EP.

Do you recall any rock shows from that era? Leave a comment! I’d like to hear from you.

Jose Oswaldo RicoJosé Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor

Previous  columns HERE

El Barrio del Diablo: Life in Montoya – Nature Calls

In 1965 we moved to the outskirts of town to the Upper Valley. After living in the projects for five years, it was a bit weird for me to get used to this unincorporated area in west El Paso.

It looked like a barren countryside for miles as we traveled West Paisano Drive (CanAm Highway), from downtown, then connected to Doniphan to get to Montoya. Whenever we went to Juarez my dad always took this route.

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 9.26.31 AMBut that was his drag of choice: West Doniphan Drive…or Highway 80.

A long stretch of lonely road that started from ASARCO’s Smeltertown and extended to the New Mexico border near the town of Anthony – roughly fifteen miles as the crow flies.

The street lamps at night became so few and far between that from my POV in the backseat of the car, some lights seemed to cast ghostly shadows on the road and the brush.

I guess I watched too many scary movies.

To say there weren’t many businesses out here would be an understatement; a lone traveler would certainly be in a tight spot if their car broke down or ran out of gas.baarber

So it was another one of those Saturdays when we all piled into the car and traveled across the border to visit relatives and buy groceries.

On this day my older brother Vince drove, papa rode shotgun and mom and I were in the back. Since dad was relaxed in having a designated driver, I’m sure he had visions of his favorite fire-water beverages dancing in his head.

monoWe stopped at a peluqueria and got our haircuts at a nice barber shop across the street from the Plaza de Toros Alberto Balderas. And mom always shopped at the Mercado for produce, pan dulce and other snacks.

I’d buy a goofy looking puppet and maybe a spinning top.

Somewhere else along the way papa would get a wooden crate of 24 sixteen-ounce soda bottles.

Half of it were all Cocas, the rest a mix of Seven Up, orange and strawberry flavors.coke

He also bought his two cartons of red Marlboros and would gas up the car with Pemex fuel.

Next, we’d go see our abuelos. My Tio Fito and Tia Ema lived alongside so we also visited with them and stayed a while. Out of sheer convenience, papa would go to the corner bar and have a few.

And after that he’d have a few more.

tresNext on the list was a birthday celebration at our Tia Quica’s house, papa’s favorite sister. They lived past La Plaza de Toros Monumental, over by El Seminario . We spent the entire day there, enjoying good food, cake, sodas, games and music.

There was a pomegranate bush in the front yard and we’d pick a couple ripe ones, spending a long time peeling it carefully to get the juicy seeds out. Kept us out of pometrouble.

At the end of a long afternoon of fun and games, it all came to a close. We hugged our tios and said our long goodbyes, waving adios as we drove away.

Tio Rogelio and Tia Quica were always wonderful to all of us – I liked going to their house a lot.

While we waited in line at the bridge over by the Chamizal, we slowly approached the customs agent booth.

bridgeStill feeling the inebriated buzz from his day’s intake, papa gave me some border-crossing advice: “Waldo…cuando te pregunta el señor en donde naciste, dile que eres nalgas prietas”. Mom giggled, Vince laughed and I didn’t get it.

Why I would want to tell a customs agent that my butt was brown?

We greeted the agent, crossed over and no, I didn’t take my dad’s advice.

The sun had set and it was still another warm night as we drove into town, heading home on the same route along Paisano. Tired from a long day of visiting and partying it was quiet inside the car as we passed up the last of the fading city lights.

The evening got pitch black except for the dashboard’s glow and the high beams shining on the road a couple hundred feet ahead. I don’t recall much traffic at all, it was just another quiet night.

Doniphan Drive had no shoulder; just dirt that led to the many bushes and brush that paralleled the road about fifty feet from the asphalt. We were about ten miles from home when Papa broke the silence. “Para el carro, tengo que hacer”. Vince pulled over on command, slowed to a stop and our extra-extra large father figure got out. I whispered, “What did he say?”, Mom replied, “Tiene que hacer chi”. “Oh, he’s gotta pee,” I said.

He walked about thirty feet from the car close to the bushes with lots of room to spell his name on the ground if he wanted. In the quiet of night, with zero traffic around we all waited. Then we hear him say aloud: “Necesito papel”. We looked at one another. “What?” I said in amazement, “He needs paper? He pooped outdoors? Really?”

Like magic, mom grabs a roll I didn’t know we had in the back seat and hands it to Vince, volunteering him. “Toño, llevaselo”. Vince grabs the roll, looks at me … and says, “Here, take this to him”. Oh no…I got handed the hot potato…do I give it back to mom? … I thought about it for half a second. Meanwhile papa is waiting.

I sighed out loud and as I opened the door a car suddenly drove by on our side of the road. I froze. Their high beams lit everything up in its path: all of us, papa and the entire scene around him, including the evidence.

That moment was like a scene in a movie – when a UFO lights up the entire countryside at night. The brightness illuminated all of us like a big round prison spotlight.

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 9.46.38 AMBusted, and what timing. Obviously the people in the passing car witnessed a full moon that night – and so much more. My door was still open and as I sat there momentarily, I could not believe this turn of events. I reluctantly got out of the car and walked sideways towards a very unconcerned father.

Trying not to look in his direction, I edged myself closer to where my peripheral vision sees an outstretched hand. He grabs the roll and I want to run, but I walk back humiliated and get back in the car.

As we wait in the car I turn to see him buckling his belt, standing over the object of his creation. And as if it were a pet he looks down and gestures at it with a pointing finger saying loudly, “Ahí te voy a dejar, y mañana vengo a recojerte”.

“I’m leaving you there, and I will pick you up tomorrow”.

Mom giggled out loud, Vince laughed like I have never heard before, and I shook my head in disbelief.

Papa got in the car and without a word we all continued home in silence as if nothing had happened – oblivious to the moonrise coming out from behind Mount Franklin.

Jose Oswaldo RicoJosé Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor

Previous  columns HERE

El Barrio Del Diablo: Life in Montoya – Dude, Where’s My Car?

In 1965, two weeks after starting sixth grade, we moved to a neighborhood in Montoya in the Upper Valley; traveling west on Doniphan, we turned left on Montoya Road to our house at 371 Ontiveros Street. The following story occured in the 1967. I was 13, out of school for the summer and ready to goof off for three months. Nothing could go wrong.

Papa owned a 4 door, all-white 1959 Oldsmobile and worked swing shift at Border Steel Mills. I became a chauffeur by default at the age of 12, when I started driving the Olds on the side roads to take mom to the grocery store.

She shopped at Farmer’s Market located at the NE corner of the “crossroads” – where Mesa Street ends at Doniphan Drive. It was one of those family stores with a diner inside, but its long since gone.

Summer days were moving right along and there was a little family reunion at our house. My oldest sister Gloria, came to visit from L.A., and likewise, my other sister Vicky and her husband Charles drove all the way from Fort Wayne, Indiana in a VW bug.

My brother Vince was noticeably absent, stationed overseas in Da Nang, Viet Nam. Concerned for his well being on a daily basis, we all watched the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite  – hoping and praying the war with North Viet Nam would end.

Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 7.49.50 PM (1)Papa’s all-time favorite watering hole and “second home” was Los Cuatro Vientos in Juarez, just across the street from El Mercado.

He’d easily spend an average of four hours getting loaded, smoking his Marlboro’s, bullshitting with friends, singing, playing “dados” ( yahtzee ), smoking and getting loaded some more.

Then he’d get in his car and drive home, negotiating turns and traffic lights in a condition that would alarm the most hardened city cops.

He somehow avoided getting pinched by the mexican police, crossed the border hoping the U.S. Customs agents wouldn’t detain him, avoided the El Paso police and the State Patrol along the Doniphan corridor to Montoya – for a total of 15 miles. Amazingly, he would make it home in one piece and collapse on his bed.bridge

We were always beyond relieved when he got home.

I couldn’t help but feel that it was miraculous every time he went to Juarez and returned home in such a state. Papa must have had a giant-sized guardian angel as his co-pilot.

It had to be Gabriel, the Archangel. Because of having to watch over such a high-maintenence mortal, an extremely fatigued Gabriel must have made weekly appointments with his therapist.

When papa finally quit drinking cold turkey in 1970 due to doctor’s orders, I bet that poor angel put in for an early retirement and bought a beach front home in Malibu. He earned it big time.

One afternoon during the visit, Gloria, Vicky and Charles were chatting in the living room. Mom turned to me and said, “Go get your dad’s

Mi papa, Antonio Rico Rubio ( 1965 )
Mi papa, Antonio Rico Rubio ( 1965 )

thermos and lunchbox from out of the car. I need to get his things ready soon”.

Papa’s shift started around 5 pm and the big bear was in his den snoring away. I went out to the car, walked around to the driver’s side…and stopped dead on my tracks.

I was standing next to a white Oldsmobile with a design on the side of the car. It had a sideways1959 Oldsmobile-32 V-shaped paint job that came to a point at the front door and widened further back towards the rear left fender. It was a shade of aqua with aluminum trim.

“What?”, I said to myself outloud, “That is not our car. Ours is solid white!” Confused, I opened the door thinking that Papa’s thermos and lunchbox would be on the front seat.

Wrong. No thermos, no nothin’…and, the interior was a completely different color. I sensed something really bad and ran back in the house. Mom was in the kitchen making another batch of flour tortillas. I told her the car outside wasn’t ours.

With a puzzled face she followed me, and I pointed to the color trim on the sides. Her expression changed to a look of concern as I opened the car door and revealed the interior. Panic set in.

She ran back inside and interrupted the conversation in the living room. Gloria, Vicky and Charles’ expressions changed in less than a heartbeat as they all hoofed it quickly out the door.

With mom and I close behind, my eyes shifted from one family member to another. There was murmuring and there was whispering. Perplexed, we all went back inside.

I sat with the others in the living room. Do we wake dad up? Are you kidding? He worked hard and we had an unwritten rule to never-ever wake him – unless the place was on fire.

Thankfully it never came to that; mom and I monitored him and would slip the cigarette away from his fingers at times when he dozed off.

So we faced a most unusual dilemma as I Iistened to my sisters discuss the “what, who, why, where and whens”. I sat transfixed, wondering what the hell could have happened. My thirteen year old mind was not able to attempt a detective’s process of elimination. The words “That is not our car”, were still ringing in my head…sounding like a broken record.

The first thing everyone asked about was dad’s set of keys. Yes, they were his. Mom and I checked them out and verified it.

Bewildered, we looked at oner another and asked, “How could this happen? How could these keys fit a totally different car?”

David Copperfield would be totally impressed. He would have hired Papa and used him in a new Vegas act, “And now, the Amazing Antonio and his wonder car!”

We talked over this scenario: Papa always parked close to the bar’s entrance. The other Olds must have been close by or worse, directly next to our car.

As he walked out of the bar with a giant-sized buzz, Murphy’s Law had set him up to fail: he walks up to the wrong car, the keys opened the wrong door and he was able to start the wrong ignition. Three strikes in a row…a triple-whammy. What are the odds? And where was the parking attendant…also in the bar?

A creature of habit in his altered state, the only thought in his foggy mind was to drive home and he did; in a mostly white Oldsmobile. Hey, close enough….I can end the story here.

After more discussion, a plan was hatched: first on the list was to take dad’s keys and return the imposter Olds and park it close to the bar as discreetly as possible – at 2 in the afternoon in the middle of summer, no less.

We held our breath and hoped our Oldsmobile would still be there in order to pull off the ol’ switcheroo. And that’s how it went down.

Gloria drove the mystery car while Vicky and Charles followed in the VW.

Mom and I stayed home and waited a couple long hours, till we finally heard them drive up. It was dad’s white Olds with Gloria behind the wheel and Vicky and Charles right behind.

They made it back in time – Papa was gonna be getting up soon. I wasn’t in on any additional conversation and don’t know if mom had any pointed questions once everyone returned. I was just glad that our car was back so I went to a friend’s house.

My sisters were setting the table as I walked out the door.

During dinner I’m sure that Gloria, Vicky and Charles dissected the day’s adventure – analyzing it once more in greater detail, then they probably turned to our quiet mom and said, “Great chile rellenos, mama”.

Did anyone tell Papa about this escapade? Hell no. Knowing my family, this unusual matter fell into a category you readers know very well as “better left unsaid”. And I never again thought about the mysterious Oldsmobile and who it belonged to. One of his drinking buddies? The bartender? A tourist?

But there was one thing. I should have stuck around that afternoon when Papa entered the picture and sat at the dinette table, with everyone’s curious eyes upon him.

Finishing his meal and coffee, and getting up to leave to work in his stoic manner, and with a five-day hangover for sure, I wish I could have said to him with a cat-that-ate-the-canary look on my face, “Have a nice day, papa”.

And Gabriel? I can’t thank you enough.

Jose Oswaldo RicoJosé Oswaldo Rico, Guest Contributor

Previous  columns HERE