El Chicano band member joins elite group in Rock and Roll Heaven
By Joe Ortiz, Contributing Writer
Bobby Espinosa, the highly acclaimed organist and co-founder of the legendary El Chicano music group, was memorialized on Saturday, March 20, 2010, by family members, fellow musicians and close friends.
Espinosa, who has been a part of every recording the group has ever released, and was still actively performing with it in concerts all over the world, passed away on February 27, 2010. The gifted musician was recently inducted into "Hammond Heroes," an elite society of the best players on the Hammond organ, becoming the only Chicano Artist ever to be recognized for his unique style of Blues, Jazz and Latin music on the Hammond B3 organ.
At a heart warming memorial mass at St Alfonsus Church in East Los Angeles, and a special musical tribute by fellow performers at Stevens Steakhouse in the City of Industry, California, friends, family members and fellow musicians sent Espinosa off to rock and roll heaven, again, becoming the first Chicano to join another elite group of rock and roll musicians.
“I never knew Bobby personally, but I admired his work from a distance for many years, said Alan O’Day, who co-wrote the song “Rock and Roll Heaven” made famous by The Righteous Brothers recording hit in 1974. O’Day, who is best known for his 1977 number I hit, “Undercover Angel,” grew up with and performed with many Mexican Americans throughout southern California.
“It’s sad that a great musician like Bobby Espinosa has left us,” said O’ Day “but we finally have a Chicano among Heaven’s most gloriously renowned musicians.” In O’Day’s Rock And Roll Heaven song, he cited luminary performers such as Jimmy Hendricks, Janis Joplin. Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, Bobby Darrin and other legendary rock and roll heroes.
Over a hundred friends, family members and fellow musicians witnessed a personal musical tribute to Espinosa at Steven’s Steakhouse (a renowned Latino venue) in the City of Industry, performed by fellow El Chicano band members and other Latino musicians who knew and had performed with Espinosa during his 40 year career with El Chicano.
Freddie Sanchez, fellow co-founder and manager of the El Chicano band, coordinated the tribute to Espinosa, recognizing that his fellow musicians, family and friends needed to personally acknowledge Espinosa’s contribution to the music world, and to thank him for their own personal relationship with the gifted musician.
“As Bobby's brother and longest musical partner, I put this personal tribute together for everyone to attend with love in their hearts for this Chicano icon, and for everything that El Chicano’s music has always stood for,” said Sanchez.
“In our commitment to express our positive feelings and our love for our community, it is my intention to continue the legacy of El Chicano, which Bobby was a major part of, that we are still alive, and our new billing and theme will henceforth be" El Chicano Vive".
Sanchez added that he personally was grateful for the outpouring of sentiments from the musical world and (especially) the East Los Angeles community.
“I could rattle off the hundreds of names and well wishes and condolences I received from throughout the musical world, and also the great throng of musical brothers and sisters who gathered together to pay personal tribute to Bobby,” said Sanchez.
“They know who they are, and they would all agree that the important fact is that we finally have a Chicano musician in Rock and Roll Heaven, and many more will join that select group in the future.”