Today, Hugo Guerrero is Tejano music’s most in-demand independent record producer.
It all started at about the same time he made musical history when he took a Colombian music genre, tweaked it, introduced it to a Tejano audience, and it became an overnight sensation in 1994.
Since then, it’s been all uphill for him as he continues to add more musical notches to his belt. Truth-be-told, as a musician, he has been accomplishing, achieving and climbing up the ladder since he was a little boy.
“On my sixth birthday, my father Genaro, who sang and played a mean harmonica, gave me an accordion to, as he said, ‘break it or tear it up.’ Instead I surprised him and learned how to play it,” Hugo said during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
At 11, Hugo mastered the piano, than he couldn’t wait to enter Christian Junior High School where he learned to play drums, the marimba, guitar, bass and congas.
Incidentally, Hugo’s mother Blanca Rosa Leal de Guerrero used to sing with a mariachi. Therefore his musical talent was inherited.
In 1973, the elementary school student joined Martín López and a group of Laredo Martín High School kids called La Onda Chica.
“That’s also about the same time that an uncle in Mexico had a Hawaiian tropical group and I would sneak in, put a record on the turntable, grab an instrument and play along with his records, so cumbias come very naturally to me.”
Two years later, Hugo joined Chacho and the Maximillians as a keyboard player. However, his first big break came in 1978, when he joined and toured Mexico with Sergio Ruiz y Grupo Santa Cecilia. When Sergio was unable to show up, Hugo had no choice but to sing lead vocals. And, that is when he became a lead vocalist.
From 1983 to June 1989, Hugo formed part of Johnny Hernández and Third Coast. Then he, Balde Muñoz and Laura Canales formed Fandango USA featuring Hugo on lead vocals and Laura on female vocals. However, he felt limited, quit, and formed Party Band who churned out The Party’s Just Begun plus The Party’s Over, his first two hit albums.
As for the band’s name, the long-blonde-haired vocalist said, “I was invited to eat at a fancy restaurant, which required invitations. So when they called and asked me what name I wanted my table reserved under, I could not think of anything and just said, Hugo Guerrero and party.”
Eventually Hugo rejoined Fandango USA and in 1994, they made history with a monster hit titled “La Charanga.”
“This day we had done nine songs and we needed a tenth tune as a filler when this tune was suggested, but I was very reluctant to do it because it was too cartoonist for me,” said Hugo. “It was a tune I really didn’t want to record it, so we didn’t expect much from it. I didn’t remember the intro and I couldn’t remember the melody, so I started out by imitating ‘La Cocaleca.’ We improvised, then I added some rap and that was it.”
Little did they realize it would be the standout tune in the album and when people yelled out for them to perform it during live performances but they really didn’t know it.
“So we have to relearn it. Now we call that song la levanta muertos (wake up the dead). We knew something had happened, but didn’t know what until we had arrived for a gig at T-Town and there was a long line to get in. In fact there were so many people they had to call in the police to direct traffic. Since then I’d had to sing that song at each and every gig.”
Needless to say, “La Charanga” took Hugo and Fandango to Calle Ocho in Miami plus many new places, especially in Mexico where they shared the stage with Los Reyes, Los Socios Del Ritmo and many other top groups.
Here in Texas you could break out the accordion and play a polka but Mexico was more tropical and we even started dancing with sombrero’s habaneros and white pants. We even did a commercial for Coors in Beverly Hills where I say, ‘puro sabor, pura vida, ahhh.’ We also played for President Bill Clinton when he was running against Bob Dole in 1996.”
Then the hazel-eyed charangero took a sabbatical and went to work as a producer/recording engineer at Freddie Records in Corpus Christi in 1999.
In 2001, Hugo earned a Grammy Award for Leyendas y Raices, which he produced in 2000. Other kudos read: Carefully sculpted by producer Hugo Guerrero, these singers (Freddie, Sunny Ozuna, Augustine Ramírez, Carlos Guzmán and Joe Bravo) put all of the fun in this collection … Refreshing keyboard harmonies and melodies provided by Mr. Guerrero meet gladly with uplifting accordion work and timeless declarations of love by “the boys.”
He also did some producing at studios in the Rio Grande Valley, for most of Hacienda recording artists in Corpus Christi, plus Creatia in Dallas.
In 2002, he and Janie Olivares created Nightmare Audio Productions and he took off as an independent producer.
Asked how many albums he has produced, Hugo said, “I already lost count. The last time I counted it was approximately 130 and that includes genres such as norteño and banda for well-known artists to bands and vocalists that nobody knows. And that does not include my creations as a music arranger plus mastering the audio for Daniel Baldwin’s latest movie soundtrack.”
“I’m so busy I’m now on automatic. So don’t ask me for exact numbers because I’m an artist. I am not good at office work, so in reality, I never sat down to keep records, or create a chronicle of what I’ve done.
“Right now and all this year, I’m hungry. I’m on a roll. And, I’m giving my productions a big push because I still have several homeruns left in me,” Hugo said.
To book the recording studio or his band, one can contact the now New Braunfels, Texas resident at (830) 822-2357.