Radio's One-Stop Salsa Source

Hector Resendez: La Voz behind 90.7's Canto Tropical

By Les Rivera
Published on LatinoLA: July 7, 2003

Radio's One-Stop Salsa Source

If one was to write a book on the history of West Coast salsa music, Hector Resendez would easily qualify as one of the founding fathers. Growing up in a Mexican-American family in Los Angeles during the era of Latin rock and Santana, Hector?s interest in tropical music began while listening to his parent?s records, which included LPs by Tito Puente, Ray Baretto, Aragon, Beny More, and other great artists and bands.

While interviewing this very well-known Southern California personality of salsa radio shows, I cannot help reflecting on Mr. Resendez?s very humble, intelligent, likeable, and pleasant personality. In the usual high profile hoopla of Hollywood glamour and glitter I find myself face to face with a celebrity whose feet are firmly planted on the ground. One cannot help being extremely impressed with this radio producer/host, whose voice is being heard by more than a quarter million people every Saturday.

Les Rivera: Hector, how did you first get involved in radio?

Hector Resendez: When I went to high school and college, I worked on the school paper. I heard about these two ?radicals?, Latinos? They were trying to start up a new show on the college radio station. It was Enrique 'Kiki' Soto and Raul Villa. KXLU had always been a classical radio station with chamber music. These two guys come along, and they wanted to do a Latin jazz ? salsa show.

After a year of beating their heads against the wall, they were given the opportunity to do a one hour pre-recorded show on Sunday afternoons. I went to their first meeting to do a story on them. Here I was, walking into the studio, and all these guys were lined up against the wall. Enrique and Raul were sitting in the middle, explaining what they were going to do.

Raul Villa gave the name ?Alma del Barrio? to the show, from the Joe Cuba album. So, they were going to meet every week, to discuss the show before they actually produced it.

I would come back every week to write my story. As the weeks went by, less and less people were showing up. After four to six weeks, it was just Kiki, Raul and myself. Raul said, Hector, you?ve been coming here every week, so we want you to become a part of this. I said, are you crazy? I am just here watching you guys. What ended up happening was Raul, as the engineer, did not want to go behind the microphone. He eventually did. Enrique and myself were the co-hosts. We did the show, recorded it, and from there it just launched. That was back in October of ?73.

Enrique left after a year, and I took over as Program Director. What we started doing was getting an hour here and there from students who did not want to do the show anymore. This was an all-student operated station. A lot of students did not want to stay on campus over the weekend. We grabbed an hour here and there, and before you knew it we had the whole weekend.

That?s how the show evolved. I was the Program Director there for about 12 years. We played a variety of music, from salsa to jazz. We were doing local groups, such as La Tierra, with whom we did their first radio interview. We also did the first interview with Los Lobos. I can still remember the day when Los Lobos first showed up. They had just recorded their first album, called ?Just another band from East L.A.?. They showed up at the station with full beards, guayaberas, and they had their guitars, and they jammed right there in the studio.

LR: How did Canto Tropical come about?

HR: After I left KXLU, I just laid low for a while. A friend called me, and she said they were looking for someone to do the salsa show at KPFK. So I tuned in, and the Program Director was saying: If anybody out there would be interested in doing this show, send us your tape and your resume. I did that. A few days later they called me, and asked: Can you start this Friday? The show was on Friday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30. That was back in April of 1986.

LR: How did Kathy and Carlos become a part of your team of hosts?

HR: When I started the show I always believed in sharing the microphone. I invited Gloria Guitierrez and Gustavo Aragon to come to the show with me. He had just left KXLU also, and he joined me. I actually hired Gustavo at KXLU. Then I had Pia Franco start up with us. She was referred to me by HAMAS, the Hispanic Academy of Movies, Arts and Sciences, an advocacy group. The president of HAMAS referred Pia to me, and he talked about a gal who wanted to learn about the radio.

Carlos Montani did not come until much later. When I met him he had been a long-time fan of Alma del Barrio. So we kind of knew each other, but not directly. We invited him on, and that?s how Carlos became a part of the show. He became what we call our ?color person?. He was adding a little humor and flair to the show.

Then it was Kathy? I heard that Kathy was available, and I invited her to be a part of the show. She was with me for about seven years. Then she left to go to Miami. She was an editor for Hispanic Magazine. She left us for about eight years. While she was in Miami she also worked for WDNA public radio station, where she met Arturo Gomez, who?s now up in Colorado, doing a public radio show. When Kathy came back it was like a grand reunion. From there we ended up with the staff we have today.

LR: How did you get the nickname ?La Voz? (?The Voice?)?

HR: It actually started Les, as a joke! It was 1975. The great Puerto Rican singer Hector Lavoe came out, with a new album called ?La Voz?. My colleagues always used to give me a lot of heat, because people could not say the name Resendez. It was so hard for people? Resendez. I don?t know why, but they started calling me Hector La Voz. The name kind of stuck. I started using the handle Hector La Voz, because it was easier, just like a nickname.

One day I was in a club where Tito Nieves was performing. They were announcing Tito to the audience. When I went up the host said? ?and up now? Hector La Voz Resendez!? When I came back down from the stage, this couple came up to me, and they said: ?Excuse me Mr. La Voz, when are you going to sing a song? Could you sing Mi Gente?? I said I was sorry, and that they had been mistaken, as I was not the singer.

They went back, and after about five minutes they were back, and they said: ?So when is your son coming then?? They thought Hector Lavoe was my son! That?s how the name started.

LR: You are fresh off a well-deserved award from the 2003 West Coast Salsa Congress. How do you feel about the award?

HR: I feel very honored to be a part of the honorees that evening. To be up on stage with Alma del Barrio, Latin Beat Magazine, Sabor Magazine, Vista LA Magazine, those are the people who have put in a lot of sweat, blood and tears to help promote Latin music, to help keep salsa alive.

To receive the award was great! We are in our 17th. year, and have received many awards in the past. This is kind of a nice jewel to add to the other recognition awards we have received.

An award is a way of saying ?Hey, we appreciate what you?ve done?. And, believe me; I would do this again, without having to receive any award. The real award comes from just doing the show and hearing from our listeners, making those two hours the most enjoyable that we can.

LR: How many listeners tune into 90.7 F.M. and to the internet at on an average Saturday from 8 to 10 pm?

HR: The internet is a recent addition to KPFK. I believe it?s been on now for about a year or two. We also have a sub-carrier at 98.7 F.M., in addition to 90.7 F.M., covering Southern and Central California.

The latest Arbitron figures run roughly about a quarter million to 325,000 on an average given night for our timeframe. We like to say we?re always reaching out to 100,000 to 400,000 people on any Saturday night.

What?s impressive to me is our audience. 60% to 70% are non-Latin! People are just enjoying the rhythm and the music, the percussion, the history, and let?s not leave out the ticket giveaways. We always have ticket giveaways every week. We help to keep a calendar, so people can find out which events are coming up, where to go, where to have fun, and where to find the music. That?s part of the show; it?s a one stop source for salsa music.

On July 12, Canto Tropical welcomes you to their live salsa event spectacular at Mama Juana?s in Studio City, starting at 5 p.m. Scheduled band is no other than the very popular Susie Hansen Salsa Band! Hector Resendez?s Canto Tropical can be heard every Saturday on 90.7 F.M., 98.7 F.M., or at, from 8 to 10 pm P.S.T.

About Les Rivera:
Les Rivera is a freelance writer, covering New York-Puerto Rico-Cuba style salsa/mambo music, and the sport of boxing. He is also a Los Angeles salsa events promoter., or (626) 795-9763.

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