Spotlight on the Brown: Singer Rocky Padilla

L.A.'s King of Chicano R & B

By Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: February 22, 2013

Spotlight on the Brown: Singer Rocky Padilla

?íOrale, Mi Gente!

Hope you are living large and enjoying life in and around the Land of 1000 Dances.

This month's Spotlight on the Brown focuses on another one of Aztlan's favorite performers, and another we at LatinoLA are privileged to call a friend & brother .

Fidel "Rocky" Padilla was born in Montebello, California, in 1967 to Daniel & Olga Padilla, former Garfield High School sweethearts from East L.A., and into a musical family that spans 3 generations.

A former 1980's mobile DJ known as "Midnite Scratch" who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley neighborhood of Hacienda Heights, California, Rocky's grandfather & namesake led a successful band, The DON FIDEL PADILLA ORCHESTRA, in and around the early East L.A. Chicano music circuit in the 1940's & 1950's alongside such original greats as DON TOSTI and LALO GUERRERO.

Rocky's father Daniel & his 3 brothers had a popular music group known as The Padilla Brothers Band in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, and Rocky remembers first picking up his uncle Fidel's bass guitar at age 5, and has never looked back.

"My Grandmother Reyna Padilla, bless her soul, taught me the love of music at an early age. She always told me 'I can't do nothing without music', and she was ALWAYS the first one to say at family gatherings: 'Turn up the music!'"

He remembers his first gig fondly at age 10: "I used to go with my father to all his gigs, and hang around all the musicians during their rehearsals. Somewhere during those years, I picked up playing the bass guitar. The bass player used to tease me that I'd never be as good as him ... until one day, for some reason, he couldn't make it to a wedding gig where my father's band was booked ... so my Dad put me up there to fill in at the last minute. Man! I had a ball and fit right in, making my Dad and uncles proud! After that, I was hooked on performing, and began singing and taking up other instruments as well", Rocky tells LatinoLA.

An accomplished bass player, guitar player, keyboard player, conguero, timbalero, and drummer as well as a multi-talented bilingual singer, Rocky says his nickname came from some local girls at a party he was DJ-ing during his high school days, where they compared his looks and performing spirit to the then popular Sylvester Stallone movie character "Rocky Balboa"...and the name stuck.

"After that night, everybody just started calling me Rocky...and since Chicanos are known to be fighters for almost everything we got...I liked it, and used it a my stage name as well".

I first saw Rocky Padilla perform on stage at a Car Show in Pico Rivera in the summer of 1993 at one of THUMP Records-Lowrider Magazine's Car Show Concerts. He didn't have a band then, and karaoke was still something new. .. so here was this young Chicano in his early 20's, all dressed up and singing Oldies like nobody's business, to some really decent pre-recorded tracks (tracks I later learned they were done entirely by Rocky & his brother Danny) and getting some SERIOUS attention from the RAZA.

Homeboy hit his now famous medley "Sabor a mi / Suavecito" a la Chicano suave, while smoothly dancing on stage ... and I got in line with everybody else to buy his CD. Since then, I've played his music on my radio shows over the years, and Rocky has performed & shared the stage with such names as TIERRA, MALO, THEE MIDNITERS, WAR, EL CHICANO, JOE BATANN, and many others.

Rocky fondly remembers 2 occasions where he was recognized by the established talent of Aztlan: "In 1993 I opened up for TIERRA at a car show in Arizona. After the show, Steve Salas came up to me and introduced himself, complimented me, introduced me to his brother Rudy, and they invited me to play with them at some future gigs & projects. I was very complimented and we've been friends ever since."

"In 2001, I performed at a big car show at the Irwindale Motor Speedway where I opened up for Joe Bataan. After the show, he came up to me and complimented me on my performance. I complimented him, and told him I had pretty much grown up listening to & playing his kind of music. He smiled and said 'Me & my wife go to sleep listening to Rocky Padilla music' ... a bigger compliment from a legend I never heard!" Rocky says fondly. "Me & Joe have been friends ever since, and he calls me to perform with him as part of the Latin All Stars very time he comes to the west coast."

Rocky & I met personally & became friends in early 2003 when he performed at one of Comedian Gilbert Esquivel's first comedy-music shows in Hollywood, where he shared the stage and performed with EL CHICANO's Bobby Espinosa, WAR's Sal Rodriguez, and Issac Avila. The music they made that night was magic!

Gilbert introduced us outside the Ha-Ha Caf?® just before the show, and we immediately hit it off, complimenting each other's endeavors in Chicano music and talking about how we came from the same parts of East L.A. and the San Gabriel Valley.

Since then, we've shared the stage together many times, and he has always been the consummate performer and gentleman to his fans, his family, and his friends.

I fondly remember him taking a night off from a 3-day Joe Bataan tour a couple of years ago to play for an event I was hosting for the Veterans of the American Legion, simply because I asked for a favor. I know he made a lot less money that night than he would have had he played with Joe Bataan ... but that's just the kind of guy Rocky is, and I am just one of many in the Land of 1000 Dances that appreciate his friendship.

In addition to performing with some of the biggest names in Chicano & R&B music, having recorded 6 CD's, performed on WAR's Anthology Edition CD set, performed & recorded a song on Disney's "Oliver & Company Cartoon Production, and having almost 40 years in the music industry ... what's next for Rocky Padilla?

"Well...I think I have another 40 or 50 years to go in my music career, GOD willing," he laughs, " But I want to continue performing, touring, and recording, because I love music so much like my grandmother Reyna taught me...but I also have plans to begin teaching and sharing the wealth, art, and knowledge of music and music production. Not everybody was blessed with a musical family like me...but that don't mean you can't enjoy a blessing like mine"

And so...LatinoLA takes pride in recognizing another warrior de Aztlan in the Land of 1000 Dances...
..ROCKY PADILLA...singer, songwriter, musician, father...CHICANO!

More info at Rocky Padilla's website.

About Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the Al Capone of the microphone ,the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul & the Voice of Aztlan heard daily on
~ A regular contributor to this fine web magazine.
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