Spotlight on the Brown: Rudy Salas

Singer/songwriter of the legendary TIERRA

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: January 20, 2005

Spotlight on the Brown: Rudy Salas

As I've said so many time before, music is a fountain of youth, and one of the most artistic achievements of civilization and modern man. It is an undulating, ever changing, stimulating form of art that is never static.

It is the eptome of artistic talent to be able to create & perform in this art in a way that enthralls others in different parts of the World, and becomes legacy before it's creator is gone.

That's talent, baby! It's always been a distinct privilige of mine to meet & greet some of the stars of my beloved Chicano music world, as I join them in taking a deep trago from the never drying fountain that is music. Crossing racial, geographical, and generational boundries, it's refreshing fluid like-properties quench the most arid of artistic thirsts.

That being said, this month's Spotlight on the Brown, Latino LA's Mr. January 2005 if you will, is Chicano music legend Rudy Salas of TIERRA fame.

I've been a fan of Rudy's since he began singing with his brother Steve as part of the Salas Brothers act in the 1960's, East L.A. Chicano singing pioneers that helped develop the famed "East Side Sound", as one of the emerging West Coast Latino acts to sing & perform rock n roll in english, at a time when it was considered an anamoly, leading up to his now legendary Chicano group TIERRA.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rudy recently after one of TIERRA's recent sold out performances at the Puente Hills Hop, one of the San Gabriel Valley's hottest Chicano night spots. I've caught TIERRA's performances over the years at places like The Pasta House, The Montebello Inn, Sugar Daddy's, The Fairways, The Greek Theater, L.A.'s Lincoln, Commerce and Belevedere Parks, and I never walk away unentertained.

"I began my singing career at the age of 11, singing spanish boleros and corridos with my brother Steve. One day we were performing at a church social in East L.A. when some of the members of the group The Jaguars caught our act, approached my parents and asked for us to join them. We had never sang rock and roll in english before, so I didn't really know what to expect. After awhile , we got the hang of it, began having a good time." Rudy smiles when he says this, adding "It's been that way ever since! This year, TIERRA celebrates 34 years as a group, something I am so proud of...and I'm still having fun".

A story his brother Steve told me a couple of years ago still brings moist pride to his eyes. "My brother and I would perform, and afterwards my mother would say 'Mijos...someday you guys are going to sing at Carnegie Hall'. My brother and I would say 'thanks, mom', then look at at each other and laugh 'what's Carnegie Hall?'. Years later, TIERRA would become the first west coast Chicano band to play at New York's prestigious venue. "Can you imagine my mother's pride as her dream came true? There we were, in New York for the first time in our lives, at Carnegie Hall, with my mom in the front row, and we got a standing ovation after our performance!, I'll never forget that!" TIERRA also has the distinction of being the first Chicano band to perform in Tokyo, Japan. "Man!" Rudy exclaims, "The Japanese people surprised us with their love of Chicano music. They welcomed us so warmly, and treated us so well, and enjoyed our music as much as we enjoyed performing for them. We would love to go back someday!".

Prior to the interview, I joined the audience in catching Rudy at what he does best: playing, singing, and dancing his heart out for the Gente. With the style, energy and verve of a guy half his age (and I ain't giving up no digits!), Rudy Salas and TIERRA prove time and again why they're one of Aztlan's moved beloved and popular groups. Besides singing & song writing, Rudy is also one of the better guitarists in the business, rivaled only by the masterful Chris Reserva of the SATISFACTION band, as one of L.A.'s top strummer of electric strings.

I couldn't help but get out on the dance floor, and I bumped into Rudy's lovely wife JoAnna (co-star of Thee Mr. Duran Show) and his duaghter Rita, along with East L.A. Rey (also of Thee Mr. Duran show) boogying down with the Gente. It was such a good feeling to be amongst my Gente while some of the best music in Aztlan was being performed live.

As founder and leader of TIERRA, Rudy has become a Chicano icon among the Gente de Aztlan for over 3 generations, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. When I asked him about this, he gave me a puzzled look, smiled and said " Hell, Frankie...why should I? Me & the guys in the band are having a good time, the Gente is having a good time, and I don't see any reason to change anything! This world is hard enough, so if fun & good times keep us young...I'll never get old!". I asked him what he would tell an up & coming Latino entertainer whom he had opened doors for, and he replied "Well...don't do it for the money. Do what you love to do, believe in your dreams, and never let anybody ever tell you you can't do something if it's YOUR dream! Follow those dreams, love what you're doing, but be sure it's what you want, and always, and I mean always, have fun at what you're doing. If you put your heart and effort into it, the money will come later, but until it does...have a good time!" .

So...what's in the future for TIERRA? "Me & the guys plan on continuing what we're doing, traveling & playing for the Gente, but I'm also working on a new CD, and plans are in the works for a Chicano musical entitled 'Welcome to Cafe East L.A.', a musical that will chronicle the roots of Chicano music, with some special musical guest stars and of course some great music!...that's all I can say for now, but it will be hot!".

And of course, the Gente will hear about it first here on!

Gracias, Rudy Salas...guitarist, singer, songwriter, entertainer extarordinnaire...CHICANO! Y gracias TIERRA!

Thank you for all you've done for Chicano music. Keep it alive forever, Carnales......Si se puede!! It's a BROWN thing, baby!

Note: For information on Rudy Salas & TIERRA, log onto tell 'em you heard it from Frankie Firme &!

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