The Loss of Velvet and Roses...and Songs for a Generation

San Antonio's Chicano Music legend Dimas Garza passes on

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor & Crazy Chuy Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: November 16, 2008

The Loss of Velvet and Roses...and Songs for a Generation

The Chicano Music world, while surviving nicely in these times of turmoil, and having recently enjoyed such positive, large music events such as the Tejano Music Convention in Dallas, Texas, and The Latin Legends Concert filmed in Los Angeles for PBS, has suffered another great loss from its ranks of beloved music veteranos.

TexMex icon and pioneer Dimas Garza, one of the original Royal Jesters of the 1960's, passed away Wednesday, November 12, 2008 of a heart attack in San Antonio, Texas. He was 68 years old.

Noted for his songwriting and great vocal style, he was loved, admired and respected by all those who knew him.

Known in oldies circles as a crooner as well as the "Chicano Frank Sinatra", Dimas became admired for his heart rendering ballads and doo~wop classics in the mid 1960's with his velvet voice, immaculate formal dress, and cool stage presence.

Dimas "Dino" Garza was born Feb. 24, 1940 in San Antonio, Texas, and attended Lanier High School, where he wrote some of his first songs dedicated to early girlfriends.

No doubt , Dimas's classic tunes "I want to be loved", "Love me", and "My Angel of love" are hallmarks of a brilliant songwriter and performer that knew how to tug at the heartstrings of a new generation of Chicanos coming of age in the southwestern United States during the Viet Nam War and Chicano Movimiento, when assimilation was the name of the game.

Throughout his career, Dimas Garza had recorded with several bands, including Dino and the Deltones and the Sunglows. He also had his own group the Lyrics, but he is mostly known for his tenure with the Royal Jesters in the '60s and '70s, where he melted hearts and made memories that survive to this day, as popular Chicano Internet radio stations such as, ChicanoExpress, The Lost Memories, and The Brown Underground continue to receive steady requests for Dimas's Royal Jester songs, most notably, "You've succeeded".

More than a half century ago, the Royal Jesters featuring Dimas Garza at lead vocals were the kings of the city. They became a seminal force in Tejano history and pop music in Texas. The Royal Jesters came to be in 1956 at Lanier High School, where Oscar Lawson and his group the Dukes, were serious fans of the Mexican trios like Los Panchos.

Another school mate Henry Hernandez and his band the Five Angels, were also hardcore music fans but their heroes were doo wop groups like the Moonglows. The two groups merged as the Five Young Ones. Two years later, the group renamed itself the Royal Jesters, performing early rock n' roll and doo wop.

The Jesters first hits were in English pop, including " I Want to be Loved", "We Go Together," "My Angel of Love", "You've Succeeded", and "That Girl" that were played heavily on San Antonio's radio stations KTSA, KONO, and KUKA, and Los Angeles's KRLA, making the Royal Jesters well in demand for their smooth ballads and cool doo wop sound, despite Texas Chicano audience's well-known preference at the time for Spanish language rancheras, corridos,
norte??o, and polkas. By the 1970s, the group ventured into Chicano (also known as "Tejano" in Texas) pop music with the hits "Soy Chicano" and "Chicanita".

Mike Pedraza was the group's first lead singer, but he was replaced by Dimas Garza early on, and a legend was born. Throughout the years, a host of central Texas talent joined the group including such names as Joe Posada, Joe Jama Perales, George Rivas, and David Marez, but none were ever able to match the early magic Dimas and the original Jesters made.

Dimas Garza was also part of the late '90s CD, "The Royal Jesters Tribute," on the BMG US Latin label that included their hits such as "Yo Soy Chicano," "Me Voy Pa Houston," "We Go Together," and "Cari??o Nuevo."

Sadly, because of such 1960's obstacles such as small unconnected regional management, the American mainstream music industry's then reluctance to recognize English language Latino rock n' rollers as relevant, and the Viet Nam war, which took many a talented Chicano artist away from home, Dimas Garza and the Royal Jesters never enjoyed a large national following or tour at the height of their popularity.

It is just now, with the advent of world wide internet radio, that audiences outside of San Antonio, Texas, across the country and overseas are barely discovering the young zeal and talent that was Dimas Garza.

Rediscovered after a lengthy absence from the music scene by author & music producer Ruben Molina during research for his first book "The Old Barrio Guide to Lowrider Music" in early 2000, Molina relates that Dimas had almost faded away into obscurity and had no qualms about it, quietly working as a carpet layer in his beloved San Antonio, Texas.

Ruben Molina and the University of Riverside Chicano Studies Program brought Dimas out to California for his first visit ever in 2005, where he was reunited with other former Royal Jesters "Bones" Aragon and Joe Jama, and a host of other Texas rock & roll talent that included Rudy "T" , Ernie Garibay, Robert Gonzalez, and the San Antonio West Side Horns, for the 2005 Radio Aztlan Music Celebration, where they shared a stage with such L.A. heavies as The BLUE SATINS, THE MIDNITE CRUIZERS, and TIERRA, to a packed, sold-out house.

"Despite being one of San Antonio's most beloved generational music icons, Dimas Garza was a remarkably humble and generous man, never taking total credit for the Royal Jester's early success", Molina says, "When I interviewed him, he was happily laying carpet to make a living. Bringing him back in the spotlight was something he never asked for...but he sure loved singing in front of a massive, L.A. audience for the first time in his life. At least I know he passed on with renewed popularity from the good Gente de San Antonio and Aztlan".

Music collector and East L.A. Revue radio station owner Steven Chavez remembers meeting Dimas during his L.A. visit. "He had probably the clearest, cleanest voice of any doo wopper I ever heard, even when he spoke," Chavez says, " I watched him perform 'You Succeeded' and 'I Want to be Loved' on stage, and his performance was so smooth and almost effortless. He was really something, that Dimas...and he was a very nice guy, too."

Music legend Rudy Salas of TIERRA remembers the "Texas guys" during that memorable 2005 concert, and was very impressed with Dimas. "They were really, really good, and It's sad whenever we lose one of our own," Rudy says,

"Chicano music pioneers opened the doors for so many Latino artists of today that will never realize the raw talent, struggles and effort guys like Dimas Garza put forth to make such a contribution to the latino music world that the youngsters can simply walk into today. My heart and respect goes out to Dimas's family," he said.

All throughout Aztlan, the soulful sounds of Dimas Garza will be played on radio stations throughout Texas and beyond for the next couple of weeks as we mourn the loss of a brother and friend. Tribute shows are scheduled on :

R.I.P. Dimas Garza ~ 1940-2008
You're joining one heck of a band in heaven, Brother!

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor & Crazy Chuy Hernandez:
Frankie Firme & Crazy Chuy Hernandez are well-known Internet Radio DJ's on and heard across Aztlan 24/7
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