Family band celebrates 50 years and a Hollywood star
Last updated 10/9/2022¬†at¬†1:58pm
Whether you've driven past it once, or a thousand times, you have almost certainly noticed the cream-colored walls and red clay-tiled roof of a Spanish colonial-style villa on the south side of U.S. 70 between Portales and Clovis.
If you're a fan of Norte√Īo music, you likely know it's the home base of one of the best known and most enduring Norte√Īo bands, Los Huracanes del Norte.
But you may not know that tucked behind the graceful walls, manicured lawns, and lush apple orchard is an entire compound that includes a state-of-the-art recording studio, a thriving record label, and second- and third-generation members of a family with a most remarkable story.
All in the family
The eight members of the current version of Los Huracanes include brothers Heraclio "Rocky" Garcia, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, Francisco "Pancho" Garcia, and Jose Guadalupe "Lupe" Garcia, as well as Rocky's sons, Antonio "El Guero" Garcia, Roberto Heraclio "Rocky, Jr." Garcia, and Jaime "Jaimito" Garcia. The eighth member is Jose Luis "El Chapete" Mejia, considered another of the sons, according to the Garcia family.
Maria Garcia - sister to Rocky, Chuy, Pancho, and Lupe - has managed the band since day one.
Los Huracanes have been in the headlines of late for the best possible reasons. Besides being honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in September, they are also celebrating their 50th anniversary of creating music together.
On top of that, they've recently pledged profits of their upcoming 50th anniversary album to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a hefty gift to the ongoing battle to find a cure for childhood cancers. It's a cause they've generously supported for years.
John Ortiz, director of the music and audio engagement team for ALSAC/St. Jude's (the largest healthcare related charity in the world), calls Los Huracanes "our Latin ambassadors" and credits them with "donations in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
If you wonder why you haven't heard or seen much about them in local media, well, that's partly intentional, according to Lupe Garcia, who is the youngest of the older generation of brothers.
"We have never been a big gossip band," he said. "We're a family band. We're not famous for doing bad stuff ... we're not famous for the wrong reasons."
A little history
The Garcias call their place "El Rancho del Los Huracanes del Norte" or simply "the ranch." Seven miles northeast of Portales, their property includes the Midway Dance Hall, as does their life journey.
In fact, were it not for Midway, Los Huracanes might never have visited eastern New Mexico in the first place, much less settled here.
The Garcia family story begins with Francisco Garcia and Cenobia Ruvalcaba - the parents and grandparents of Los Huracanes - who were married in Jalisco, Mexico, in 1951.
In the early 1960s, Lupe Garcia said his father came to California "by himself as an illegal alien" in search of a more promising future for his growing family. He found work harvesting fruit and vegetables.
"After he had been here, he was able to get cartas ... letters ... from his bosses here so he could bring family," Lupe explained, "at first only three ... the next year, three more."
Lupe's three older brothers and a sister were born in Mexico; he and his youngest sister were born in California after the family had settled in the San Jose area.
Manual labor was a family affair, but by 1969, the three oldest Garcia sons, along with their uncle Asuncion Ruvalcaba, were starting to spend their free time finding venues to play music together.
They called themselves Los Cuatro del Norte, four musicians playing Norte√Īo music.
Birth of Los Huracanes
Los Cuatro might have remained their name, except that young Lupe - born in 1965 - showed an early interest in music. It was soon obvious that there would be at least "cinco" members in this band ... or maybe more ... and a new name would be needed.
One stormy evening in the midst of a recording session, Lupe said, someone had been sent out in search of food - and came back with not only provisions but the suggestion that they call themselves "Los Huracanes" - the hurricanes - a tribute to the storm.
Their first recording as Los Huracanes del Norte was in 1972, a ballad called "El Corrido de Daniel Trevi√Īo."
In a commemorative album created for the 50th anniversary, Chuy Garcia wrote that he and his brothers were in an orchard picking fruit when a radio was turned on for entertainment.
"We heard our song 'El Corrido de Daniel Trevino' for the first time," he recalled. "We shouted, 'That's us! That's us!' The other laborers took us for crazy and said, 'You wish you were Los Huracanes.' I will never forget that moment."
The Midway connection
Lupe Garcia got his start with Los Huracanes peddling 8-track tapes and selling albums for his brothers and his uncle, but soon joined them onstage playing saxophone and accordion.
Before long they were traveling outside the local fiesta and quincea√Īera circuit and playing engagements across the United States and in northern Mexico.
Later in the 1970s, that included regular stops at the old Midway Dance Hall, halfway between Portales and Clovis.
Built in 1945 by a man named Opal Fox, Midway was a popular Saturday night spot for decades in eastern New Mexico, once hosting performers that included Bob Wills, the Miller Brothers, and Fats Domino.
Fox sold the establishment to John Reynolds of Clovis in the early 1970s, and Reynolds added Sunday Spanish dances to the calendar.
Lupe Garcia said Los Huracanes played for many a dance in the cavernous wooden building. To save their hard-earned dollars, they sometimes got the key from Reynolds and spent the night on the floor after a show or as they were passing through.
Midway's ownership returned to the Foxes from Reynolds in the 1980s.
While locals consider the name Midway a description of its location between Portales and Clovis, for the Garcia family, the property was also midway for them to reach gigs from California to Florida and from Colorado to Mexico and Central America.
Besides that, Lupe Garcia said, the brothers were growing up, the family was expanding, and neighbors in San Jose were tiring of having a tour bus and Ryder truck parked in their neighborhood.
Heraclio Garcia bought the property in 1985, and Los Huracanes relocated to the High Plains.
Over the years, they gradually built the compound that stands today, which includes the Sandhill recording studio, headquarters offices for the family recording label Garmex Music, and a chapel fittingly dedicated to Saint Cecilia, the patroness of music and musicians.
By the numbers
"El Corrido de Daniel Trevino" became the first of more than 900 songs Los Huracanes del Norte has recorded so far, although Lupe says at least 200 of those have never been released.
The group is credited with 80 albums, and they've also appeared in 22 movies - often as themselves - Mexican classics like "El Gato de Chihuahua," "La Suburban Dorada," "La Dama de Rojo," "El Clavo," and "El Hombre de Negro."
All of that happened in the midst of thousands of live performances, and millions of miles of travel.
"We used to be like a circus," Lupe Garcia said, "in the United States all summer, then Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador all summer. We traveled with three semis and two buses."
Most venues now provide much of the equipment the Garcias used to have to transport themselves.
"Now we fly or bus to cities and everything is set up," Lupe said. "We just take our personal instruments."
A time of loss
Two major fires have been part of Los Huracanes history at Midway. The first was on April 11, 1988, when the old Midway Dance Hall was destroyed in what the newspaper called "a fast and furious blaze."
The Garcias rebuilt, replacing the wooden structure with a metal building. It was used for regular Spanish dances for many years but only rents out occasionally now, Lupe said, usually for quincea√Īeras or other family events.
The second fire - on March 29 this year - destroyed the nearby building that had once housed the Blackwater Draw Museum, and raced east toward the Garcia ranch, incinerating a storage shed "full of all of our albums, CDs, cassettes," Lupe said. "We lost it all."
That was not the only loss the Garcias had that week, Lupe said.
Most of the family was in California where matriarch Cebonia Garcia had died only the day before.
"The only one here was my nephew, Little Rock," Lupe said. "Between him and our friends and the firefighters, they kept the fire away from the barns."
A legacy of giving
The Los Huracanes connection to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital came through John Ortiz, a Clovis native whose own love of music first landed him a job working at the Norman Petty Recording Studio in his hometown, where he regularly crossed paths with the Garcias.
When Ortiz was hired by St. Jude in 2010 to oversee music and audio engagement, he said his friends in Los Huracanes were "the first people I reached out to and it was an absolute 'yes, how can we help' from the beginning."
Ortiz said the band was soon on its way to Memphis, Tenn., to visit St. Jude and meet the young cancer patients and their families.
"They always do big things with big hearts," Ortiz said. "It is rare for anyone to donate 100 percent of profits, especially in this day and age when it is so hard to make money in the music industry."
In addition, Ortiz said, Los Huracanes enthusiastically promote St. Jude to their fans and listeners and have been behind countless donations made to the Partner in Hope campaign at musicgives.org .
You may have seen them sporting t-shirts emblazoned "Esta Camiseta Salva Vidas" ("This Shirt Saves Lives") as part of that campaign.
Pausing for Covid
Like the rest of the world, the lives of Los Huracanes ground to a halt with Covid in early 2020, Lupe Garcia said.
"For the first few months, we did nothing," he said.
Without the ability to even record - "engineers didn't want to come to the studio," Lupe said - they turned to doing live Zoom concerts from the spacious living room at the ranch.
Not surprisingly, the first was for the children at St. Jude. It was not a fundraiser, John Ortiz said, "just an opportunity to let the children and families know they were here and thinking of them."
Their performance calendar has filled back up in the last few months, but Lupe said the extended break caused all of them to rethink priorities.
"Before Covid we performed every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday," Lupe said, usually in a different city for each performance.
"What Covid taught us was that we don't need to work so much," he said. "We are trying to do bigger shows, better shows, and fewer shows."
The old and the new
With 50 years of fans, there is a wide age range in a typical audience, said Lupe. It's not uncommon to have three generations of a family in attendance, with young adults bringing both their parents and their children to a concert.
Lupe said having those long-term fans offers a challenge of its own: keeping the music fresh enough to attract new listeners, but not losing the loyal older generation which has supported them from their days in California.
Few bands last 50 years, and Lupe wonders if Los Huracanes would find the same success were they picking up instruments for the first time today.
"A big advantage of our music is that we have been around so long," he said. "We have the older generation, and the new generation wants to see us out of respect for their parents. We try to keep up ... it's almost impossible."
The Walk of Fame
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce might want to argue that last point.
On Sept. 7, that chamber awarded the 2,732nd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Los Huracanes del Norte "in honor of a lifetime of greatness and an exceptional career," and called them "one of the most emblematic and important groups of Norteno music ... an institution."
Hispanic radio personality Oswaldo Diaz spoke at the ceremony dressed as his masked comical alter-ego, Erazno.
After joking with the Garcia family, he turned serious as he commended a band whose music he has known since he was a child, and whose music he has helped keep on the airwaves.
"We have known many artists, but few human beings," Diaz said. "This star they've given to Los Huracanes del Norte is for their artistic success and trajectory, but if they were to be given stars celebrating their humanity, this boulevard wouldn't be long enough."
Meanwhile back at the ranch
Los Huracanes released their newest single, "El Emigrante," last week, a poignant song that pays homage to their heritage.
The lyrics include, "Determined to make money/I moved away from those I love/and from my beloved country" ... exactly what Francisco Garcia did 60 years ago.
Today his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren continue to reap the benefit of that brave move, while sharing generously with others and having some fun along the way.
"We do what we like, and we make a living," said Lupe Garcia. "When we go up on stage, everything goes to the back of our minds ... all of our problems. It's great therapy. If we didn't like it, we wouldn't be doing it anymore."
Betty Williamson tips her Los Huracanes baseball cap to the Garcia family. Reach her at: