Chris Montez, born in Los Angeles in 1943, grew
up in Hawthorne influenced by his Hispanic culture and the rock 'n
roll success of Richie Valens. Music was an integral part of his
family life and Chris began singing rancheras with his older
brothers when he was a kid. They taught him to play the guitar and
he sang the high parts. As he gained confidence and his voice
matured, he began singing leads. His early days at Hawthorne High
were spent emulating the tough "low rider" Latino image,
but in his junior year, ignited by the spark of musical ambition,
Chris changed his style because he had "goals to make."
He formed a band and recorded his own original songs that gained
the interest of Monogram Records. "All
You Had To Do Was Tell Me" became a local hit.
In 1962, Chris' single, "Let's
Dance" hit the top 10 and he was on his way. He toured
with Clyde McPhatter, Sam Cooke, The Platters and Smokey Robinson.
In 1963, while in Liverpool with Tommy Roe, his opening act was a
new English group, The Beatles. With 3 years on the road behind
him, Chris came home in 1965 to complete his education and join a
new label, A & M. Herb Alpert dropped in on one of Chris'
first sessions and suggested that he try a soft ballad sound. It
was a more conservative style than Chris would have preferred but
Alpert's instincts were good and the hits "The
More I See You,"' "There Will Never Be Another
You," "Call Me" and "Time
After Time" followed in quick succession.
While the British and psychedelic rock were invading the U.S.,
Chris left A & M, signed with CBS International and amassed a
string of hits outside the U.S. that has firmly established him as
an international recording star. He has recorded songs in English
and in Spanish that have become hits in Austria, Germany and
Long before The Doors and The Beach Boys, there was a musical
phenomenon occurring in Los Angeles' large Hispanic population
that would take 30 years to be recognized. In the early '50's,
rhythm and blues performed solely by black musicians took hold
with Los Angeles' Chicano (Americans born of Mexican descent)
residents years before it gained popularity with the teens who
would credit Elvis Presley with their introduction to rock 'n
roll. In the barrios of East Los Angeles, The Drifters,
Clyde McPhatter, Crows and Big Jay McNeely were the music of
choice in the '50's.
Those solid musical roots, intermingled with traditional Mexican
rancheras gained a new and fresh popularity with groups such as
Los Lobos. The success of the film "La Bamba" identified
those roots. Chris Montez' well-known hits and his heritage are
part of the Richie Valens legacy.
"I am very conscious of my culture," says Chris, who
performed as Chris Montez and La Raza on tours to Japan, South
America and Europe. Judging by record sales and well attended
appearances in many European cities, so are they.
Today Chris can be found touring across the US and abroad with headliner acts such as the legendary
Bobby Vee, Brian Hyland,
and many others.