Born and raised in Richmond, California to Benjamin and Tillie Padilla, Joe Ernest Padilla was also known as “Ernie Valens.” He discovered his love for singing at the young age of five, teaching himself by listening to 45rpm records from various artists such as Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. He was greatly influenced by Chuck Berry’s guitar style, which he incorporated into his own playing. Ernie’s first performance was at a school assembly at Garfield Junior High School.
From ages nine to nineteen, Ernie formed the band called The Silverstars, which consisted of various musicians including David Garduño on bass guitar, Manuel Padilla on drums, Elsie Padilla on piano, Jose Miguel Velasquez on rhythm guitar, Jerry Velasquez on alto sax, Randy Martinez on tenor and alto sax, Bobby Lucero on bass guitar, Wilfred Lucero on rhythm guitar, Eddie Vigil on tenor sax, Tony on tenor and alto sax, and Ernie Padilla on lead guitar and vocals. They performed together for a decade, playing at school dances and sock hops at Valley High School, Santa Rosa High School, Highland High School, and more. The Silverstars also played at weddings, wedding showers, fiestas, and won first place at the battle of bands at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque, New Mexico (circa 1956).
Ernie continued his musical journey at age twenty in Santa Ana, California with his new band, The Way-Outs. They recorded two studio albums at Gold Star Studio in Hollywood. Ernie later became a solo artist and continued playing music on the California coast and then in New Mexico. In 1996, Ernie played for a year at Yesterdaves, where David Garduño helped create his new stage name, “Ernie Valens.” Ernie continued performing live and played on the marquee for six months at the Camel Rock Casino in Santa Fe (circa 2005).
Ernie is a talented musician who has recorded over 800 songs to date. He plays various instruments including the keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums, and his preferred music styles are New Mexico music, Spanish music, country classics, and oldies rock and roll. Ernie retired from singing in public due to his health and continues to create music in his private music studio in Albuquerque. One of his songs, “Merry Christmas from New Mexico,” is played annually on 89.1 KANW New Mexico Radio during Christmas time. Ernie passed away on November 22, 2019.
Biography provided by: Ryan Padilla – Son of Ernie Padilla