Tony “Ham” Guerrero Interview

Trumpet player for Little Joe y la Familia and one of the founding members of Tortilla Factory talks with Manuel Peña about “what happened to the orquesta tejana.”

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Interviewee: Tony “Ham” Guerrero
Interviewer: Manuel Peña
Date: nov 14th, 19??
Language: English

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission.

Tony “Ham” Guerrero (aka Martínez)

Orquesta trumpeter Tony “Ham” Guerrero was born in “El barrio bulto” in San Angelo, Texas, in 1944. Raised by his grandparents, Guerrero displayed musical ability early on, and he started playing trumpet when he was in the fifth grade. He played his first paying job at the age of 17. After that, Guerrero played with various orquestas and a variety of other ensembles, until he moved to Oakland, California, where he formed his own orquesta, in 1965, the Tony Martínez Orchestra. That was where Guerrero was exposed extensively to tejano music, while his group was the “house band” at the Newark Pavilion, a dance hall where tejano music was featured weekly.

The Newark Pavilion was where Guerrero first heard Little Joe and the Latinaires, a group with which he was thoroughly impressed—so impressed that when Little Joe asked him to join, in 1968, he immediately accepted. Guerrero played lead trumpet with the Latinaires (renamed La Familia in 1970) for the next five years, himself a key player in the transformation of the orquesta from the earlier, Beto Villa style, to the pathbreaking, truly bimusical Onda Chicana phase.

In 1973, Guerrero and several other key members of Little Joe’s la Familia “mutinied” and left to form their own orquesta, Tortilla Factory. That group made some important contributions to what ethnomusicologist Manuel Peña has called la Onda Chicana’s signature style—musical code-switching, in which elements from ranchera music are fused and synthesized with elements from American, mainly jazz-styled, music. Guerrero and his colleagues were supreme masters of this uniquely tejano musical code-switching.

Tony Guerrero died on January 29, 2011, at the age of 66.

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.