- VMG ARTISTS PRESENTS -
WILLIE ALVARADO grew up singing in the fields as one of eight children of migrant farmworkers from the Mexican state of Coahuila and its largest city, Torreón, where he was born Juan Guillermo Alvarado.
"We were very poor," says the singer when asked where his ancient voice of classic Mexican balladry comes from. "My mom was a mariachi singer when she was a young girl. She was going to be promoted to travel the country, but my grandpa wouldn't let her, so she stopped singing and got married to my dad.
"She was 14 years old."
Migrated to Wyoming in 1979, Alvarado stopped singing four years later at the age of 13, after the family moved to San Angelo in the early 1980s. "I was singing at a church function, and my vocal cords got really hot. Then I drank extremely cold water, and it shut me down. My voice was changing. It kind of ruined my voice for a few years.
"I didn't start singing again 'til I got divorced about eight years ago. That's how I coped with my pain. When I started having marriage problems, I started singing, picked up the guitar again. It's been nonstop since then."
With Rick del Castillo, who produced, and the Vallejo brothers, who provided a label, Alvarado released his eponymous debut last fall, a jaw-dropping mix of traditional Latinate ("Besame Mucho") and 1930s-leaning originals (opener "Como Olvidarla"). A Vallejo showcase at Antone's in November 2009 proved thecantador even better live.
"I always liked the old music. That music captured my attention more than the modern cumbias of the time. I studied all those singers, Javier Solis, Pedro Infante, all the greats. I listened to their breathing techniques. That's the only coaching I've ever had."
Brother René Alvarado, 2009 Texas State Visual Artist 2D via Texas Commission on the Arts, makes Blue Agave "look like a gallery" (see this article's Chronicle cover).
"My mother says she's living her life through her children," says her middle child, who has an apartment in Austin. "Sometimes I hear little pitches of her voice in mine." – Raoul Hernandez (The Chronicle)
Alex Vallejo for VMG ARTISTS
VALLEJO MUSIC GROUP / AUSTIN, TEXAS