|Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero, credited as being "the father of Chicano music," was a Mexican-American guitarist, singer and farm labor activist best known for his strong influence on today's Latin artists.
Guerrero was born in Tucson, Arizona, one of somewhere between 16 to 24 siblings (although only nine survived). His father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Lalo did not finish school, but instead dropped out to pursue music. His first group, Los Carlistas, represented Arizona at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and performed on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour on radio.
He moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, and had a few uncredited roles in movies, including Boots and Saddles and His Kind of Woman. He recorded for Imperial Records and fronted the Trio Imperial. He also formed his own orchestra and toured throughout the Southwest. He performed at the "La Bamba" club in Hollywood, a place frequented by the biggest stars in the movie business. In the 1960s, he bought a night club in Los Angeles and renamed it Lalo's.
His original composition, "Canción Mexicana" is a mariachi standard. César Chávez said of Guerrero in 1992 at a tribute in Palm Desert, California: "Lalo has chronicled the events of the Hispanic in this country a lot better than anyone." He worked closely with Chavez for farmworkers' rights and lent voice to the movement with the song, "No Chicanos On TV."
Guerrero's earliest Pachuco compositions were the basis of the Luis Valdez stage musical, Zoot Suit. He even wrote children's songs presented via his "Las Ardillitas," or "Three Little Squirrels."
His first US hit was "Pancho Lopez", a parody of the popular 1950s hit "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett". Guerrero used the Davy Crockett melody and wrote his own lyrics, telling the story of a legendary Mexican character. The song was popular in both Spanish and English. However, due to criticism Guerrero received over this song, he never performed it publicly, not wanting to contribute to an inappropriate stereotype. Guerrero went on to record several more parody songs, including "Pancho Claus," "Elvis Perez," "Tacos For Two" (to the tune of "Cocktails For Two"), and "There's No Tortillas" (to the tune of "O Sole Mio").
He was declared a national treasure by the Smithsonian Institution in 1980 and was presented with the Presidential Medal of the Arts in 1997 by then-US president Bill Clinton. In 1992 he received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Guerrero wrote an autobiography, Lalo: My Life and Music (ISBN 0816522138).
Guerrero died at the Vista Cove assisted living facility in Rancho Mirage, California after suffering a gradual decline in his health.