New Mexico is as rich in culture as it is in music.
Some of New Mexico’s best entertainers will be recognized for their contributions by being inducted into the New Mexico Music Hall of Fame during a virtual ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 28. TV personality Val De La O will receive the Michael E. Sanchez Lifetime Achievement Award.
De La O came to New Mexico from Colorado and created his own TV show in 1960. A number of celebrities came on the successful show, including actor Kirk Douglas, boxer Muhammad Ali, musicians Jose Feliciano and Freddy Fender, as well as comedian Don Knotts.
“He’s 84 now, but he was the first guy to pioneer a Spanish-language show on TV,” said Mark Padilla, New Mexico Music Hall of Fame president. “So he had a show called the ‘Val De La O Show’ and he had like people like, you know, a bunch of stars back in the day, you know, like which would be like major stars now.”
The six 2020 inductees will receive virtual kudos from some famous friends, including Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top; a member of R&B band Tower of Power; Norteño, Tex Mex and Tejano music accordionist and singer Flaco Jiménez; and others, according to Padilla. The virtual award show will be hosted by TV personality Jessica Garate and will feature performances by the Pink Flamingos.
The Baca Family’s history in New Mexico goes back three generations. It began with accordionist and musician Max Baca Sr. in the 1950s. Brothers Jimmy Baca and Max “Donny” Baca Jr. started their musical journey as Los Hermanos Baca in the 1970s. Baca Jr. moved to Texas to form Los Tex Maniacs and was joined by his nephew Josh Baca, according to the New Mexico Music Hall of Fame event notes. Los Tex Maniacs were sanctioned by the Smithsonian as ambassadors to the world representing conjunto music.
Santa Fe’s The Lopez Family have musical roots that date back to the 1950s in northern New Mexico where Gilberto Lopez Sr. became a seasoned musician. His sons Gilbert and Jerry would follow in his footsteps. Their younger brother soon joined the musical family to form La Companía. The band moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, and transformed into the power group Santa Fe. It later became Sante Fe and the Fat City Horns, and performed with the likes of Tom Scott, Ricky Martin, Luis Miguel, Grover Washington and others, according to the event notes.
Albuquerque’s Linda Cotton is referred to as New Mexico’s First Lady of Music. For over 30 years, she entertained audiences with her powerful, unique voice at concert halls, clubs and hotel lounges throughout the state. She found time to be an advocate for The Alliance for Albuquerque Animals and The Barrette House, which helps homeless women and their families. She also served on its board of directors, according to the event notes. Cotton died at age 55 in 2004, but her legacy lives on.
Guitarist Tim Pierce, of Albuquerque, moved to Los Angeles at age 20, and found success as a studio musician and performance guitarist. He toured the world and, in the late 1980s, decided to dedicate his time exclusively in the studio. He received the recognition of being one of the top 10 session guitarists by Guitar World Magazine and has recorded more than 1,000 sessions with a list of famous artists, including Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Seal and Michael Jackson, according to the notes.
New Mexico’s master trumpeter Tony Lujan was inspired to play trumpet by his father who played the same instrument, as well as the accordion, and sang. At age 14, Lujan met renowned jazz musician Clark Terry and became his apprentice, according to the notes. He credits Terry with honing in his craft, which allowed him to perform with Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and others.
Percussionist Peter Amahl Amaral made New Mexico his home for more than 50 years. He became part of several memorable groups, such as The Drifters, The Coasters, Martha and the Vandellas, and Junior Brown’s band, according to the notes. He is one of the founding members of The New Mexico Jazz Workshop and The Madrid Jazz Concert Series.
“It’s really a cool, really amazing class of inductees this year,” Padilla said. “And the cool thing is we’re doing it virtually. Like, we’re still, we’re still making it happen, even though it’s during COVID, which is kind of nice, pretty proud of it. And it’s going to look really, really good. Everything so far looks amazing.”