The late Ric Fazekas was a legendary figure in LA’s Latin alternative rock scene. From booker to label manager, promoter to superfan, he was a true champion of LA rock en Español. He died last month after a battle with liver cancer.
“I would call him an activist of the music genre. He was an advocate for more people to get to listen to these bands singing in Spanish either from Southern California or from Latin America,” says Jorge Leal, a professor of cultural and urban history at UC Riverside.
“He grows up in the San Gabriel Valley, [and] attends what becomes the epicenter of not only Chicano rock but rock and roll in Southern California, which is El Monte Stadium concerts in the city of El Monte,” says Leal.
That sparked a passion for Fazekas. Despite being a white man who didn’t speak Spanish, he fell in love with emerging Latin genres and studied Chicano history at UC Riverside while DJing at the college station.
From there, Fazekas immersed himself in the late 1960s and 1970s mainstream rock and roll and punk scene, working for major labels and hanging out with musicians like John Lennon, Janis Joplin, and members of The Doors.
Later in his life, he discovered a new Latin genre emerging in the 2000s.
“We can call it Latin alternative, rock en Español, rock Latino Americano. He just really likes the effervescence of it, the newness of it,” says Leal.
Fazekas dedicated the latter end of his career to launching his own music label and helping new bands break into the industry, including Viva Malpache, Curanderos, Pastilla, and Las 15 Letras. In 2005, he helped release “Tributo a Rage Against The Machine…en Español,” a tribute album that turned new audiences onto Spanish bands.
Leal recommends reading Fazekas’ self-published autobiography, “Valley Blvd. Cruisin' Rock to Alternativo: The Padrino Tales,” which takes you through his life and the rise of Latin alternative music.