Héctor Candelas

When I go back and try to pinpoint how I gravitated to the world of music, I recall being fixed on two things: the beat and the melody. I remember, as a kid, playing my mother’s pots and pans from the kitchen. I loved the type of sound they created. And that Sultana Crackers can… What a sound! My drum sticks were cut from bamboo trees across the street from our house in Caguas, my hometown in Puerto Rico. I would go to the park’s playground and there they were; thick and tall. The trees had some small branches that I could take home and cut with my mother’s help. Other times I would take forks or anything to keep the drummer in me going.

There are two songs and people in particular that come to mind: The first, "Alegria y Bomba" by Ismael Rivera. I would play that bomba rhythm on any big car with a nice hood that was parked in front of my parent’s house. I preferred those big Buicks. They had such a deep sound! The other artist was El Indio Araucano, who played with his small hand drum while singing "Soy Marinero" along with other songs. Why El Indio? It’s beyond me. As time went by I started to develop my own idea of good chops and eventually got my first "gig": the drummer boy in school! Every morning I played the drum roll as they raised the flag, and kids would come to me and say, "Hey! That drum roll was really groovy"! It felt awesome. Motivation to the max!

Next came Elvis, Teddy Randazzo, Del Shannon, Paul Anka, Gary U.S. Bonds , Neil Sedaka, James Brown, and so many others. But there was one band that had that special something: The Beach Boys and their "Surfin’ Safari" in 1962… what harmonies!

By that time, an absolute upgrade was on its way. Drums! Goodbye pots and pans. Caguas had one music store by the name of "Bigio". My mother and I went inside for the first time. For months I had to pass by that store front on the school bus while I was being driven home, and right on the store’s window I would see it: a three piece Zym-Gar drum set in a shiny white pearl finish calling me every time. Finally, the big day came and for three hundred dollars my mother bought me the drum set. It was the happiest day of my life. Now I could buy my favorite records and play along with them, too!

I would get home from school at three, do homework for one hour, then play drums for five or six hours. Every week the police came to tell me to tone it down. But the second they left, I would hop back on that kit. I still have vivid memories of my mother sitting in front of me, listening to me as my audience. It was phenomenal. She was my number one fan.

I was playing for a couple of years until "The Beatles" came out. Upon hearing them, I was totally blown away. They were the best band I ever heard. Every time I heard them, I felt so many emotions that I could never describe in words. And that’s when I knew for a fact that, in my young age, this was the very thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Play music, be in a band, join a band, make a band or just be where the music was.

My first band was with a guy named Saury. He played the marimba. Marcos, a friend, played on the guitar, Fico on bass, Fonsy on vocals (who played drums later with The Carpetbaggers), and me on the drums. We went around doing some small-time party gigs. The next band was called The Cherrie Generation. Robert Bonilla on guitar, Dennis on keyboard, Rosa on bass, and me on drums (again). After playing with my previous band, I felt that it was time to step up. What better place to go than Casa Margarida (now Margarida Music). I got a new drum kit, the Rogers 1964 Holiday Edition, and a microphone with its own goose neck stand for singing. Again my mother, God bless her soul, spot me the money. I was very grateful.

From there on, my career started to move at a faster pace. I went on to join a local band called The Head Hunters and we played stuff like "Detroit Wheels", "Lady with a Blue Dress", and other covers. Following that, I met Tomas Huertas from Los Sonsets, whom I got together with and created an all original band called the Vulcans (music, wardrobe and lights by Luisito Crystal). That band was awesome. We lived in El Condado and many times there were news photos of the band in the old "San Juan Star" newspaper. The band played at The Trip, La Rue, and private parties.

Soon afterwards, we went to Washington D.C. to try and get some luck but it only caused the band to break up. I moved to New York City and lived at the Marlston Hotel in Greenwich Village on Eight Street. I played with so many amazing musicians and kept moving from band to band until I was eventually at another plateau. I got a chance to play with the musicians of Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band in his home in Woodstock where frequently many big stars came and jammed including, one night, the late great Jimi Hendrix, whom I had the privilege to play with for twenty minutes. I was humbled, blown away, and mostly overwhelmed. It was me, David Sanborn on sax, Howard "Buzzy" Feiten on guitar, Rod Hicks on bass, and a couple others along with Jimi.

After that I came back to New York City and was offered a gig by a band called The Amigos to go to on an international tour; Of course I said yes! It was a band that had made many records and T.V. appearances. They even had a cameo in one of Elvis’ movies in Hawaii. For starters, we rehearsed in California. Then we went to perform in Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa, Taipei, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and so many other countries for three years, in which I learned a little bit of each country’s native music. It was very nurturing.

I came back to Puerto Rico to unwind, however, shortly after my arrival, I got another gig. This time, I went to Canada. Another wonderful experience was waiting for me. In those years I was honored to have the opportunity to jam with Domenic Troiano (a Canadian guitar hero) at a club in the corner of Yonge and Bloor Street in downtown Toronto.

After three years of Canada I returned to Puerto Rico and not before long became the drummer for the Chosen People with Luis "Perico" Ortiz original music and a fusion of Latin Jazz. That project went on for about a year. Then it was Apocalips, which became very popular on the air waves in the Island. We played at Bellas Artes and other nice venues (soon afterwards a re-issue of the band Raices with Alberto Carrion as a guest artist). I then became one of the founding members of a band called the D'Ratz. We were the host band for a popular club in El Condado called "The Comic Strip". Later, I also became a founding member of Radio Pirata as their original drummer for whom I recorded their very first album. At the same time I also did many jingles for radio and television, I even had a spot on a Coca Cola commercial. I later became the drummer for: Menudo, Proyecto M., Lissette, Ednita Nazario, Danny Rivera, Luis Angel, Mijares, Franco de Vita, Carlos Vives, Ray Baretto, and many more. You can read all about it on my web page: www.losmisteriosdelachampaña.com

It was great, and at times overwhelming, but I always felt the need to have my own voice. I always intended on making an original band with the musicians that I had been working with all this time, but to no avail. They were either too busy or were not interested. I came to the conclusion that it was time to move on and in 1992 I left the Island, moved to New York and later worked on my own material. This has given me the satisfaction of following my own dream.

Today, I’m vigorously working on putting my project, Los Misterios de la Champaña, on the map. It is my first (long overdue) Solo musical project. I feel fortunate to be able to say that I can call music my home. There might be times where you cannot dictate what happens in life, but the way I see it, everything happens for a reason. Believe in yourself and follow your north.  Life is good!



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