David Romero

My Recollections of Rock and Roll in Puerto Rico

Where do I start? I guess it would be in grade school at República del Peru on la Calle Loiza where I went  after our family moved to P.R. after 13 years living in California. It was hard being el Americano there, and I remember one of the things I looked forward to was getting off the bus from urbanización Los Angeles where we lived, and going to the little store next to school where you could get snacks. They had a juke box which for 25 cents you could hear 6 songs, and I would play all the old Doo Wop tunes and found more rock and roll that I really liked. After a while I met some kids that liked the same kind of music so we would meet each morning and pool our money and play our fave tunes. At that time in 1962 I remember that the jukebox had 2 Puertorrican groups. One was Julito and The Blacknites and my fave one was The Rocking Chairs, and I can’t for the life of me remember the name of their songs.

Then I started going to Ramon Power High School and at the store I met Junior Brown and he was cool, he played guitar and loved rock and roll and the girls liked him and like me, he spoke great English so we became good friends and he was like my mentor. We had started a Doo Wop group with just Junior playing guitar and about 5 of us singing. Then suddenly the Beatles seemed to come out of nowhere and it all changed. I talked my dad into getting me a Harmony guitar and a Gibson Falcon amp at Musical Trading Company for $125. and I taught myself all the basic chords. There were 2 songs that I learned real fast. One was House of the Rising Sun and the other was Like a Rolling Stone. Junior found a kid, Geno, that lived across the street from the high school who had drums and then he brought in Rafi Battista on bass and Carlos (Cusin) Marcano on rhythm guitar, and Paquito Rosario on rhythm guitar and me on rhythm guitar, while Junior played lead guitar and we all sang and harmonized very well.

The Starlights

 Front Left to Right... Rafi Batista - bass / Carlos (Cusin) Marcano - rhythm guitar-vocals
  Manolito Santos - drums / Charlie Rivera (RIP) (Golun) - organ-vocals
 Paquito Luis Rosario - rhythm guitar-vocals
David Romero - lead guitar

Yeah, we were guitaring Heavy and what do you know! This band became The Starlights who would have at times early on different drummers, Rafi Gonzalez, Cuco Gonzalez, Carlitos Perez and Geno, it was dependent on who could play. Rubén Perez had a TV show on canal 30 called Teen Time and The Starlights were the house band and we would accompany the teen stars as their band on tours around the island.

We played at the Miramar Center a lot because Ruben Pérez was Carlitos’ dad and Carlitos was the official drummer of Los We which were Perdrito lead guitar, Rubencito Perez vocals and guitar, Mario Sanchez keyboard and vocals, Willie We vocals and bass. I wish I knew everyone’s full names but we all had nick-names back then. And yes mine was Perilla don’t ask me why!

At Miramar Center we played along with The Sonset which were Tommy Huerta on lead guitar, Indio on rhythm guitar and vocals, Cuco Gonzalez on drums and Dino on bass and vocals. The axman before Tommy Huerta was Manny who had a Hofner 335 semi-hollow. Shortly Tommy would leave and Billy B. would take up the lead guitar spot in the next incarnation of Los Sonset. Orly Vázquez would be the guitar god. Also at Miramar Center were the Telstars who at that time were Adrian Montijo lead guitar and vocals, Rafi guitar and vocals, Pete drums, Victor bass, and Orly Vasquez (Don Jíbaro) lead guitar and vocals.

Another unsung hero band was The Undertakers who had a couple of great players in the band. A guy from Cuba named Reno Habiff on vocals, a great left-handed lead guitar player whose name someone else can provide. I remember this because I played with them for a short while and I kinda think Roberto Puras, bass and vocals, was with us for a while.

I think after that I met this big Mulato near the jukebox at the snack store on Calle Loiza. We got to talking music and he said he played drums and sang and that he had a band but that their rhythm guitar player had to go to college and they were in a bind, as they were thinking of recording a record and needed someone and he had heard about me being a Starlight. That guy was to become my best friend till he passed away some 35 years later. This was Charlie (Golun) Rivera, or El Gordo as people called him, and the band was Los X-5 which were made up of the Cabrera brothers lead guitar and vocals, Jorge bass and vocals, Charlie drums and vocals, and David Romero (me) rhythm guitar and vocals.

I joined the band and we found ourselves playing all around doing las fiestas patronales all over the island backing up Charlie Robles, Glory Vee, Julio Angel, The Caribelles, and Celia Inez (who use to go to Ramon Power High also). We would practice at my house in Los Angeles in la marquesina (the garage).

So we did go and record the record Charlie told me about, which became Al Compás De La Nueva Ola, the second record released by a Rock Band in P.R. The first was Los Sonset record, but not by much since both were out at the same time. I still have a copy of that record, boy the innocence shows thru!

Los X-5 didn’t last long after that. Half the guys wanted to go to college but Charlie and I wanted to rock! We just loved this thing, and at the same time The Starlights lost Junior Brown and Rafi Gonzalez. Charlie knew how to play keyboard but hadn’t tried it and he knew of this kid from Calle Loiza who played drums, Manolito Santiago, so the band added Charlie on Vox Continental, Manolito on drums and me on lead guitar.

This band had a great run. We were the house band at Disco A Go-Go in San Juan, then at TheTrip and at Jack Roachs sailor bar and puta bar. Anyone remember The Red Door?
If my memory works, around this time The Telstars were kinda breaking up. Rafi and Victor were leaving, Orly was with Los Sonset, and of The Starlights Cusin Marcano was leaving, so there was a merging of the bands under the name of The Telstars.

Adrian was lead guitar and vocals, David rhythm guitar and vocals, Charlie keys and vocals, Rafi B. bass and vocals, Manolito drums, and for a while Rafi on guitar and vocals (he went into the service shortly after).
This turned out to be a pretty good combo. There were strengths all around but as always change goes on. We got to the point where Rafi B. wanted to go to school I believe, so he left, and when our other Rafi Telstar had left, we got a friend of ours, Eric Erba from this young band called The Challengers who had as lead singer our other friend Reno Habiff to join the gang.

Eric was a great front man and he played drums. Manolito had things to do so he left, leaving Adrian, Eric, Charlie and me. Well, change goes on, I jumped to bass and vocals, Eric got on the drums and vocals, Charlie stayed at the keys and vocals, and Adrian was on lead and vocals…still The Telstars.

At this point we met Joey (Lindin) Barbosa, a bass player. I liked playing bass but guitar was my passion so we got Joey with us and he was great! Eric still didn’t like playing drums and singing.

By now it was Beatles White Album – Hendrix –Vanilla Fudge – Monterey. Things were happening. Adrian and Eric left to form Abram Shoo with Alberto Carrion keys and vocals, Gonchi Sifre drums and formerly of The Chessmen, a great band, and Jorge Casas bass and vocals, formerly of The Challengers. This was a real good band. Some time after Charlie joined Abram Shoo also.

So there was this other band, The Gadgets. Alberto guitar, Noel organ, George bass, Felix drums. Good band, very B-3 influenced and they were going through changes, the bass player was leaving and Noel also.

The Gadgets

Joey and I were looking for a band so we hooked up with Alberto and Felix, and then we met Chepo, organ B-3. He was just what was needed at the time. Then we had another break. Mario Sanchez from Los We became available and we had a lead vocalist and percussionist. We got the main gig at El 1800, a popular place on la calle 18 and at Ceasars Palace in el Condado.

We had come to the conclusion that there was not much else we could do in P.R. and we knew there were gigs in St. Thomas, but that was just a smaller island even though you were on your own to do and play anything (thanks jack roach 50 -50 -50 ). We took that gig to hone ourselves. There we met The Foxy Ladies, an all girl group from Philly. They encouraged us to come to the States since we were different from the local bands there.

After St. Thomas we were back at Ceasars Palace and then decided we’ve got to go. But wait…Mr. Change was breathing down our necks! Felix had decided that he couldn’t leave P.R. so we started to go through our contacts and as fate would have it our oldest friend, Cuco Gonzalez, was going through some stuff with Los Sonset and he was willing to come to the States, so after some quick practices the band was now The Requiem Band, and we were ready for the grand adventure on the mainland!



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