The Stokes were inducted into the
'Puerto Rico Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' in 2014
I was born in the house my father built... NOT! The rest is
hysteria, I mean history!…well, you know... When I was four
years old, somebody gave me a toy piano and soon I started
imitating tunes from the radio and TV without much effort.
But I also loved to listen to the radio. "Twistin' The
Night Away" by Sam Cooke was the theme of a nightly
radio pop music program which title translated to English
means "Here With The Youth" (Aquí Con La Juventud).
Of course, everybody was young then! Except parents!
So while still of age 12, my father, upon recommendation
from our neighbor the psychologist, made me take (of all
instruments) accordion lessons! (Hey, it looked like a piano
right? But more affordable!) So I went along for a year
until I couldn't take it anymore. What I didn't realize then
was that the music theory that I was learning would come in
especially handy a couple of years later for an
unforgettable experience in music that lasts to this day!
Yes, the Beatles came into the world! I loved their
music and would have loved to get a guitar except that my
previous 'hobbies' had cost my parents a lot of money that
they didn't have. We were the only family in this
neighborhood in which the wife had to work to make it
possible to live there. I found (not to my surprise though)
that I could play the Beatles songs on a guitar with
relative ease. After all, I understood the relationships
between the chords and stuff since I had studied music
before... (remember the 'forced' accordion lessons? With its
left hand moves?) During that time (1964) many guys in the
neighborhood (except me, by choice) were getting guitars
(although they didn't know how to play them).
One day I went to the local music store,
paid all of $1 for a song book which had the guitar chords
to a few Beatles songs, and I just learned them 'on paper'
by reading it. I asked a neighbor if I could borrow his
guitar and he said no problem (this was near my 15th
birthday.) I practiced what I had read in the song book and
it was easy. I kept his guitar for a week since I knew I
would never ask for one. By Friday of that week I was
playing tunes that the other teens in our neighborhood
enjoyed and my father came in from work and noticed all of
us, who were having a great time playing and singing music
in the porch of our home. The next Monday he came from work
with a used guitar he bought somewhere...
This was a turn of events. Suddenly I had a guitar that I
could keep for an indefinite period of time (hey, it was
mine!) and practice... Soon after, I decided that I was
better off with an electric guitar. I had no amplifier so I
used someone else's for the time being.
I started a group (The Wildcats), played in a few
school dances and that was it. I found this band to be
'limiting' (except for the drummer, Raúl Paonessa)
and then I got together with a guy who had a 'Ludwig' drum
set (that was the drum set to have then; expensive) and we
looked for other musicians to form a band. This band was the
first "incarnation" (out of four, more or less) of
THE STOKES, my main
This must have happened in early-to-mid
1965. (The last incarnation of The Stokes was in
1969-70 with José Nogueras as lead singer, before he
Bandolero). The drummer of The Stokes,
Adrian Buxeda, said that he knew this guy who played
lead real well. After listening to tales about how good this
guy was, I had no problem accepting to play rhythm guitar.
He was older than any of us (me and the drummer were barely
15 years old) and we arranged the first practice session. I
was all excited that I was going to meet and play with a
'great' lead guitarist! So what actually happened was that
he said that I should play lead and he would play rhythm! I
admit he was good, but not as I expected. At any rate he
knew more chords than I did, making him perfect for rhythm
The band evolved to exclude him and suddenly I had a band
(all members 14- 15 years old) with 6 people in it and we
started playing Army and Navy bases in Puerto Rico, and the
"Teen Clubs" of these Armed Services. It was a lot of fun!
We felt like if we were playing in the Continental US
without having to leave home! The military installations we
played more often were Ft. Buchanan and San Patricio base
Before I turned 16 years old we recorded an album as a
background band to a female singer (then also 15 years old)
who is now well known in Puerto Rico (Gloryvee).
It was a bare bones production. In all the cuts it's just me
(guitar), bass, and drums (plus voice). A few years ago I
received a tape from the drummer with that album on it...
What a trip!
We were arguably the best band in Puerto Rico of that age
group, according to the local TV Guide and most everyone
else. Our big competition came from guys in their 20s, like
The Teen Sounds (later renamed to
Living End (great band!).
Challengers were the other significant band of our
We The Stokes were selected in three different years
(1966, 68 and 69) to play those summers in St. Thomas, US
Virgin Islands. In those days, St. Thomas was the "Mecca" of
any rock band in Puerto Rico. It is a well kept secret,
since only three (maybe four) bands got to go. Three of them
besides The Stokes were
Telstars (in their 2nd incarnation).
On a different scale of course, St. Thomas was for us what
the city of Hamburg was for The Beatles when they visited
Germany. In both instances the visiting bands had what could
be called a "License to do Everything"...
Puerto Rico showed then, and without a doubt, that it had
rock bands as good as any that could be found in the
mainland. The American public in St. Thomas thought so. Most
of the people in St. Thomas that went to listen to us play
at the club were from the mainland USA.
The Stokes - May, 1966
We, The Stokes, were playing at "A
Place In The Sun" (formerly
Duffy's). But back to 1966...
In 1966, when we were the second band from Puerto Rico to
play in St. Thomas (the first band was
The Living End), we children were off to an
"overseas" engagement. It was a year after the Mamas and The
Papas played in the same club/guest house, Duffy's, (see the
VHS documentary "Straight Shooter, The Story Of The Mamas
and The Papas", not the DVD).
was in Creque Alley,
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. The Mamas and The Papas
have a song by that name,
"Creeque Alley", in which
they tell their story. That was an adventure in itself…how
could it not be!? We were all children! I was the oldest and
was 16 years old!
Click for more pictures in St. Thomas
The Stokes playing at Duffy's at St Thomas
US Virgin Islands - Aug 1966
In 1968 the band had turned to
'psychedelia' so we were playing The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and
Cream. I have to say that we did the best rendition of the
long, complete version of "Light My Fire" by the Doors. I
went through all the trouble of learning Robby Krieger's
guitar solo note by note and our keyboardist, Vicente
Rivera-Fuster, may he rest in peace, learned Ray
Manzarek's organ solo also note by note. People would start
dancing at the start of the song and when the guitar solo
started (which was followed by the organ solo) most of them
would stop dancing and move in front of the band to just
listen. We also played a great rendition of "When The
Music's Over". These 2 songs were a great hit at Duffy's in
Then (well, in 1967) came college... So when I finished high
school (Colegio De La Salle, Bayamón), just turned 17 in
1967, I was given a 'lecture' by my parents to the effect
that because I was going to college now (I never questioned
this, I was ready for college...) the band days would be
over. Needles to say I proceeded to ignore them since
playing in the band was the only source of satisfaction that
I had in life then. At any rate, I didn't know what I wanted
to study so the first semester of my 2nd year at the
Universidad de Puerto Rico, so I dropped out to be a full
time hippie. I went back to St. Thomas to try to start a
band but every one of my friends was 'back to school' and
One of them, Jorge Casas, musical director and bass
player with Miami Sound Machine, then told me that
he'd love to play in a band with me but he had just joined
this band "New Zealand Trading Company", who was
booked to play in all Playboy Clubs around the world! I
couldn't compete with that! By the way, two other Puerto
Rican musicians who joined that band at the same time were
Alberto Carrión and Gonzalo (Gonchi) Sifre.
Gonchi was later the drummer of the best (during that time,
and who knows if of all time) Puerto Rican contemporary jazz
So that semester I didn't do much and I registered at the
UPR again this time as a (believe it or not) business major.
I suddenly realized that I'd like to study human nature and
it's motivations closer. So for the next semester (Sept.
1969) I decided to join the Psychology Dept. as a Psych
Then I decided to move to the mainland and I went to Long
Island, NY, where for a short time I was a graduate student
and Teaching Assistant at SUNY Stony Brook but never
finished; had no intention from the beginning. It was just
the stepping stone from Puerto Rico to the mainland that I
was hoping for. Then I worked at General Instrument
Corporation in Hicksville (LI, NY) programming RWRs (Radar
Warning Receivers) for defense applications.
After Long Island, I have lived in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale,
Denver, Chicago, Annapolis, MD for the longest and best time
(great sailing town, BTW!) and after some time back in
Miami, I am now in another part of Florida.
As I had suggested, I am an early member of the Rock Music
movement in Puerto Rico, and so are Adrian Buxeda, Raul
Paonessa, Raymond Files (RPM), and Jorge Casas (for a
long time musical director of Miami Sound Machine),
and many, many other great guys and dolls, many of whom live
in South Florida now.
Slightly over ten years after that great adventure, Raymond
and I last played together in a public performance at a club
in Long Island, New York, The Crow's Nest. Take a listen
"It was the best of times...", and it was the
best of times!
Banda del K-Rajo story (in Spanish)
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