Just 'In Time'
Local ‘Latin blues’ heroes, the Delgado Brothers, celebrate with documentary premiere and free concert in Monrovia this weekend
By Bliss Bowen 08/15/2013
Over the years, swapping beers and stories at family get-togethers and after countless gigs, the Delgado Brothers have laughingly sworn to each other, “We oughtta write a book!” Or maybe make a movie.
With the help of director Lance Mungia and Monrovia’s KGEM studio (where the film was edited), they finally did. “In Time,” a documentary tracking the East LA ”Latin blues” veterans’ career, premieres Saturday at the Action on Film Festival in Monrovia. The Delgado Brothers will also give a free concert in Monrovia’s Library Park bandshell on Sunday.
“The timing was right to do this,” explains guitarist Joey Delgado. “I’ve been playing with my younger brother Stevie for over 40 years. My older brother Bob started this version of the band in 1984. My older brothers [Danny and Eddie] were in Thee Exotics and Thee Ambertones in the ’60s. So we’ve been playing music for over 50 years. And we tell these stories [when] we get together, so that’s what we did in the movie: we play music, we tell stories.” He likens the film to “a time line of music from the ’60s to current times, showing how the Delgado Brothers paralleled the rock music movement.”
With five sisters and six brothers — Bob, Danny, Eddie, Jimmy, Joey and Steve — the Delgado clan was a lively brood. Delgado says his older brothers started making music after Eddie was given a guitar at an East LA Boys Club Christmas party. “Everybody was into guitars because of the Beatles and Elvis Presley,” he says. “He was gonna keep it to himself. But once he left the house, Bob and Danny jumped on it [laughs]. … My recollections of them rehearsing in the living room were amazing. It was so cool. Pretty girls sitting there watching them play, and they were real handsome and young. Great times.”
He says his sisters never sang and insists the brothers didn’t discourage them: “For us, there was no choice; I had to be a musician, that’s all there is to it. But they didn’t have that drive.”
He shares vivid memories of East LA’s jumping rock ‘n’ roll scene in the early to mid-1960s, with his brothers and other friends piling gear and bandmates into their Chevys and playing three and four gigs a night on weekends. He ticks off the names of other local bands from that era — Thee Midniters, Cannibal & the Headhunters, Mark and the Escorts — and members of Los Lobos who attended high school with his older brothers. But by the time Eddie and Danny returned from serving in Vietnam toward the end of the decade, Delgado says, “everything was different.”
In 1970, when he was in eighth grade, he persuaded his brothers to accompany him at a school talent show. (“It was totally unfair,” he says, laughing.) After that, the Delgados — minus Bob — started working steadily as a cover band that jammed on Top 40 hits like “Brick House.” “Eddie took us and tried to mold us into the Latino version of the Osmonds or the Jacksons,” Delgado recalls. They broke up in 1979. By 1984, Bob wanted to start a blues band, so he recruited Joey and Steve and turned them on to Peter Green, B.B. King, Freddie King, Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf and other deep, rocking blues — the music they ultimately fused with rock, soul and Latin groove to create their own earthy, joyous sound.
“The bands that made it out of East LA had original music,” Delgado points out. “Bob took a different path from the scene. Everyone was doing the typical low rider type songs, and slow songs from Motown — all covers. Bob got into Cream and Yardbirds and Van Morrison and Them, all the really rocking British blues stuff. Then he learned about where that originated from, which was here in the US, the real blues guys.”
The current Delgado Brothers lineup is Bob, Joey and drummer Steve Delgado, plus Hammond B3 organist David “B” Kelley. They were all on hand for the film, which shows the brothers in a van tricked out with multiple cameras as they retrace youthful days racing between gigs at East LA union halls and school gymnasiums.
“In Time” incorporates music from their four albums: 1990’s self-titled debut on HighTone, 1999’s “Let’s Get Back” on buddy John “Juke” Logan’s Mocombo Records, and 2003’s “A Brother’s Dream” and 2009’s “Learn to Fly” on their own Bell Asher label. The film is less concerned with their experiences in the industry than with the enduring bonds they’ve forged with and through music.
“Me and Bob and Stevie, there’s very rarely a day goes by that we don’t talk to each other,” Delgado says. “What the story comes down to, for me, is that we’re a very successful band on our terms. We don’t have monetary success; nobody knows us in Riverside. [Laughs] Maybe they do, I don’t know. No worldwide fame, but we’re content with who we are and what we’ve done. Everybody wants more success so you can make a living at what you do; that’s what our driving force is. But we don’t want to compromise our art to get it.”
“In Time” premieres at the Action on Film Festival at the Krikorian Monrovia Cinema, 410 S. Myrtle Ave., Monrovia, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 in advance and available at aoffest.com or $20 the day of the show. The Delgado Brothers will give a free concert from 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Library Park Bandshell, 119 W. Palm Ave., Monrovia. For more information, call (626) 256-8246 of visit delgadobrothers.com.