Chris Montez was born in Los Angeles California and grew up in the town of Hawthorne. He was influenced by his Hispanic culture and the rock ‘n roll success of Richie Valens. Music was an integral part of his family life and Chris began singing rancheras with his older brothers when he was a kid. They taught him to play the guitar and he sang the high parts. As he gained confidence and his voice matured, he began singing leads. His early days at Hawthorne High were spent emulating the tough “low rider” Latino image, but in his junior year, ignited by the spark of musical ambition, Chris changed his style because he had “goals to make.” He formed a band and recorded his own original songs that gained the interest of Monogram Records. “All You Had To Do Was Tell Me” became a local hit.
In 1962, Chris’ single, “Let’s Dance” hit the top 10 and he was on his way. He toured with Clyde McPhatter, Sam Cooke, The Platters and Smokey Robinson. In 1963, while in Liverpool with Tommy Roe, his opening act was a new English group, The Beatles. With 3 years on the road behind him, Chris came home in 1965 to complete his education and join a new label, A & M. Herb Alpert dropped in on one of Chris’ first sessions and suggested that he try a soft ballad sound. It was a more conservative style than Chris would have preferred but Alpert’s instincts were good and the hits “The More I See You,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” “Call Me” and “Time After Time” followed in quick succession.
While the British and psychedelic rock were invading the U.S., Chris left A & M, signed with CBS International and amassed a string of hits outside the U.S. that has firmly established him as an international recording star. He has recorded songs in English and in Spanish that have become hits in Austria, Germany and Holland.
Long before The Doors and The Beach Boys, there was a musical phenomenon occurring in Los Angeles’ large Hispanic population that would take 30 years to be recognized. In the early 50’s, rhythm and blues performed solely by black musicians took hold with Los Angeles’ Chicano (Americans born of Mexican descent) residents years before it gained popularity with the teens who would credit Elvis Presley with their introduction to rock ‘n roll. In the barrios of East Los Angeles, The Drifters, Clyde McPhatter, Crows and Big Jay McNeely were the music of choice in the 50’s.
Those solid musical roots, intermingled with traditional Mexican rancheras gained a new and fresh popularity with groups such as Los Lobos. The success of the film “La Bamba” identified those roots. Chris Montez’ well-known hits and his heritage are part of the Richie Valens legacy.
“I am very conscious of my culture,” says Chris, who performed as Chris Montez and La Raza on tours to Japan, South America and Europe. Judging by record sales and well attended appearances in many European cities, so are they.
Today, Chris Montez is just hitting his stride. Born into a bi-cultural city with a rich heritage, he emerges trim and fit, an energetic performer with a history and cultural relevance that is unique.