Mario knows Ritchie through his music and through stories told
by Mama, family members, and fellow musicians who toured with Ritchie,
like Tommy Allsup, Link Wrey, and Chris Montez. Daniel Valdez, the younger
brother of Luis Valdez, who was the writer and director of La Bamba, also played an important role inspiring Mario through his music.
Mama told Mario that Ritchie often told her about his dreams, and then he would write a song about those dreams. Ritchie’s fire and drive fueled a passion for music in Mario, who plays harmonica and sings in his own group, Backyard Blues Band. He also writes songs for the group, many of which appear on the band’s CD’s.
Mario’s band has appeared as opening act for many well-known artists including John Lee Hooker, Los Lobos, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Dick Dale, famous surf guitarist who toured with Ritchie, told Mario that he called Ritchie “Ricardo, my latin buddy.” Mario performed at Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, with The Chop Tops as part of their farewell tour, and was invited to perform as part of the All Star Jam at Ritchie’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. With his family’s encouragement, Mario now performs some of Ritchie’s songs at his concerts.
Photo credit Dick Cole
Thank you to family friend Peterson David for his assistance in writing the biographies for the family.