26 August 2016

"Los Ranger's Black" - The Rhythm of the Sixties

Manuel Caro Rios, one of the founders of "Los Ranger's Black"  has just written up the history of Alcalá's much-loved '60s rock band, which I have translated below.  The original can be found here.

Their repertoire reflected the appeal of all things English in a country just emerging from the most repressive years of the dictatorship.  British pop songs were starting to be played on Spanish radio.  Miniskirts, psychedelic shirts, pachouli oil, gin & tonic, American tobacco were wildly trendy,   Alcalá artist and sculptor Jesús Cuesta Arana, a big fan who designed their stage sets, wrote about them:
In this [culture of modernity] the Rangers burst forth in Alcalá de los Gazules, which was used to a different kind of rancher.  Four kids jumped on the sonic bandwagon of the times. It was like a kind of alcalaíno Beatles. They did more than cheer people up with their music and self-assurance;  they brought freshness, new winds and sensations to an era of anxiety.  They openly challenged the moralizing and hypocrisy that never got the better of them. They travelled from Cadiz to many villages, playing in concerts and fairs. 
The name also reflects the anglophilia of the age.  "Rangers" = rancheros, a common enough profession around Alcalá.   The fact that there is a superfluous apostrophe and the adjective follows the noun are unimportant.  The band learned the English lyrics phonetically, often having no idea what they were singing.

On 9 September Los Ranger's are doing a gig on the Paseo de la Playa.  This is their second "comeback", following a performance on the Alameda three years ago which the whole town turned out to see.  At that time, they hadn't played together for over forty years. The surviving members of the original line-up were joined by two of Manuel's sons, Victor and Javi, and a lively group of female backing vocalists.  Here's what they sounded like.


The group was born in the years 1961-62. At that time the charcoal industry, which for decades had been extremely important in the local economy, was coming to an end due to the arrival of butane gas. This led to an increase in poverty, already widespread, and also to the emigration which the town suffered from around 1967 as a result of the shortage of work. The “Choriceros” (the name given to the men who went into the countryside with their animals) began a new activity which consisted in digging up cepas de brezos [bulbous roots of heather plants used to make tobacco pipes] and taking them to the pipe factory which was set up at that time. There they cut them, baked them and sent them to Barcelona where they were made into pipes. The cork harvest, livestock and crop cultivation (very important in those times) constituted the rest of the town’s economy.

In this environment, with students having to go to Cadiz to study for exams because there was no secondary school, at least for those families who didn’t have the means to send their children away to some fee-paying school, the group came into being.  As well as a musical group it was an important youth movement. “Los Ranger’s” wasn’t just four people. It was practically the whole of Alcalá’s younger generation, a big percentage. Many people came to our gigs. They helped us set up the stage, carry the equipment, and even our distinguished friend Cuestarana painted some impressive “Tiffanys” [Art Nouveau-style backdrops]. Our beloved and unforgettable Juan Romero, used to hit the roof when he went to get paid, because the entire fee had been spent on beer, wine and pinchitos morunos [meat kebabs].

The initial idea of the group came from Juan Manuel Rodríguez González “Juan Ulloa” and Santiago Romero Vera (brother of the fondly remembered elder Sister of the Beaterio, Maria del Amor). They both played the harmonica at that time. They asked me if I would accompany them on guitar. We did some canciones melódicas [popular Spanish ballads] and we weren’t too bad. When Santiago’s family moved to Seville, Juan and I started afresh with both of us playing guitar. On occasions we were joined by our dear friend Paco Álvarez Mateo, R.I.P.  Paco always said nothing sounded better than a group with two guitars and a bass.

We were missing something very important for any group: the drummer. We decided to talk to Juan Romero Díaz. Our unforgettable Juan Romero, he of the fried potatoes. In his youth, Juan had played in several orchestras, such as the “Orquestina Alcalaina” formed by Andrés Guerra Jobacho, Paco Puelles and himself. They also played serenades at saints’ days, birthdays etc. for whoever hired them.

At first, he was very unwilling. We were just two lads and he was a mature man with children of our age. But his love of music won him over and eventually he accepted.  Later on, his son Pepe Romero, R.I.P., took over ownership of the drumsticks and became our definitive drummer.

It was the age of the most brilliant music of the ‘60s, with the Beatles and the Stones in all their splendour, and with a whole lot of solo singers who still endured, as did the songs that made them famous.

Isabel Viaga “Beli” also joined the group, as our first vocalist. We lost her to emigration as well, when her family went off to Barcelona. Occasionally we had the support of Ana Jesús Rodriguez, Juan’s sister.

This was a little-known stage in the story of Los Ranger's. Juan and I were living in Cádiz. At that time we were taking our first steps in the capital, and rubbed shoulders with some pretty good groups like Los Simun, Los Abunai, Los Teka, etc. We played in the University, in the Plaza de Mina and in the competitions which took place on Sundays in the Gran Teatro Falla. There are still some posters of those events.

Shortly afterwards our Rangers "Canario” [native of the Canary Islands], Carlos Sánchez Ortega, arrived in Alcalá.  This gave us the opportunity of incorporating a rhythm guitar and a keyboard. Moreover, unlike most groups, we were able to interchange our instruments. He also brought his voice, giving the group a style more in line with the requirements of the time.

Los Rangers around 1968.  L-R: Manolo Caro Ríos, Carlos Sánchez
Ortega, Juan Ulloa, José Romero, Manolo Lazarich
In 1969, Juan went off to do his military service and in January 1970 it was my turn to do the same. Matias Muñiz, our substitute bass player, subsequently emigrated to Catalonia.

Then Carlos’s family flew to the Canaries.

Later on, our drummer Pepe Romero died. It was a big emotional blow, and very painful for us.

But we never stopped being Rangers. It’s something that we carry deep inside us. Carlos far away, Juan and I, have always stayed faithful to our friendship and between us there has always been an extra, eternal link formed by the strings of our guitars.

We will die being Los Ranger's, and leave behind to our descendants this story, forged in difficult times, but full of music and magical happenings.

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