The Music and Chop Shop of Los Lonely Boys
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Well now, what does a rock and roll band do after it breaks out of a small town Texas to win a Grammy, watch its debut record go multi-platinum and tour with the Rolling Stones. Los Lonely Boys, a Tex-Mex blues rock trio of brothers, had a longstanding dream. Not to buy an airplane or an island, but something closer to home.
NPR's John Burnett reports.
JOHN BURNETT: When Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza are not on the road playing concerts, they're home in San Angelo, three hours west of Austin, in their custom body shop. With the flush of success, last year they opened the Texican Chop Shop.
(Soundbite of orbital sander)
BURNETT: That's the sound of an orbital sander, working on a midnight black 1967 Pontiac GTO, which, for those of you who care, has a modified 455 cubic inch engine, a Hurst shifter dueled with scoops and black leather bucket seats. The Texican Chop Shop restores vintage muscle cars, makes Lowriders and does custom paint jobs, like the Virgin of Guadalupe airbrushed in the hood of a '76 Monte Carlo. Henry Garza, the 28-year-old, pony tailed oldest brother and lead guitarist, smokes a Camel in his sleeveless work shirt with Henry stitched on the chest.
Mr. HENRY GARZA (Los Lonely Boys): It's definitely not what we're living off of, you know, because music is always first. This is just a way to help family and be a part of something that we also love. We love cars man. We got cars.
BURNETT: But his guitar is never far away, always ready for a spur of the moment blues jam.
(Soundbite of music)
Mr. H. GARZA: (Singing) Saying all right is above (unintelligible). Saying all right, saying on and on these things. Hey. Saying all right, saying on and on of these things. Yeah, got along back to me before rolling down right here.
BURNETT: Though music is their life, cars are a close second. Jojo Garza is the 26-year-old bassist.
Mr. JOJO GARZA (Los Lonely Boys): When I see an old car on the street, man, I don't think there's a better feeling than looking at a car, like one of these old '39s or something, that's completely taken from the ground up and been restored. I think these cars are like people in a way, you know. They all have their own stories.
BURNETT: And so here is the story behind Jojo's beloved '66 Chevy Chevelle.
Mr. J. GARZA: When I was 15 years old, this was like the first car I really saw. I fell in love with it. I was like, man, I love that car, you know. Had these five-star rims on it. And it was gold with a really nasty green interior. But it was beautiful.
BURNETT: The gold Chevelle with the ugly green interior disappeared from the streets of San Angelo, but love endures. Ten years later, when the band hit it big, he heard about the very same Chevelle, tracked it down and bought it.
(Soundbite of engine)
Mr. J. GARZA: Hear that?
BURNETT: Today, the lean, stripped down Chevelle, its engine throbbing, sits in the shop ready for restoration.
Mr. J. GARZA: That is really (unintelligible), right there, brother.
(Soundbite of engine)
Mr. J. GARZA: Woo. Love it. That's my baby.
BURNETT: Three years ago, Los Lonely Boys' debut album, with its supernal harmonies and silken guitar riffs, sold two and a half million copies. Their proud father declared them the Mexican Beatles. Though band members have been featured on covers of major music magazines, to listen to Jojo, that honor pales in comparison to making the recent cover of Fender Bender magazine.
Mr. J. GARZA: That's bad news.
Mr. H. GARZA: (Unintelligible)
Mr. J. GARZA: Oh.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. J. GARZA: (Unintelligible)
BURNETT: Last summer, Los Lonely Boys released their second studio CD, "Sacred." It happened to be playing in the garage.
(Soundbite of song, "My Way")
Mr. H. GARZA: (Singing) Don't tell me how to live my life. Don't tell me how to pray. Don't tell me how to sing my song. Don't tell me what to say. Cuz I believe that miracles happen everyday. I don't care what you say, I'm gonna do it my way.
People were asking us in the beginning. Well, what's your music? What do you call your music? And if you're going to put a label on it, we might as well make up our own. So we said Texican rock and roll. And so that's really where Texican came from. Just being, you know, a Mexican-Texan. It's who we are.
BURNETT: And now, as the owners of the Texican Chop Shop, Los Lonely Boys is something else - you know knew this was coming - Texas's most famous garage band.
John Burnett, NPR News.