In 2003, my former spouse, Sally Jo Davis, traveled from her home in Seattle, Washington to a teachers’ confab in Los Angeles, California.
Sally Jo was a dedicated, excellent teacher. She went at her own expense to the convention, to share, learn and network. — Because she was driven to be a better and better elementary school teacher. She loved going to conferences, where she could listen to education experts from all over America, and rub shoulders with her brother and sister teachers. Well, she did all that at this convention; but Sally Jo also enjoyed one of the biggest treats of her life during her California trip.
The producers of the gathering made an announcement, asking everyone to meet up in the big theater near the convention, at such and such a time, as they had a big surprise in store for them. So, the teachers got together at the appointed time and waited to see what would happen. Everyone wondered who or what was behind the curtain on the theater’s big stage. Well, after much anticipation, the curtain rose, and standing there in front of a huge bank of amps, speakers and drums, was the great East L. A. Band, Los Lobos.
Sally Jo’s favorite band on Planet Earth was Los Lobos; so naturally, she immediately jumped to her feet and began cheering her boys. She looked around, and no one else was doing that! One of the band members said, “Well, we’re playing all our songs for you today. What’s your name?” She said, I’m “Sally Jo Davis”. They replied, “Just shout out your requests, Sally Jo”.
Los Lobos, out of East L.A., is one of America’s musical and cultural treasures. As I write, they’ve been playing together for forty years! The band consists of the incredible singer/guitar virtuoso David Hidalgo, who also plays accordion, violin, banjo, steel guitar, slide guitar, mandolin and drums; Cesar Rosas on great left-handed guitar and bluesy vocals; songwriter Louie Perez on guitar, drums and vocals; Conrad Lozano, one of the planet’s premier bass players and harmony vocalists; Steve Berlin, who produces records for many bands, and shines on saxes, keyboards and flute; and “Bugs” on drums. At the time this story took place, Cougar Estrada was present on drums. (I wrote all of that by memory – I could write the Wikipedia entry on this band!)
People who are casually familiar with Los Lobos will remember them as the band that did the music for the movie “La Bamba”, including the title song, which sold a million copies. But Los Lobos can play anything they darn well feel like playing, from Mexican canciones to country-rock, to blues, to far out art rock. And beyond!
Throughout the show, the band dedicated several songs to Sally Jo, and she did indeed call out her requests. — I wasn’t there, but I know SJ. I’m sure she asked the guys to play their version of the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha”. And most likely, she asked for their great “One Time, One Night”, their composition which chronicles the hardships faced by families who immigrate to America. I’ll bet she also asked for “Kiko”, their musical tale of a little boy who dreams and dreams….
Sally Jo told me the fellows put on one of their best shows, and she would know, because by then, she’d seen Los Lobos at least fifteen times. Once, Sally Jo drove us east to the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington to enjoy their music in that beautiful setting by the Columbia River. They opened for Dave Mathews, and were given a very short opening segment. When Dave Mathews came on, we managed to stay for about two songs, and then split. It just wasn’t what we came to hear. And in 1995, we flew to Angel Fire, located in the enchanting state of New Mexico, to hear Los Lobos at the World Music Festival.
After the concert, one of the band (I think Cesar) approached and asked Sally Jo to come back stage to visit with them. She laughingly said, “I’m not that kind of a girl!” Cesar replied, “Oh, no, we want you to eat with us”. So she sat down to dinner with Los Lobos, her Favorite Band In The World. She said they were such gentlemen, and so much fun.
Sally Jo and I stayed in touch after we divorced; but she didn’t usually share a great deal with me. I was more accustomed to receiving the occasional, brief email. But she really opened up, and gushed about this experience.
The next time Los Lobos came to Seattle, I had my ticket in hand, and was so looking forward to catching their performance on Seattle’s waterfront. But I found out they were doing a special, mini-concert before their big Pier concert, in our local Tower Records parking lot, which happened to be right down the street from Experience Music Project, where I worked! I posted a notice on the employee bulletin board, asking as many people as possible to accompany me to see Los Lobos at their special, free show.
When the big day came, we EMPeeps went en mass to see the guys, and to cheer them on in the parking lot. A parking lot may not be the most glamorous place to have a world-renowned band to put on a show, but the men of Los Lobos were very gracious. They welcomed us with the same spirit and verve which they always display. And they gave us a great show on that sunny Seattle day, playing under a canopy.
I remember they started out with a new number, “Dream In Blue”, taken from their just-released CD, “Good Morning Aztlan”. After they expertly played the song, I yelled out, “My ex-wife says hello!” David Hidalgo, my favorite guitarslinger, light-heartedly yelled back at me, “Tell her we said hello!”
So I did.
Bonus coverage: Before the wheels fell off the bus, so to speak, Sally Jo and I had some great times. We had much in common. I remember Christmas 1988, when we were opening presents under our beautifully-decorated tree. We alternated opening gifts. As it was her turn to open one from me, she tore off the shiny wrapping and found the Grateful Dead’s 1989 calendar. It was then my turn, so I opened one from her. Removing the wrapping, I found — the Grateful Dead’s 1989 calendar.
I’m so very sad to say Sally Jo passed away in January 2015, from ALS. Let this story be a tribute to her greatness.