For Roberto Padrón, the show must go on
At first sight, 69-year-old Roberto Padron might look like a guy who refuses to let go. Then he starts talking. And pretty soon, he’s got you thinking that letting go is the last thing he ought to do, because the day Padron lets go is the day a hunk of the colorful history of music in Quincy Valley lets go with him.
Still rocking at an age most of us think “rocking chair,” Padron still believes in the power of music.
It all started in Quincy for Padron, who now lives in East Wenatchee. His first band, around 1966, were The Renegades, a rock band built when Padron and some of his buddies attended Quincy High School. A couple of years later came The Zapata Band, playing rock and Mexican music.
“We went back and forth, using the same musicians,” Padron said.
Later on came the Way-Lites, while he still had the Zapata Band.
His current band is called Cheyenne, or Shy-Ann, depending on whom you ask. One of the Zapata Band players is now in Shy-Ann, or Cheyenne.
Very much like that teenager Renegade, Padron is still hustling, still angling, still itching for that next gig. He doesn’t try to play guitar left-handed like he did during the Beatles craze, to imitate Paul McCartney, but he never stops trying to find an audience.
“Hey, what do you think about asking the high school if we could play at their dance?” he asked.
In 52 years, he has played his share of high school dances, county fairs, colleges, dance halls, bars, battles-of-the-bands, pizza joints, festivals and casinos, almost always in Washington, with a few trips to Canada.
With Cheyenne, or Shy-Ann, he has become a regular at the casinos in Omak and Manson, opening for 1970s hitmakers Ambrosia in 2017. Other venues haven’t been as welcoming. The folks at Sun Lakes Parks said no at first, then said yes to one gig.
“Now we play a lot more gigs there,” he said with a laugh. “Can’t get enough of us.”
Then, there’s the club in Cashmere with a gigantic black bird flat on its back, painted above the front door.
“The Crow, they won’t let us play,” he said.
Ever the music lifer, he says he’s in talks about a show in December at the Flying Pig, about 70 mid-size steps from the entrance to the Crow.
As to which band will show up, Padron says he does not know, yet.
“As you get older, people get their own little ideas,” he said. The band started as Cheyenne, a name like the Indian tribe, and Padron loved it. Other’s didn’t. So Padron relented and changed the name, and now the band is known as Shy-Ann.
An employee of the U.S. Postal Service for decades, Padron was forced into retirement 11 years ago after an unfortunate encounter with that age-old enemy of the postal worker: a dog.
The dog charged, Padron fell and broke his back.
Retired and drawing a disability pension, he can’t think of a better way to spend his golden years than belting out classic rock tunes.
“Some people go fishing,” he said, later referring to music as “what keeps me alive.”
He plays guitar sitting down, the only concession he makes to that ailing spine.
“When you play live, and you play people, people motivate you,” he said.
Getting the musicians together is a challenge, especially for meager paydays.
Pleasing the crowd is rarely a challenge, since the band relies heavily on tried-and-true hits, plus a few tunes from the Zapata days.
“We play ‘La Bamba,’ man,” he said, chuckling.
“La Bamba” is a traditional Mexican folk song that was turned into a rock ’n’ roll tune by teen idol Ritchie Valens in the 1950s and has remained a crossover classic ever since.
All the more good news to Padron, who has two members of the Zapata Band in Shy-Ann, and who treasures the old days with his compadres, now more than ever. Watching Padron take roll of the members of older versions of the Zapata Band shows why.
“This guy got really sick, (this guy) died of cancer, (this guy) had a heart attack,” Padron said, moving his index from face to face on a photo. “This guy just passed away six months ago.”
Padron refuses to get maudlin, even in the face of such loss. Music is what he does and will continue to do. He says he’s looking forward to a gig in December in Rock Island, even if real life continues to get in the way. He said he feels blessed being able to still play, and to still play with good musicians.
“I remember a guy who owns a wrecking yard in Moses Lake, and who used to play drums with me for a while,’ Padron said. “He said to me, ‘you’re like the godfather of the music in the Columbia Basin, because I don’t think there’s one musician that hasn’t played with you.’”
By Sebastian Moraga, firstname.lastname@example.org