Legends Los Apson bring borderlands rock to town

click to enlarge Legends Los Apson bring borderlands rock to town
(Photo by Katya Mendoza/Staff)
José Luis "Lichy" Garcia, founder of Los Apson, performs Thursday, Sept. 1, at HOCO Fest.

Established in 1969, in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, Los Apson were pioneers of the musical movement that took the borderland regions by storm.

Known for their covers of songs like “Fue en un Cafe,” (“Under the Boardwalk”) “Popeye,” (“Popeye, The Hitchhiker”) and “Cuando era Jovencito” (“Cottonfields”), Los Apson brought Spanish-speakers their own version of rock ‘n’ roll, con mas sabor. Spearheading la invasión norteña, or northern invasion genre movement in the 1960s, their cultural contributions have woven the group into the fabric de las tierras fronterizas.

They will perform Thursday, Sept. 1, as part of HOCO Fest at Hotel Congress.

José Luis “Lichy” Garcia, the original founding member and saxophonist of the group said their sound hasn’t changed much.

“No ha cambiado porque los
éxitos se siguen tocando igual como son originalmente, y tenemos que ser así porque es lo que la gente quiere escuchar”, dijo Garcia.

“It hasn’t changed because the hits are still playing the same how they were originally,” Garcia said. “We have to play what the people want to hear.”

Los Apson, which stands for their hometown “Agua Prieta, Sonora,” was formerly called Los Apson Boys. A name offered to them by a famous radio show host, Ricardo Rivas, Garcia said that all of the bands at the time were named “boys.”

“Todos los grupos musicales, eran chamacos, eran ‘boys’”, dijo Garcia.

The band’s original members included Arturo Durazo on guitar, his brother and the band’s drummer, Francisco “Pancho” Durazo, José Luis “Lichy” Garcia on the saxophone.

Tránsito “Frankie” Gámez, vocalist and little clarinet player, Raúl Hernández Cota, the bass player, and Leopoldo “Polo” Sánchez Labastida, the vocalist. The band shuffled members throughout the 1960s and 1970s, before dissolving. The band ebbed and flowed with new members, but never sounded the same.

“Siguió el grupo, los records estaban subiendo pero el grupo ya no sonaba igual”, dijo Garcia.

“Lichy” has been the glue that has held together the band’s legendary sound. In the 1980s, Garcia returned to Douglas after traveling for work.

“Yo tenía un negocio, a minimarket, ahí en Douglas, y tenía muchos clientes que me conocían. Cada cliente que entraba ahí me preguntaba, ‘¿Que paso con Los Apson?’ Pense, ‘Algo tiene, algo están pidiendo acquí”, dijo Garcia.

“I had a minimarket in Douglas, and I had many, many customers who knew me. Every customer who entered would ask me, ‘What happened with Los Apson?’ I thought, ‘I have something here.”

In 1984, Garcia reformed the band with Frankie Gamez, Gil Maldonado and Pancho Durazo.

“Hicimos un evento en Agua Prieta porque el público quería vernos otra vez juntos y fue un exitazo”, dijo Garcia.

“We did an event in Agua Prieta because the public wanted to see us together and it was a smash hit.”

The band was back together but would face inner rumblings once more.

“Eran problemas cada vez que tocábamos. Tenía que buscar otros elementos. Sí hice otro grupo, pero nunca los aprobé hasta que encontré este grupo que yo traigo. Ahorita tocamos igual”, dijo Garcia.

“There were problems every time we performed. I had to look for other musicians. I started another group, I never approved of any until I found the group I have now. We play the same,” Garcia said.

The group’s current members are drummer Carlos Ismael Garcia, singer/guitarist Octavio Arreola, bassist Antonio Reginaldo Ripalda, lead guitarist Hugo Córdoba Villegas and saxophonist Garcia.

Their familiar melodies take residents on both sides to a different time, in between the doo-wop-soul of The Drifters, baroque pop of The Zombies and blues-rock that is Credence Clearwater Revival. Los Apson have defied barriers through the tests of time.

“Una temporada, en que llamaron Los Apson, ‘The Mexican Beatles’”, dijo Garcia.

“There was a time when they called Los Apson, ‘The Mexican Beatles,’” Garcia said.

Fifty-three years later, Los Apson are busy, still traveling every weekend to perform throughout the region.

“Muy ocupados”, dijo Garcia.

“Very busy,” Garcia said.

“Hemos estado con los mejores del rock and roll de México. Tal vez son los pioneros del rock and roll en México”, dijo Garcia.

“We have been with the best of rock ‘n’ roll in Mexico. Perhaps they are the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll in Mexico,” Garcia said.

Popular Mexican artists such as Enrique Guzmán, César Costa, Roberto Jordán, Los Hooligans, Los Hermanos Carrión, Angélica María y mas.

“The best,” Garcia said.

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