Ten the Hard Way: Introducing the Houston Music Hall of Fame

In honor of the 25th Annual Houston Press Music Awards, we present the Houston Music Hall of Fame.

With different membership and a different spelling, the group debuted around Houston in 1986. Those "Ghetto Boys" petered out after lukewarm 1988 album Making Trouble. But when Houston natives Willie D and Scarface came aboard to join Jamaican-born Richard Shaw — better known as Bushwick Bill, a dancer in the previous lineup — something clicked. Released in 1989, their album Grip It! On That Other Level was quickly picked up by Rick Rubin's Def American and slightly reworked into 1990's Geto Boys. That record's censor-baiting content made national headlines and briefly got the ­Getos dropped by their ­distributor.

The next year's We Can't Be Stopped took things even further, both with its cover art — Willie D and Scarface wheeling a gunshot Bushwick into the Ben Taub ER — and with unlikely Top 20 hit "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me." And without ever meaning to, they found an entirely different audience due to Mike Judge's expert use of two songs in his 1999 cult cubicle comedy Office Space.

After 2005's The Foundation, the Geto Boys had all but called it a day until they reunited earlier this year at Houston's Free Press Summer Fest and embarked on a successful nationwide reunion tour. (They atoned for Bushwick's FPSF absence with a free hometown show a few weeks later.) And for the past several months, Willie D — who says he has much bigger plans for the Geto Boys in the months ahead — has even been dispensing a different sort of street knowledge in a weekly advice column on the Houston Press's own music blog, Rocks Off. Chris Gray

LA MAFIA

Walk into any bar or restaurant around these parts where Spanish is the primary tongue, and if that place has a jukebox, you'll find something by La Mafia. Without fail. But as "supergroups" go — and La Mafia most certainly is — they're a quiet one. They've got a quarter-century of gold and platinum records, Grammy awards and sold-out tours, but La Mafia keeps a low profile around their hometown even as a generation has grown up with their music.

Founded in 1986 by Houstonians Oscar de la Rosa and Armando Lichtenberger Jr., La Mafia put out a well-balanced mix of glossy, ­synthesizer-laden pop, modernized dances such as cumbias, and heartfelt balladry. Lead singer de la Rosa's smoldering good looks didn't hurt, but La Mafia has always been one of the most versatile bands around, freely mingling norteamericano styles with more traditional Mexican music and becoming the first Mexican­-­American band to develop a sizable fan base in Latin America.

After breaking through with 1991's Estas Tocando Fuego, between 1992 and 1995, La Mafia sent four songs to the top of the Billboard Latin singles chart — "Me Esta Enamorado," "Vida," "Me Duele Estar Solo," "Toma Mi Amor" — and through 1998, another six into the Top 5. Both 1996's Un Millón de Rosas and 1997's En Tus Manos won Grammys for Best Mexican-American/Tejano Music Performance; since governing body the Recording Academy created the Latin Grammys in 2000, La Mafia has won two more — Best Tejano Album in 2006 for Nuevamente and Best Grupero Album in 2005 for Para el Pueblo.

In 2011, Billboard ranked La ­Mafia at No. 21 on its list of the Top 25 Latin artists of the past 25 years. It's safe to say they're quite a bit higher among Houstonian fans. CG

LOS SKARNALES

Since their first "let's try this" gig in 1994, guitarist Jose Rodriguez and vocalist/percussionist Felipe Galvan have been assaulting stages and ears as Los Skarnales in one form or another and become perennial Houston Press Music Award winners. If there is a Houston sound, in fact, it's the sound Los Skarnales makes with full horn-laden, drum-crazed force.

The band has seen numerous personnel changes over the past 20 years — Umbrella Man's Nick Gaitan and Roberto Rodriguez are alumni, as are Ryan Scroggins and Beans Wheeler of Trenchtown Texans, and the Suffers' Pat Kelly, while longtime member Nestor "El Tiburón" Aguilar has been described by Galvan as "our fifth Beatle" — but the macho-punk pachuco front and full-on ska/cumbia/rockabilly/punk assault has stayed much the same as the band unfailingly excites crowds.

Former Houston Press music editor John Nova Lomax compared the band's monumental 2005 album Pachuco Boogie Sound System to the music of European Manu Chao: "As Chao is to the EU, so these vatos rudos are to NAFTA," he wrote. "Rockers from Montreal to Mérida all have something to love here."

The fact that Galvan's father was one of the first Texas singers to cop the Beatles thing and take the British Invasion south to Mexico City should come as no surprise. Having grown up in the business, Galvan is a dynamic, even frenetic front man, capable of pulling all eyes his way even before the music explodes.

While locally they bounce between Fitzgerald's, Walters and the Continental like pinballs, Skarnales also logs some serious miles, playing several times a year in Monterrey and Mexico City, where they are so revered their merch is bootlegged. They are also regulars in the Austin and San Antonio scenes, but home is Houston, where exuberant throngs of rough-and-tumble Skarnales fans loyally turn out with flash-mob foresight wherever the band sets up.

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7 comments
betty7boop
betty7boop

Gene is a favorite of mine and has been for over 40 years..  he has a voice that I can listen to all day and never tire of it.  just wish I could see more of him.  I plan on being in Brenham next week.

AtoneLoc
AtoneLoc

Billy Joe "B. J." Thomas

dustin.kalman
dustin.kalman

So is there going to be a physical hall of fame or just a virtual one?

jsteetle
jsteetle

Y'all must have been hurried? Or worse? How on earth did y'all miss Johnny Guitar Watson, and please- Chris Whitley? Let's face it, there are lots of great and talented musicians from H-Town... But to forget roots....

ltnmerlin
ltnmerlin

Hello,

Well if the Houston Press is creating a Houston Hall of Fame, they should have correct information of those that are being inducted.   La Mafia was formed in 1980, not 1986.  There are albums that were released from 1980.  Please contact them if you want to double check.

massmurdermedia
massmurdermedia

johnny guitar watson

gold star studios

roy head

lightnin' hopkins

pain teens

rap-a-lot records


 

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