Best Riffs Only: Krayolas Going For Tex-Mex Rock & Roll Master's

The Krayolas play a free in-store at Cactus Music at 5:30 p.m.

Krayolas drummer David Saldana is not your average power-pop rock and roller. While his resuscitated band continues to draw gobs of press and is grabbing some high profile gigs, Saldana's life is taking him in another direction.

"I'm actually getting my Masters in education so I can be a principal," says Saldana from his home in San Antonio.

He goes on to explain that he's been involved with the Diabetes Research Center for the past 20 years, and has been involved in some of the largest National Institute of Health studies regarding the disease. He actually spent a year working in Austin to help with funding new testing programs.

"I was involved with the largest NIH study ever," remarks Saldana. "We tested 38,000 kids in school districts all over South Texas. I spent so much time around schools and really came to understand just how important they are to our future. So I'm headed in that direction now."

That's a long way from the garage-rocking teenagers who took San Antonio - and Houston - by storm in the late '70s.

"We blew up pretty quick around here and then we got on the frat party circuit in Austin right after Animal House hit. Every frat wanted a cool band for a party, so we were up in Austin working against guys like Christopher Cross, Paul Ray and the Cobras and the like."

"We came really close to a national deal several times, but we always seemed to be that band that labels would look at and then say 'What are we going to do with those guys?'

"We won the big battle of the bands contest here in 1977 and all the Polygram people had flown in and got all excited," Saldana says. "Then they went back to their offices and the deal just fizzled."

The band then played the Bottom Line in New York and RCA came calling.

"We thought 'how crazy is this.' We're this little power pop band from San Antonio and we're playing the Bottom Line. And Dave Brubeck was playing the next night," the drummer recalls.

"Of course they were getting maybe ten dollars for our tickets and $35 for his. But RCA got all excited for a time, then they faded away. That was just our story, how it always went."

Asked to recall some big thrills, Saldana laughs.

"We were playing this date in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and we get a call from this agent who wants us to detour to Tulsa and open for a band the next night at Cain's Ballroom, the most storied music club in that part of the world.

"So we get to the dressing room and there's Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Terry Williams, and Billy Bremner. We were opening for Rockpile. And they were all such pleasant guys who treated us great.

"Nick autographed one of the posters for us and he wrote, 'Best riffs only, Nick Lowe.' And when we finally came back and started to put out that first compilation of our old stuff, we thought we just have to use Nick's line for the album title."

Saldana also recalls being on an unlikely bill in San Antonio with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and crooner Michael Bolton. What was Bolton like?

"Oh he was handled, guys like us couldn't get near him. Poor guy lip-synched the whole show." 

Saldana recalls how the Krayolas developed a large following in Houston in the late '70s. Sanford Criner had just purchased the old bank building that would become the most important listening room in Houston, Rockefeller's on Washington.

"He came to this show we played one night, maybe sixty people there, and he took us over to see the club, which wasn't opened yet. He'd gotten some low interest loans for historical preservation and such. So went over there and checked it out and that's when he told us he wanted to book us for opening night."

"The next thing we know, we're on the cover of the Houston Post and maybe 400 people showed up for that gig. Sanford later moved us into another warehouse type place he owned and we had some gigs with 5-600 people. Houston just blew up for us very suddenly."

Like many other musicians we've interviewed, Saldana recalls liking to play Houston.

"We played Dallas a lot back in those days too, and don't get me wrong, I like Dallas. But it always felt so uptight and tense there. Houston crowds were always just way more laid back."

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