Hurricanes, Remedy, Bluegrass, Jazz and Much More!

SOCORRO, N.M. July 2, 2012 – The 20th annual Fourth of July celebration on the New Mexico Tech campus may be the best one yet – so arrive early to stake out a site for you and your family in the grassy area north of Macey Center.


Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr. return to Socorro for the July 4th Celebration.

Organizers have really pulled out all the stops, with a Wild West extravaganza, hours of good-time dance music, Sousa marches, jazz and martial arts demonstrations, plenty to eat and drink, water slides and other activities for kids – and, of course, a spectacular fireworks show.

Events begin at 11 a.m. and end with the aerial display after sunset, where there’s campus parking, lots of dance space, grass, shade trees and sunshine – all free of charge.

“We’ve got quite an entertainment lineup up this year, and we’ve gotten the word out early this year,” said Ronna Kalish, director of New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series, a key sponsor in partnership with the City of Socorro and the EMRTC research division, and special assistance from New Mexico Tech Facilities and Econo Lodge.

“With the fourth falling on a Wednesday this year, there’s a chance the all-day event is going to attract out-of-town visitors as well as the local families that have supported it over the years,” she said. “Socorro is centrally located, and our holiday party has something for just about every taste – and lots of things to keep the kids busy and entertained.”

Variety is the cornerstone of each and every Fourth of July community celebration since Kalish organized the first one in 1993, and this year is no exception.

When it comes to event entertainment, Kalish is a performance matchmaker, mixing well known headliners with local favorites and “something new” to create a seamless stream of entertainment.

That “something new” comprises talented and diverse entertainers making their first appearance in Socorro:

  • Dr. Buck’s Wild West Show, featuring six-gun spinning, bullwhip action and Old West magic, among its many-faceted repertoire;
  • The Squash Blossom Boys with their repertoire of bluegrass, swing and old-time dance music; and
  • El Gringo, a Los Lunas-based musician who sings Spanish, country and rock, having learned Spanish from vaqueros on his family’s El Paso ranch.

And, back by popular demand, are the ranking father and son showmen of New Mexico, none other than the iconic Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr.

Local non-profit groups will be selling picnic fare, soft drinks and bottled water; and a barbecue buffet will be set up by Chartwells, New Mexico Tech’s food service provider.

The entertainment starts at 11 a.m., when Eileen Comstock leads the Socorro Community Band in a series of Sousa marches and other “school band” favorites, followed by martial arts demonstrations from Bokary Maiga’s students of Socorro Martial Arts, to the splendid jazz standards of local band Jazz Menage, fronted vocally by Francie Deters, with John Weber on guitar, Tom Hunt on saxophone and clarinet and a variety of other great Socorro and New Mexico Tech musicians.

A dance band popular statewide and certainly one of Socorro’s all-time favorites, The Remedy, led by Carlo Chavez, is back this year to close out the show.

The stage show, that is – the night show will take place in the sky at dark.

Dr. Buck’s Wild West Stage Show

            Hollywood stuntman and actor Dr. Buck Montgomery is Trail Boss for the Wild West Show that bears his name. The Arizona-based Hollywood stuntman and actor will ride into Socorro with his “posse of performers” providing non-stop entertainment starting around 1 p.m. and lasting for several hours.


Dr. Buck's Wild West Show will entertain all ages on July 4.


The show features trick and fancy six-gun spinning; live-action and full contact “behind-the-scenes” Hollywood stunt demonstrations; bullwhip action, “amazing and amusing” old west magic; “wild and wooly” tales of the west and the silver screen with America’s favorite sidekick Gabby Hayes and much more.

Who knows? You might even end up being part of the show, because there’s always plenty of audience participation.

            Buck and his cast of characters recreate a Buffalo Bill-type Wild West arena show at the “SASS World Championships & Wild West Jubilee” held annually in Edgewood, N.M., and are a featured act at the “Western Legends Round-Up” in Kanab, Utah.

            The troupe performs throughout the southwest and beyond at over 100 events each year, culminating in Arizona’s biggest Western event, “Dr. Buck’s Wild Western Festival” in October.

            Dr. Buck, who was given his nickname by fellow Hollywood stuntmen, has appeared in such films as “The Long Riders” with the late David Carradine, and “Back to the Future III,” to name just a few.

He has worked at the famous “Ponderosa Ranch” in various capacities; and, consequently, Buck performed and acted in many Bonanza sequels with such legendary actors as Ben Johnson, Jack Elam and Leonard Nimoy.

About being a professional stuntman, Dr. Buck has this to say: “Scars are just Stuntman Tattoos…with better stories.”

            Also scheduled to appear in Socorro is actor R.H. “Rob” Doudell, whose uncanny resemblance to television sidekick “Gabby Hayes” goes beyond the signature whiskers, clothing and “One Spur.”

As a former bulldogger on the rodeo circuit, along with years of cutting-horse work under his buckle, Doudell pretty much fell into Gabby after being laid up sick for a week or so, without a razor in sight.

One might say that “Gabby just kinda’ grew on him.”

Amos Carver is the troupe’s resident gun spinner, bullwhip artist and Dr. Buck’s stunt partner, an accredited pyrotechnics expert who just wrapped on a film project with Kix Brooks, of Brooks and Dunne fame.

Mysterioso, aka “The Wizard of the West,” is a purveyor of magic who entertains audiences with old fashioned sleight of hand and illusions, often leaving people wondering, “How did he do that?”

The Magic Man’s alter ego is that of Andrew Moore, a character actor many may recognize from HBO’s “Deadwood.” Among his acts is what is billed as “the most dangerous trick in the world – the bullet catch,” for all who dare to watch.

                Rounding out the cast is Madame Zaronee, a gypsy palm reader, and other Posse members that will host cowboy games such as calf roping, bean bag toss and a rubber band shootout.

The Squash Blossom Boys

            Having difficulty describing the distinct musical genre of the Albuquerque-based Squash Blossom Boys, singer Kyle Malone summed it up like this: “We sound like ourselves.”

PAS-july4-SquashBlossoms 2

The Squash Blossom Boys bring their bluegrass sound to Socorro.


            With Dustin Orbesen, Kit Murray, Maren Hatch and Malone, the Squash Blossom Boys have played everything from jazz to reggae only to finally morph into a bluegrass band.

            Starting around 2 p.m., the group will take to the stage with a one-of-a-kind show.

            The four core band members met as students at Cibola High School, starting out in 2002 as a rock band, a genre they embraced for three years, before devoting the next two years to reggae.

            “I had never even listened to bluegrass,” Malone said, adding that the father of one of the boys was really into it, and this love for American roots music filtered down to the other band members.

            One day, Malone sat down with a stack of bluegrass records, and discovered for himself the singular beauty of traditional early American songs: “I really got into it myself,” he said.

            In creating their own brand of bluegrass, the musicians took aspects of country and swing and blended these with early Appalachian-styled songs into a musical medley that serves as their trademark.

            “The cool thing about bluegrass is that it’s not mainstream music; it brings people out of their norm – plus, it’s great music to dance to,” Malone said.

            The Squash Blossom Boys have played “all over Albuquerque” from El Rey downtown to the back of a pickup truck or in somebody’s backyard.

            “We’ve played at Second Street breweries, Cowgirls in Santa Fe and ski resorts,” said Malone. “We get around.”

Occasionally, mandolinist Tristan Scroggins, violinist Sam Weiss, and multi-instrumentalist Ezra Bussman perform alongside the core quartet.

Together, the boys have won several awards including Pickin’ in the Pines and Albuquerque Folk Festival’s band competitions, as well as the Weekly Alibi’s “Best of Burque.”


El Gringo

            His given name is Shawn Kiehne, but fans know the singing caballero as El Gringo, who will begin his set at 4 p.m.

            The Los Lunas-based singer, who learned classical Spanish while spending summers working alongside the vaqueros on the family ranch in El Paso, has attracted a fair share of fame through articles in the New York Times and People magazine.


El Gringo, based in Los Lunas, has developed an international reputation for singing caballeros.


            In 2007, El Gringo signed with UnaVision and performed on Spanish-language entertainment shows. He has toured across the United States and Mexico, playing at casino resorts and other venues.

            And if the Kiehne surname sounds familiar, it’s because El Gringo has quite a few Kiehne cousins in and around Socorro and Catron counties. Arkie Kiehne, formerly of Socorro, is a second cousin.

            “I’m fluent in Spanish and can speak it as well as I can speak English,” said El Gringo recently. “Working around a ranch, a person needs to know Spanish.”

            The singer’s ethnic background includes a bit of Hispanic blood; but his voice, whether speaking or singing, is embedded in the roots of the Spanish language, with its melodic nuances and poetic powers.

            For the Fourth of July celebration, El Gringo and a group of back-up musicians will play “a good variety” of New Mexico and Spanish music, including rancheros and cumbias, plus some country, rock and oldies.

            “With the mix of people in New Mexico, you’ve got to hit ‘em with a little bit of everything,” he said.

            Weekdays, Kiehne, 38, works as a retirement planner and financial advisor out of his Los Lunas office; he is married and the father of three children.

            But weekends will find him as El Gringo, playing the music he loves.

Al Hurricane and Al Hurricane Jr.

            No party would be complete without the music and winning personality of New Mexico native Al Hurricane and his son, Al Hurricane Jr., who will perform their repertoire of popular Spanish music to the delight of old fans and new ones, at 6 p.m.

            Al Hurricane was born on July 10, 1936 in Dixon, New Mexico, as Alberto Nelson Sanchez. His mother named him Hurricane because as a child, he was like a little whirling mass of energy, always blowing through any objects in his path.

 The Hurricanes -- Al and Al Jr -- are perennial performers at the July 4 celebration in Socorro.
Hurricane grew up in different parts of New Mexico and Arizona. He started singing at three, playing the guitar at five; and, by the time he was 12, he was singing and playing guitar at the wishing well in Old Town, next to La Placita, for tips.

Among the many nicknames and names for his band over the years are “Al Banana and his Bunch,” “The Night Rockers,” and most recently as “The Al Hurricane Band."  He has been making music for over 50 years, and has 30 albums to his name.

Hurricane has won numerous awards, such as The Lifetime Achievement Award given to him by the New Mexico Hispanic Awards Association, the Governor’s Award for Music in 1993; May 5, 2002, was declared Al Hurricane and Family Day in the state.

Al Hurricane, Jr. was born to Al Sr. and Nettie M. Fleming on October 30, 1959, in Albuquerque. His birth name is Alberto Nelson Sanchez, Jr. Hurricane is a nickname inherited from his father.

His first public performance was at the early age of five at the Civic Auditorium in Albuquerque, singing “Love Potion #9.” Early in his youth, he began to learn the drums and switched to guitar lessons, adding the trumpet at age eight.

At the age of 12, his father started him on piano lessons, and it was about this time that Al Jr. began to learn some of his father’s songs as well as those of his uncles, Tiny Morrie and Baby Gaby.

Eventually, he joined the Al Hurricane Band, with most of his practice from performances at the Far West Night Club, where both Hurricanes performed for many years. 

When Al, Jr. made his first recordings in the Hurricane Studios in Albuquerque, it was on the very equipment that Buddy Holly used in Clovis. Today, Al Jr. records in his father’s recording studio with state-of-the art equipment. 

The Remedy

The Remedy, which bills itself as Socorro’s own variety band, will close out the show around 8 p.m. as it has done for many years. Led by lead vocalist Carlo Chavez, The Remedy has honed its skills playing to audiences across the state; but its strongest base may be right here at home with its several generations of fans.

For the popular dance band, closing out the 20th annual Fourth of July celebration on the New Mexico Tech campus is like coming full circle.

            “We were among the first groups chosen to play for the Fourth, and over the years we worked ourselves up to (performing as) headliners,” said Chavez, an Albuquerque native who moved to Socorro as a child, and spent 32 years as a New Mexico Tech employee, retiring in 2011.

            Joining Chavez on stage to close out the musical entertainment side of the evening will be Jon Licha, back-up vocals and drums; Ron Silva, guitar and bass; George Murillo, back-up vocals, keyboards, bass and trumpet; and Benito Encinias, keyboard.

            Another Murillo, Richard, may join his older brother on trumpet for a song or two.

            Chavez, a Socorro High School graduate from the previous millennium and now retired from working as a machinist at New Mexico Tech, began his musical career as a solo artist in a 1982 regional music competition – which he won.

            He organized several groups which in time morphed into The Remedy, which predates the annual Fourth of July entertainment bash.

            The secret to the band’s success?

            “I would say versatility,” replied Chavez. “After all this time, we’ve learned to read the crowd, to know what they’ll respond to.”

            The Remedy has earned its stripes as a variety band with its repertoire of Spanish, country, country-rock and classic rock and roll, since its early days as the only in-state band at the now-defunct “Cowboys” club in Albuquerque.

            “We’re a dance band – that’s our claim to fame,” said Chavez, adding that The Remedy performs at a variety of venues from wedding receptions to fund-raisers and charity events.

            “We’re on the road every other weekend, from Farmington to Las Cruces, wherever we’re asked to play,” he said.

            After The Remedy closes out its set, the night life takes to the skies.

“EMRTC’s reputation is based on explosives research, so when it comes to the handling and detonation of pyrotechnic devices, they’re the best,” said Kalish.

“As always, we ask that people not bring their own fireworks to campus,” she continued. “Bring your lawn chairs from home, your coolers, grills, sun shades and plenty of sunscreen, but leave your fireworks at home.”

-- NMT --

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech