In the 1960′s, with the birth of the Chicano Movement already underway, Latin music and Latin culture continued to blossom in San Francisco and the Latino culture experienced phenomenal changes with the emergence of a new sound called Latin Rock.
Born out of a demand from the Latino counter-culture that wanted to identify more closely with their roots, the Chicano/Latino movement had begun and it inspired everyone to connect to their bilingual and biculturalism. From the important political struggles of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta leading the United Farm Workers movement, to the creation of Chicano Studies in colleges and universities, to the embracing of the Civil Rights movement, to the witnessing of the expression of Chicano art; this was the perfect storm of change. Thus, the Chicano/Latino movement was brought to life.
It was during these tumultuous times that a creative new style of music emerged that would change Rock and Roll forever. This genre was Latin Rock.
In San Francisco’s Mission District, Latin music filled the air and the city was alive with a unique blend of sounds. With the infusion of Latino’s, and those newly arrived residents who still spoke their mother tongue, groups like Santana and Malo thrived in this creative and liberated community. The Chicano/Latino movement wanted their own heroes and demanded their own musical sound. Latin Rock was born with its emphasis on percussion most notably, Timbales and Congas. It was infectious and resonated with all music lovers, not just Latinos.
At this time, an impressionable young teen was experiencing this same cultural phenomena.
Now, flash forward to present day and meet “Dr. Latin Rock”, AKA Dr. Bernardo D. Gonzalez III.
At night, Dr. Rock was living his Rock & Roll dream as a successful Latin Rock Promoter and co-manager of the popular, quintessential, Latin Rock group, “Malo.” By day, he was a Dentist, working in the Mission District. He loves Latin Rock music. Not just a little, a lot.
For Gonzalez, it began at age 15, while watching the movie “Woodstock,” he fell in love with Santana’s nine-minute, live performance of “Soul Sacrifice.” He recalls it as a transformative moment. Watching such a talented Mexicano like Carlos Santana play so beautifully, well; it literally changed his life forever. Already in love with Rock and Roll, having played drums, piano, and guitar: he now found another music focus, Latin Rock.
Being the only one in his family to pursue a college degree, it was important to him to complete his studies. Gonzalez attended college and was accepted to the University of San Francisco’s School of Dentistry. An ambitious young man, he knew music was his passion, he just wasn’t sure he could make any money from it.
A funny thing happened on the way to dental school. While volunteering for Bill Graham’s Presents as a security guard, Gonzalez fell in love with concerts and how musical acts were organized. As he explains it, it wasn’t the ‘business of music’ that he loved; it was the idea that you could create something beautiful for people to enjoy. After volunteering as a security guard for nearly a year, BGP offered him a job.
In 1983, after graduating from UCSF Dental school, Gonzalez’ father, Bernardo Gonzalez II, urged him to help his fellow San Francisco Merchant Association members to organize their local street fair. What better person than someone who had just learned the music promotion business?
The only way to describe what followed was pure serendipity. In search of local talent to play at their street fair, local musician John Watson offered to connect him with Arcelio Garcia lead singer of the legendary Latin Rock group “Malo”. Turns out, they had retired some years back but, had reorganized in New York City under a new name. After meeting Arcelio, and the rest of “Malo” musicians, they agreed to relocate to San Francisco and have Gonzalez and Ron Sansoe, co-manage them. This proved to be one of the best decisions for all.
Over the last nearly three decades, thousands of music lovers both old and new have come to appreciate their fabulous/infectious Latin Rock sound. Simultaneously, in 1985, Dr. Bernie opened his dental practice in the same building his father bought and sold shoes some 25 years earlier. And the business is still going strong.
Fast-forward nearly three decades to present day. Dr. Rock” is kind of like the Caped Crusader who never lost the thrill of creating a Latin Rock venue and bringing the music to the people, at very reasonable ticket prices.
This has been Dr. Rock’s dream from day one.
It was his love of Latin Rock music and his keen ability to organize all facets of a major concert that helped propel him into legendary Latin Rock history as the “Go To” promoter to get it done. Luckily, he was very good at it.
Dr. Rock is an unselfish man of many talents. Since 1984, he’s been collecting signed posters, records, photos, books, and all sorts of music Rock memorabilia. His collection is so vast that he has been able to create a traveling museum dedicated to the legends of Latin Rock. In July of this year, the first Latin Rock traveling museum started in Sacramento to bring like-minded Latin music lovers together and in support of Autism awareness. This tremendous lifetime collection was another successful business idea and will be seen in 22 cities around California, Arizona, and New México in 2011.
Stepping down from Latin Rock promotions and his partnership with Sansoe, it was 1998, and another fortuitous change about to happen. Dr. Rock married and shortly thereafter celebrated the birth of two beautiful children, Samantha, now 12 and a son, Alex, now 10.
It was within a year or so after Alex’s birth that he noticed his son wasn’t thriving as his daughter did at that same age. As a baby, Alex never spoke and was quite fussy about his food intake. The good doctor knew something wasn’t right and soon after, a Specialist diagnosed baby Alex with Autism.
Now Dr. Rock had a new mission; help promote more awareness and education around Autism and raise money towards a cure. The timing was right when his friend and former co-manager of “Malo”, Ron Sansoe, called to request his help. It was now 2004, and Ron and Jim McCarthy co-wrote the book, “Voices of Latin Rock.” Their book chronicles every musical detail of Latin Rock history, complete with pictures and intimate details described by many who were there and covers over four decades of Latin music history.
It was Ron’s request that his good friend produce a launch party for the book, and it was Dr. Rock’s idea to add a spectacular Latin Rock concert featuring “Malo” and other well known Bay Area talent. Gonzalez had only one request: a portion of the book launch proceeds would be donated to the local chapter of Autism. This was an educational outreach campaign to help parents of Autistic children and their schoolteacher’s purchase much needed computers and special school supplies. Another great idea that worked.
Ultimately, it was the love of his son that brought this Latin Rock music promoter back to life.
What was originally supposed to be a one-time event was so successful that it is now in its 6th year with no end in sight. For Northern California Bay Area music lovers, it is the anticipated Latin Rock music event of the year and sells out well in advance.
Part of Dr. Rock’s appeal is his complete passion for the music he loves. He is a walking encyclopedia of the last 30 years of Latin Rock history and could probably win any trivia contest.
This dentist and music promoter knows his history. Trust me. He is a walking Google Search Engine on Rock trivia. Dr. Rock is a unique cat that grew up in Redwood City, moved to San Francisco when his dad, a realtor turned shoe salesman who sold shoes out of the same building he purchased in1980. This is where Gonzalez greets dental patients today.
Always on the look out for new creative talent, Dr. Rock is in a unique position just like his mentor, Bill Graham, to successfully produce Latin Rock shows that sell out. In addition, scouting for Latino musicians with original music and outstanding talent kept this native California Promoter on point.
Divorced a few years back, Dr. Rock continues to thrive and work on promoting two activities that are near and dear to his heart; one is promoting San Francisco’s “Carnival Festival” a spectacular two-day festival that promotes the city he loves; bringing all cultures together for the pleasure of great music, culture, and community. The second event, held every January, is the annual “Voices of Latin Rock Concert and Autism Awareness Fundraiser, Alex Speaks” benefitting kids and schools in Northern California. And if that’s not busy enough, Dr. Rock also guest lectures at the College of San Mateo on what else, the History of Latin Rock.
It was a pleasure spending time with this local legend of Latin Rock.