Michael even moved to San Antonio for a few years to play Tejano music professionally and “spent a zillion hours in the studio” recording music.
Joe Ybarra first formed a band in 1969 and spent more than three decades on the music circuit, traveling the country. Now 68, the elder Ybarra has been semi-retired from the Tejano music scene for a few years. But his 42-year old son coaxed him to come back.
“I said ‘Dad, you still got it in you. Let’s record a couple songs and see what we can do,’” Michael recalled. “Let’s get you back on the stage—and here it is happening all over again. He’s getting back in the studio and we’re working on one of his songs, getting ready to be released.”
Father and son spent time in the studio doing the final remix for the song, which was released to Midwest Internet Radio this week. Michael joked that his father still has an incredible amount of energy to share with an audience.
“It’s hard to keep up with him. We just had a heck of a practice,” he said. “He really beat us up pretty good, so he’s still got it. My dad is just driven. Music is his passion.”
Michael started playing with his father at age 13, starting with the saxophone. He later switched to keyboards. But unlike Yvonne’s father, who plays just about every instrument outside the accordion, Joe Ybarra is strictly a singer.
“As the years progressed and I watched him play some pretty huge venues across the Midwest, I was like ‘Wow, this is my pops. This is cool,’” Michael said.
During the heyday of Tejano music, a ten-day tour of Texas turned into two months. Opportunities to add concerts to the schedule came up continuously as they played across the state. A young, upcoming singer named Selena made $400 per concert as the opening act for the band at a handful of venues.
“We had a booking agent who kept getting shows. When you’re hot, you’re hot and that’s the time to capitalize on it and make your money,” Michael said.
But there will be three generations who take the stage on Michael’s side of the family Saturday night. His son Michael, Jr., 22, is Fuego’s drummer. Mikey, as he’s called, made his debut at age six as a substitute drummer in his grandfather’s band.
Grupo Fuego and the Future
Fuego has been together for nearly three years, but Ms. Ramos-Ybarra has been its lead singer for just over a year. The band is set to release its first CD sometime in the fall, but has two songs getting heavy airplay on Internet-based Tejano music stations.
“We know that we are growing, because we can tell by our Facebook page,” she said. “It’s amazing to me that the states of Washington and New Mexico seem to be where we’re getting a lot of our attention.”
Ms. Ramos-Ybarra was invited to try out for the band by its keyboardist and leader, Michael Ybarra. But she explained he “had an ulterior motive”: the two had known each other for a long time because of their Tejano titans for fathers and had a “mutual crush” on each other. They’ve now been married a little over a year.
“The one part was he needed a lead singer and the other part was he was trying to be fresh with me,” she joked. “As we shared the stage, it was amazing how it just became comfortable. We both come from the same background. We both come from the same type of life. We both share much in common and refreshing; I don’t have to explain it.”
“See what I do to keep my band going? I marry the lead singer,” Michael joked. It was like Ozzie Nelson marrying his lead singer Harriet Hilliard, to become Ozzie and Harriet.
The band was originally founded in Michigan. Some of its current lineup hails from Saginaw, Pontiac, and Lansing, and tours the Midwest. One guitarist is from Toledo and the bass player is originally from Archbold. The band has played the Ohio State Fair and on Aug. 24 will make its first-ever appearance at the 2013 Latinofest in downtown Fostoria.
“It’s always a surprise trying to figure out where we’re going to go next,” said Ms. Ramos-Ybarra with a laugh. “But it’s hard to make it a full-time thing, so we all do have our other jobs. The market in the Midwest doesn’t support it yet, but I see that changing.”
For example, Ms. Ramos-Ybarra is a full-time Mary Kay representative, while her husband is in business development, recruiting new employer clients for a personnel agency.
Ms. Ramos-Ybarra describes Fuego as “progressive Tejano” because it incorporates modern influences into its playlist. For example, she sings a Spanish-language version of a popular Beyoncé song.
The band’s current single “Ni Lo Digas Jugando” currently is making it through Tejano Magazine’s Top 20 chart. The band members hope to do a more extensive touring schedule after the CD release.
“We hope it can turn into something, but we have our regular lives, our regular jobs. It’s a hobby and we have a passion and desire for it—and it’s a family thing, which makes it more unique,” said Michael. “It’s a great thing we’ve got going. It’s a great family of people that are making this thing happen here.”