Above photo, circa 1970
during JDLC heyday


Wally today, still rocking






My Interview With Wally Gonzalez

by "Was There"
Manila, Philippines


I am not a writer, but I figured that if I can ever have any contribution to the Pinoy Rock industry in this lifetime it might as well be through writing something about it somehow. After all, I don't know how to play any instruments, I don't own a hip joint, I definitely can not sing and most definitely can not engineer any musician's music anytime soon. But hell, who cares, I have a chance now and I'm gonna tell my story.

Last Saturday (November 30), I was pretty early at Brother's Mustache in QC just to make sure that my friends and I get the best table in the house. I stepped into a kind of surreal setting for another event long awaited for - maybe something like going into Madison Square Garden circa '76 to watch the Zeps play. Big time rock not intended for posers. Pero 2002 na - not the 70's, and it has been two months since we last saw Wally Gonzalez & Friends at Kiko's Bar in Makati. That experienced was mind altering, like fumbling over mushrooms in Galera, and we had to have more tonight.

I find Wally Gonzalez with his tech guy sitting alone at a corner. I casually sat beside them and started to small talk mentioning that I wrote about his gig at Kiko's last September on the web forum of PinoyRockClassic.com and the Rock of Manila.com. That did it man, that must have been the key to unlock the man behind a lot of what we stand for today. The man, Wally Gonzalez, in person, and I was exchanging notes with him. I must have jammed with him for a good two and half hours before their first set started. That conversation, my brothers and sisters of the faith are what I want to share with you right now. Besides, I don't remember ever reading an interview with Wally Gonzalez - do you?

{{ Please note that this recollection might not be in its actual order, judging from the amount of alcohol intake that night, and its effect on memory, some disarrangement is highly possible. Please also note that there was music in the background that night - which presumably could have also impaired my hearing somehow. Sorry Mr. Gonzalez, I will explain any misquote when I hopefully get to talk to you again. }}

WT: You know the first time I saw you play live was at Battle of the Bands near the Magallanes interchange (no flyovers yet back in 1975). You were playing with Cara y Cruz band. I shouted "Wally!" and you responded "O? nasan ka?" and I shouted back "nandito ko" waving my hands
WG: (smiling)

WT: So what happened to you after Juan dela Cruz? I think I read somewhere that you worked for a bank?
WG: Hindi, I worked for my brother's shipping company. We shipped oil for shell for sometime but have now stopped.

WT: Maybe because some companies use pipes now to transport their oil?
WG: Yes, like Malampaya is connected to the mainland with pipes. (He speaks to a young man whom I assume to be his son)

WT: Di ba you're married to a former Miss Philippines? I read about that before in Jingle magazine.
WG: 1972. She was Ms. Philippines in 1972.

WT: Who gave the name Juan dela Cruz band?
WG: Si Bosyo (Edmund Fortuno) gave that name. We thought about coming up with a homegrown band name that can be identified like Uncle Sam is with the U.S. So, he came up with Juan dela Cruz. Dinagdag lang namin ang "band" para maliwanag na banda.

WT: Kaya lang lumipat si Bosyo sa Anakbayan.
WG: Oo, he wanted to put up Anakbayan so we had to part ways.

WT: Eh papaano naman nabuo ang Mike Hanopol, Joey Smith and Wally Gonzales line-up ng Juan dela Cruz band?
WG: Kasikatan ng Cream nuon and my brother si Dodie suggested, why don't we come up with a group with the same concept. Tatlo lang na miyembrong banda.

WT: Ah... kaya pala ganoon, parang supergroup na Cream ang kinalabasan. You were all maestros with the instruments you were playing. But, how did you get together? Who introduced who to whom?
WG: Nagkasama na kaming tatlo ni Joey at Mike sa isang grupo (sorry, I missed the name) bago noon, so we just got together again and decided to start the group.

WT: Biro mo yun, dahil sinubukan nyo ang Cream concept eh nasa NU107 rock and roll hall of fame ka na ngayon.
WG: Pinatugtog nga nila sa akin ang national anthem nung awards night. Tinanong ko sila baka makulong tayo nito? - eh hindi naman daw, P100 ang fine.

WT: Ginawang parang Woodstock ni Hendrix. Totoo ba Wally na ang husay daw ni Joey Smith pumalo ng drums before he shifted to guitars. Isang beses ko lang kasi siyang nakitang magdrums - eh lipsynch pa sa T.V. ng Rak en Rol sa ulan.
WG: Tama yan. Magaling si Joey magdrums, in fact, he is good playing most instruments. Kaya lang nag-gitara na lang siya, after awhile, at hindi na nagdrums. When we wrote Rak en Rol sa ulan, ginawa lang ni Joey ang lyrics while we were in the studio already. Parang jam lang na binuo ang kanta. Nagwi-widow lang siya ng lyrics tapos buo na.

WT: Yun nga ang maganda sa musika noong araw, puro matitinding jam like Whipping Post of Allman Brothers at I'm so Glad ng Cream. At saka, in the 70s lahat ng klase ng tugtog eh magaganda. Whether rock, jazz, folk, jazz fussion, rock opera, progressive rock, concept albums.
WG: Oo. Meron nga kaming concert nun sa CCP na tinugtog namin ang piyesa ng Deep Purple

WT: Yung Royal Albert hall concert ni Jon Lord?
WG: Oo yun nga. We played it with the Philippine Symphony Orchestra. Si Redentor Romero ang conductor na kasama namin.

WT: Wow! sayang di ko napanood yun. Ang swerte naman ng mga nakapanood. (I was thinking - if only all those performances from the past were recorded…sayang!)
WG: Matatawa ka nga lang dahil kakagawa palang ng CCP, malinis ang mga carpet, marami sa kasama natin (bago magconcert) eh nakahiga sa lobby. Dapat two nights ang konsiyerto pero dahil martial law noon at naghigaan nga ang mga tao eh pina-cancel ng CCP ang second show. (we were laughing at this)

WT: Sino at paano sinulat ang Himig Natin?
WG: Meroong Himig Natin (title of concert) concert sa Luneta nuon. Si joey, sinulat ang kanta ng madalian lang. Kaming tatlo basta nagbigayan at palitan ng mga nota ..O! A tapos.. D…tapos… ayun buo ang kanta. Magaling si Joey sa mga ganun. Kahit impromptu eh nakaka-compose siya ng mga kanta.

WT: Tapos, hanggang ngayon eh sikat pa rin kayo at ang kanta . Parang anthem na ng pinoy rock ang Himig Natin.
WG: Malaking pasalamat namin sa mga batang banda ngayon tulad ng Razorback - dahil sila ang nagpakilala, muli, sa amin sa mga kabataan ngayon.

WT: Ah oo nga. Napapanood ko sila sa Kalye nuon at binabanatan nila ang Beep Beep at Balong Malalim. Kaya pala sila ang opening act niyo nung Pagbabalik concert. Eh sino naman ang tinggin mong iba pang mahuhusay na gitarista sa Pinas?
WG: Marami yan. Siyempre si Resty Fabunan ng Maria Cafra, Richard Wurth ng Petrified Anthem, Jun Lupito, Gary Perez, at yun nga, ang mga gitarista ng Razorback.

WT: Gabe Ascalon?
WG: Oo, magaling din si Gabe Ascalon. Ang balita ko eh nandito pa lahat ang binanggit ko except si Gary Perez na nasa U.S. Ang Petrified Anthem baka tumugtog sa Greenbelt Makati sa Dec. 7. Nanduon rin kami sa hapon tapos sa Bistro 70's sa gabi.

WT: (I took a mental note not to forget this date) Eh ikaw sino nga ba ang paborito mong gitarista?
WG: Si Clapton siyempre. Kaya nga Cream ang concept namin. Sila Mike Bloomfield, Jimmy Page ok rin at marami pang iba.

WT: Meron akong nabasa sa internet na parang si Leslie West ng Mountain ang style mo. Siguro yung sporadic short licks parang ini-ipit na lead mo sa Kagatan at lead ni West sa Mississippi Queen.
WG: Ok rin yang si Leslie West.

WT: Eh si John Mclaughlin?
WG: Pare. Hindi tao si Mclaughlin. (we both laugh) Hindi mo alam kung saan niya kinukuha ang mga notang tinutugtog.

WT: Buti na lang bumalik ka na sa musika. Takbo kagad kami sa Kikos nang nabalitaan namin last September.
WG: Kasi ngayon me oras na naman ako. Di tulad nuong nasa shipping ako, siyempre pagod ka na pag-umuuwi. Ngayon naman - puyat pero ok lang.

WT: Oo nga, parang si Paul Rogers ng Bad Company napanood ko sa CNN. He said they want to be like sila Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, BB King - they don't want to stop playing the music. At saka ika nga ni Jimmy Page sa Song Remains the Same liner note eh "no escaping our roots."
WG: Masarap talagang tumugtog. We are planning to come out with a new album. In the works pa.

WT: Yan ang pinaka magandang balita na narinig ko ngayong taon. Pero teka. bakit hindi nyo nga ba ilabas uli ang mga plaka nyo nung araw? Ang mga collector, tulad ko, gusto ng original CD complete with booklets tapos dagdagan mo lang ng liner notes.
WG: Gusto nga sana namin pero ang problema eh ayaw pa ng Vicor. I am talking to them pero mabagal ang procceso. Pero tignan natin.

WT: Sana na nga. Natatandaan ko nuon eh ina-abangan ko tuwing alas sais ng gabi ang pinoy rock and rythym sa RJ. Kaso mo, ni wala kang mabiling cd ngayon ng mga banda noon. Nabalitaan mo ba yung $200 na nabentang Up in Arms sa Ebay.com?
WG: Oo nga. Malamang yung German release yun. Apparently meroong Aleman na binili ng $500 yung Up in Arms na plaka ni Papa Dom. Siguro yun ang ginamit na master nung nag- release sa Germany.

WT: Biro mo. Dahil sa teknolohiya eh iba ang nakikinabang sa trabaho niyo.
WG: Meron pa ngang nagbigay sa akin ng Pagbabalik concert CD eh personalized pa with my name on it.

WT: Walanghiya! Pero nandun rin ako (Was There). Nakabili pa nga ako ng t-shirt.
WG: Yung meroong kalabaw na parang Super Session cover.

WT: Yun na nga. Super Session ang the best Pinoy rock record ever made para sa akin. At Great Pinoy Antiquities ang the best Pinoy rock song. Opinion ko lang yan, pero ang galing talaga ng banat nyo doon at classic ang lyrics ng Great Pinoy Antiquities. Ano ang paborito mong plaka niyo?
WG: Isa lang naman ang ginawa kong plaka.

WT: Oo nga pala. On the Road syempre.
WG: (he just nods)

It was at that point that somebody called him to start their first set. And, of course, like any true musician they need to do their final tuning. It must have been 10:00 p.m., (remember I lost track of time - I was talking to THE PINOY Guitar god of my time) the place was packed and you could feel the intensity rise. My friends were all there, (they happily sat with me, Wally and even Dondi Ledesma during all that time) everyone there was happy with anticipation, and we couldn't still believe we sat with THE Wally Gonzales. Only in the Philippines can this happens. Can anybody imagine approaching George Harrison or Keith Richards for some casual conversation? - that will be the day.

And then it began, it was happening again. The 70's was back with a vengeance and we were again a part of it. The band was rocking. You could see the band was having a good time but I'm sure the audience was getting even more out of it. Such a great delight to hear an acoustic Good Times Bad Times of Zep played by Wally & Friends pero siyempre, nothing beats Wally's Blues that night or every night.


PCR Notes: Article photos are courtesy of Sandy Tagarro (former drummer of JDLC band) and Dondi Lesdesma (current bass player of Wally's band). Wally Gonzalez & Friends band is currently performing at Kiko's Bar at Makati & Padi's Point in Las Pinas.

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