The Caliente Column

Cali Carranza: Diablo On Wheels
By Doug Shannon (

Influential Tejano veteran Cali Carranza, 42, is finally stepping
into the limelight with his successful singles "Pideme La Luna"
and "Diablo."

The Pharr, TX native credits Joey Records with helping him reach the
next level.

"A lot of the stuff that's happened to me in 1994, which was about
99% good, was the result of the teamwork Joey Records and me have
developed," he said.  "I've been with a lot of different companies.
When you get to a place where you're treated right you have a
tendency to appreciate it after you've been treated wrong for a
long time."

It has been a long time for Carranza, who has been in the music
business since the age of eight.  In 1973 he joined Conjunto Bernal,
considered by many to be "the best conjunto of all time," according
to columnist Ramiro Burr.  He also played for Roberto Pulido for
a while before forming his own band, Los Formales, in March 1976.

Carranza waited a year after "Pideme La Luna" to release "Diablo,"
but he thinks the extra wait is worth it.

"We tried to give each song a personality to where it could stand
on its own if it needed to.  You can't do another 'Pideme La Luna.'
We had two or three throwaway songs on 'Pideme La Luna' but on
'Diablo' we worked extra hard and waited to release it."

Antenna Magazine ranked "Pideme La Luna" the No. 12 Tejano single
of 1994, and "Diablo" spent most of winter 1995 on their chart.
The songs were originally recorded by Los Carlos and Los Fugitivos,
respectively, but Carranza feels justified in covering the tunes.

"Whenever I hear something that's working in the Mexican market
that's not working in the Tejano market, I'll redo it if I feel
I can better the arrangement.  'Pideme La Luna' and 'Diablo'
just happen to be that type of song," he said.

Carranza finds songs to record with the help of Joey Lopez Sr.
and Lopez Jr., and two of his brothers who are in the band,
Nito and Ruben.

Cali's multi-instrumental talents allow him to cut a CD in a
relatively short time.

"Most of the tracks are done by myself since I play every
instrument in the band," he said.  "I format everything into
a computer so when we go to the studio I know what I'm doing
and we just reformat the tracks in the studio."

However, Carranza avoids overdubbing vocals.  All vocals are
recorded "live"--sometimes in three- or four-part harmony.
Being from El Valle, he can also bring his border influences
to bear on the arrangements.

"We're a little more aware of what's going on in Mexico than
the San Antonio people.  I use some of that, and some of my
Top 40 influence.  That's why we did the Van Halen effect
on 'Diablo,'" he said.

Carranza and his band's leather-clad, Harley-loving image
runs counter to the traditional expectations of how a
veteran Tex-Mex group should look.

"That is only one aspect of what the band does," Carranza
replied.  "We go from one extreme to another.  I'm not going
to wear a cowboy hat onstage because everyone else is wearing
a cowboy hat.  I want to be identified as 'This is who I am,
this is where I come from.'  I'm not trying to promote any
gang-type behavior or bikers or anything like that.  I do
ride a motorcycle all the time, so we added that to
make people take notice."

"I'm very hyper--I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do
drugs.  I'm a clean-cut all-American Mexican, I guess.  I
move a lot on stage and get the crowd involved."

Cali Carranza y Los Formales are:
Cali Carranza-vocals, accordion
Nito Carranza-vocals
Ruben Carranza-bajo sexto
Ramiro Garza, Jr.-sax, piano, guitar
Gary Echeverria-sax
Raciel Carranza-vocals, electric bass
Albert Lujan, Jr.-drums and percussion