by Tony Wade April 20, 2017

FAIRFIELD—The latest Jeff Trager Presents show, “A Tribute to Latin Rock,” on Saturday, April 29th at Fairfield’s Downtown Theatre is near and dear to the heart of the man throwing the party in Solano County’s seat. Jeff Trager is a San Francisco native who witnessed the birth of the sound, helped popularize and honor the genre by participating in a book and through a series of benefit concerts and continues to share his love of the west coast musical melting pot with others.

“In about 1965 or 1966, me and some friends used to go down to Aquatic Park at the end of Van Ness Avenue. They were conga players and they would play there with other musicians for hours,” Trager said. “One of those conga players that I used to go down there with was Michael Carabello who later was the first conga player in the Santana band.”

 The original band name for the pioneering group was The Santana Blues Band and Trager was able to see them in their earliest incarnation. On Tuesday nights for about a buck and a half in 1967, Trager and others watched the new band perform at the Carousel Ballroom that later became the Fillmore West.

“I walked in and it was infectious. I could see how it affected everyone. This was our band. It was San Francisco’s own. It was like nothing I had heard before. It was a combination of Latin music, jazz and rock and they all looked like they had come right out of the heart of the Mission District,” Trager said.

 The strength of Santana was the melding of genres that honored predecessors and also took the music to an entirely new place as well. One of the keys was the diversity of the talented group.

 “They had players that had jazz backgrounds like Gregg Rolie who was a keyboardist deeply rooted in jazz organists like Jimmy Smith. They had a white kid from the Peninsula Michael Shrieve on drums. Carabelo was a jazz fan and David Brown from Hunters Point was their bass player—he brought the James Brown licks. Chepito was the percussionist from Nicargaua and they integrated all this with the rock and roll guitar of Carlos Santana. Everybody brought their own thing to it and it was the first time it had ever been done,” Trager said.

The rest of the world learned about the force of nature that was the original Santana band when they delivered a blistering, iconic set at Woodstock in 1969, but 3,000 miles away and a few years before, others including Jeff Trager had already become rabid converts.

Voices of Latin Rock

A writer came into Jeff Trager’s office in the early 2000s and said he was writing a book about Malo, the Latin Rock band that featured Carlos Santana’s brother Jorge Santana on guitar and Richard Bean on vocals. Trager suggested he do the book on the whole San Francisco Bay Area Latin Rock scene and the result was the book “Voices of Latin Rock.”

A friend of Trager’s, Dr. Bernard Gonzales,  had a son named Alex whom he had just discovered was autistic. They teamed up to make a foundation to raise money for Autism called “Alex Speaks” and then the idea to have a benefit show at Bimbo’s followed.

“The first year we had Malo, and an all-star band of guys from Sly and the Family Stone, War, Santana, and Tower of Power,” Trager said. “We sold it out with no advertising.”

The original idea was for the show to be a one-off thing, but Trager and Dr. Gonzales looked at each other while at the amazing show and each knew they had to do it again.

It became an annual benefit and subsequent shows featured incredible performers as well as the tradition of honoring pioneers like Richie Valens, Russ Solomon the founder of Tower Records, Delores Huerta who marched with Caesar Chavez and many others.

Some memories from Jeff Trager:

  • “After a few years, instead of just having Latin rock bands I wanted to open it up to other artists from the era and so one year we had Booker T. come out and he hadn’t been seen in years. He got this huge standing ovation. I mean, it made the skin tingle on your arms. This was Mr. Green Onions!”

  • "One year we got the original Santana band to play and they hadn’t been together in like twenty years. They played “Soul Sacrifice,” “Jingo,’ “Evil Ways”—the audience stood up the whole time. Then Los Lobos played with Jackie Greene and as they were leaving the stage, George Clinton jumped up with Sly Stone and they played and the place went crazy.”

The Voices of Latin Rock shows have featured Lenny Williams, War, Azteca, Tierra and many more.

A Tribute to Latin Rock in Fairfield

Jeff Trager is excited to share his enduring love of Latin rock with Fairfielders at the beautiful Downtown Theatre. In addition to what many critics call the absolute best Santana tribute band, Zebop! Richard Bean, the writer of the 1972 classic “Suavacito” will head Sapo.

“Richard Bean was the original lead singer of Malo and he wrote “Suavacito” when he was a student at Mission High,” Trager said. “Zebop is one of the better Santana tribute bands and play everything from the early stuff to the Supernatural era and beyond. I love Latin music. My first love was bossa nova and then Latin rock just hit me right between the eyes.”

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at


Jeff Trager Presents

"A Tribute to Latin Rock"

With Sapo Featuring Richard Bean Former Malo Original Lead Singer And Composer Of The Hit Song "Suavecito"

Plus Santana Tribute Band Zebop!

Saturday, April 29, 2017 at 8 Pm

Downtown Theatre

1035 Texas Street

Fairfield, CA 94533