The Tejano Club in Pasadena, Texas, hosted a party for the Farewell Performance of Los Hermanos Cortez. The club was filled with fans, friends and family who came to show their support and admiration. It was a night where everyone was treated like family, that is just how the Cortez family is. After 40 years in the music business, lead singer Monico Cortez Sr. decided to retire to concentrate on his health and family. There were a few bands that performed that evening, but the highlight was the outstanding performance of Los Hermanos Cortez, they were joined by previous band members, some of which went back to when they were Los Fronterisos.
Roll back the clock 40 years . . .
The band originated more than 40 years ago with the name Los Fronterisos de Tony Cortez. Tony Cortez Sr. married Lupe Pedraza. She is the niece to our father/grandfather, Frank Guerrero Sr. Lupe is one of twin daughters of his sister Alberta and husband Marcelino. Tony Sr. and Lupe had 13 children; of the 12 surviving children, five were part of the group – Tony Jr., Louis, Monico, Ray and Ruben (sound engineer). Mando Litchenberger Jr., keyboard player for La Mafia, started with Los Fronterisos. At age 14, he began on keyboard and accordion. Los Fronterisos made many recordings and won many awards; throughout the years they changed their style in both music and attire. They were known to sport Zoot Suits and at a point were known as Houston’s hottest low-rider band.
Tony Sr. passed away in 1983, his sons Monico Cortez (bass and vocals) and Tony Cortez Jr., (drums) took over the band. In 1985, the brothers changed the name of the group to Los Hermanos Cortez, they also took a turn in style and music. They continued to play all over Texas and Florida, at private functions and local night club gigs. In 1992 Tony Cortez Jr. was injured while at his day job and was no longer able to perform with the band. Younger brother Ray filled in on drums. The group slowed down tremendously in 2000, only taking bookings for private parties. In 2003 they were back full time, with Monico Sr. on lead vocals and bass, Ray on drums and its third generation Monico Jr on vocals and percussion. in 2004 the group won an award for Best Conjunto from the Houston Press Awards.
Los Hermanos Cortez in the years commencing with 2005 added tours to California, Ohio, Las Vegas, Chicago, Milwaukee, including many places in Texas. Besides other previous recordings, in 2010 they recorded a silver edition to celebrate 25 years in the business together as Los Hermanos Cortez. Until the decision to retire, LHC kept busy with performances but also by donating their musical talent in benefit of local churches, non profit organizations and fundraisers.
On stage, Los Hermanos Cortez performed as a family, just as their father taught them . The love that not only the “Band of Brothers” exhibits but that their wives, sisters, brothers, children demonstrate is one of sincerity and gratitude. They are a “family” that can be commended and admired, this is all owed to the upbringing by their parents, Antonio and Lupe Cortez.
Sadly, on April 21, 2013, Tony Cortez Jr., passed away. He was the original drummer of the group. He was such an inspiration to his younger brothers — just like his father. Although Tony had not been an active part of the group for quite a few years, he was always with them in spirit, guidance and support.
The legacy of an amazing and talented family will continue though. In 2009, Los Hermanos Cortez were nominated for a Tejano Music Award that they did not win but, the honor of being nominated and excitement of being there are memories the band will never forget. Ray Cortez was also inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame (in Alice TX) in 2012, and Monico, Sr. will be inducted this year. While Monico is ending his time with the band, the end of Los Hermanos Cortez is nowhere near.
Recently, Monico Cortez Jr. released a CD, and Monico Cortez III made his debut performance on accordion at the farewell party. We look forward to seeing the continued success they will surely achieve through their talents. Monico Sr. has also said they may do some recordings but will not be on the rigorous schedule that touring brings. So this night was a farewell from the hearts of fans and family in honor of so many years of amazing achievements following the creative lead of the old school. Yet, we are all very excited and looking forward to seeing what the future will bring under the leadership of the new generation.
Farewell, Monico. You and others of the first wave accomplished so much — you will be missed but you have provided the standards needed so you will always be there when the youngsters need you. And thank you to all those in the Cortez Family who have never failed to be there for their band. Over the years, we have seen you stand by and give the band the support they needed to inspire them to reach their goals. Your support is a tremendous inspiration and will continue to give strength to new and future generations of singers and musicians.