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I met Juanita Montrand, and her daughter Lola and son Benny, at their Sausalito home in 1959. Friend Don Firth and I were living off our guitars, singing wherever we could find a gig in the San Francisco bay area. Juanita took pity on us and let us crash at her home until we got settled.
Juanita was 59, and a grandmother when I met her. She and her two children had become very popular singers of traditional Mexican folk songs in the high end supper clubs of the area. They commanded very high performance fees. Juanita taught me a lot about traditional Mexican folk music. She taught me some of the songs and some of the guitar styles. Most of all, she demonstrated the incredible passion the music exudes.
As I listen to Juanita as she plays her guitar, a vivid memory returns. Her guitar was a no-name, inexpensive instrument. Her guitar strings were so old they sounded like rubber bands. Yet, when she picked it up and mentally prepared herself to sing a song, I can still see her as she leans forward and draws the guitar close to her. It was amazing to witness ... almost like she was drawing the guitar into her body and she became one with it. As you listen to this recording, you will hear the connection.
What to listen for: On song number 4, NRR016, listen to the trio sing "Al Morir La Tarde" (The Death of the Afternoon). Listen as the three voices blend perfectly in the descending notes of the chorus. Juanita passed away in Santa Rosa in the early 1980's.
(Bob Nelson, September 2012)