By the 1930s, Saint Paul's West Side - particularly the flats along the Mississippi River - was home to Minnesota's growing Latino population. Many of these were folks who migrated from the Southwest and Mexico in search of work in Minnesota's industrial plants and sugar beet fields, and decided to stay. While the flats are no longer residential, much of the West Side's Latino history remains there in places like the District del Sol.
One resident of the West side, a guy named Augie Garcia, grew up as much on rhythm and blues as the Spanish corridos and boleros of his parents' generation. Garcia made a name for himself, locally, with his band The Augie Garcia Quintet, playing now-defunct clubs like Duffy's in Minneapolis, and Mendota's River Road Club. The quintet became known for their raucous shows (and Augie for his uniform of a blazer and Bermuda shorts), playing an electrified shuffle that was part of the Twin Cities burgeoning rock and roll scene.
In 1955, Augie cut a single, "Hi Yo Silver," which many consider to be Minnesota's first rock and roll record. A year later, he opened for Elvis Presley, and was pulled from the stage by Presley's manager for whipping the crowd into a frenzy. (A clause in Presley's contract cited that the opener couldn't upstage the headliner.) Garcia released three more singles - 6 songs total - then returned to his day job as an iron-worker, occasionally playing around town into the 1990s. He died in 1999.
Despite having nearly upstaged Elvis, Garcia's music remains mostly unknown to later generations of Minnesotans. Finding information on him proved difficult, and locating actual copies of his records was even harder. I went sleuthing, along with my pal at MPR, producer John Miller. We scoured eBay for his music (and scored!), did some digging around at the Minnesota Historical Society, and visited with Garcia's widow, Nancy.
Tune in Sunday night for The Current Presents "Augie Garcia: Godfather of Minnesota Rock and Roll." In addition to Augie's music, you'll hear our conversation with Nancy Garcia. Also, Miguel Vargas (Program Director at KFAI and host of KFAI's Radio Pocho) and Chris Osgood (The Suicide Commandos) will share their thoughts about Augie's influence and legacy.
In the meantime, listen to Augie's track "Be My Guest", which was issued as North Star 2065 in 1957. It is the b-side of the record. The aside is a song called "Ring-A-Ling-A." And enjoy the great shots of him and his band, compliments of tpt's Lost Twin Cities series.
Hi Yo Silver!