‘There will never be another Juan Gabriel’

The passing of musical superstar Juan Gabriel — a Mexican artist who sold more than 100 million records during his more than four-decade long career — shocked the world Sunday.

The passing of musical superstar Juan Gabriel — a Mexican artist who sold more than 100 million records during his more than four-decade long career — shocked the world Sunday.

Juan Gabriel performed at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo last year, and was scheduled for another show Sept. 22. But locals remember when Juan Gabriel came to the Valley in the ‘70s.

Prolific local music promoter, Arnaldo “Nano” Ramirez Jr., judged the KGBT Radio’s annual pageant selecting Senorita KGBT for about 20 years, he said. Artists would come in for this promotion, and it was there he met a “young kid, maybe 21 (years old),” Ramirez said.

“That was the first time the Valley was exposed to Juan Gabriel,” Ramirez said.

Entertainment legend and Mission native Carlos Guzmán recalled touring with Juan Gabriel in the ‘70s during caravana artisticas. Guzmán said he will never forget meeting Juan Gabriel when he connected with the caravana in El Paso.

“He looked at me with this joy in his face,” Guzmán said of Juan Gabriel as he boarded the plane. “He said, ‘I know at least two of your songs.’ And, I’m freaking out.”

Guzmán insisted this wasn’t a boast, but something that stuck with him.

“‘I’m so glad we’re going to have the opportunity to work together on this tour,’” Guzmán recalled Juan Gabriel saying, after singing portions of his songs.

During this time, the McAllen Civic Center was the only venue to host artists, Ramirez said. That changed when La Villa Real opened in December 1977.

Ramirez and Guzmán brought Juan Gabriel to the venue in October of 1978 to co-headline with Sonia Lopez. Pre-sale tickets were $6.

During the course of the 30-year history of La Villa Real, Juan Gabriel played nine times, Ramirez said.

“The last time he played, in 2001, we were charging $250 a ticket,” Ramirez said. “I made a plaque with the $6 ticket and the $250 ticket. I put on there, ‘you’ve come a long way from $6.”

When Guzmán still had a TV show, “Desde El Rio Grande con Carlos Guzmán,” he remembers getting a call from Juan Gabriel after his McAllen show. He asked Guzmán for a ride to his Laredo show, and Guzmán took a camera crew to record a promo.

“I was so excited,” Guzmán said.

After the show, Guzmán was with Juan Gabriel and his band at a restaurant at 3 or 4 a.m.

“Out of the blue, he asked me, ‘is the composer of those two songs I enjoyed still alive? You think you could call him? I want to say hi,’” Guzmán recalled.

Guzmán asked the owner of the restaurant for the phone, calls and wakes E.J. Ledesma’s wife, who suspects he’s drunk. She passes the phone to E.J., the composer Guzmán credited for contributing to his early success.

“‘Mr. Ledesma, I just want to tell you how important you were in my beginning, because your songs have such great melodies and lyrics,’” Guzmán remembered. “‘This is Juan Gabriel. I just wanted to say hi, and congrats on your composing.’”

He’ll always treasure those unforgettable moments, Guzmán said. Juan Gabriel, in addition to being a skilled singer and composer, was the best entertainer. People hung on his every word, Guzmán said.

Recently, Guzmán came across a long-lost interview from a San Antonio radio station when a young Juan Gabriel was promoting a show. The DJ asked him who was one of his idols.

“‘I want to be like Carlos Guzmán,’” Guzmán recalled. “Oh my gosh. I was honored.”

Ramirez kept in touch with Juan Gabriel, even into the years he was playing at State Farm Arena.

“He would still remember me. He was so gracious and humble, but not only with me,” Ramirez said. “That’s the way he was.”

There are a certain few people in the world that have something special that everybody loves, he said.

“I call it un angel — they have an angel,” Ramirez said. “There’s something special about those people.”

Ramirez puts Juan Gabriel in that category with Michael Jackson and Selena.

“Not only did we lose a singer and a great composer, but we lost an unbelievable legend who will never be replaced,” Ramirez said. “There will never be another Juan Gabriel.”


Guillermo Ordorica Robles, Mexico consul in McAllen, served in El Paso for several years where he met Juan Gabriel and visited his home across the border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He said he remembers the sold-out crowd that showed up for a free concert inaugurating the giant “X” sculpture in the singer’s hometown in 2013.

Juan Gabriel was a natural ambassador of Mexico because anywhere he sang he would have Mexico in his heart,” Ordorica said in Spanish. “He was a revolutionary who through his songs projected Mexico throughout the world with great prestige, recognition and applause.”

During a Monday morning news conference launching their annual Labor Rights Week initiative, Ordorica described Juan Gabriel as an icon who will transcend generations and sent heartfelt condolences to the singer’s family on behalf of the Mexican consulate.

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia posted an image with Juan Gabriel on his Facebook page Sunday.

“He was an incredibly talented singer and songwriter and a true gentleman. His songs have been the soundtrack for some of life’s most major events for the past 40 years,” Garcia said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed, but his spirit will live on in his music and will, no doubt, continue to inspire new fans and musicians.”

Refunds are currently available for fans who purchased tickets for his September show through Ticketmaster, and cash reimbursements begin Tuesday at the venue box office.

Kristian Hernandez contributed to this report.