Ray Camacho is a bandleader, trumpeter, and multi- instrumentalist whose musical diversity is legendary. He is best known for the single "Si Si Puede," issued in 1970 by Ray Camacho & the Teardrops. It became a rallying cry for Latin Americans who resisted the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, and was used in the Disney film McFarland USA.
Based in Fresno, California since the '60s, he led bands under various names that were an important regional link in the East Bay music scene as it exploded onto the national scene. Their many recordings -- over 59 albums and 75 singles including three Gold records, most of which were independently released -- document a seamless blend of musical styles that include rock, funk, jazz, soul, Chicano salsa, cumbia, mambo, merengue, and even country. This diversity and his stage presence made his groups attractive as both openers and headliners. Camacho's bands have performed with everyone from Santana and Tower of Power to Los Lobos, Texas Tornados, and Los Tigres del Norte.
Camacho was born in El Paso Texas. While very young, his family moved to Mendota, California, where he worked the fields until he was 17. As a child he began playing several instruments -- notably drums and saxophone. By the time he graduated from Tranquility High School, he was already adept. While attending Fresno City College, he picked up the trumpet; it became his main instrument.
The bandleader formed the Teardrops, a large group that included saxophonist, keyboardist, and arranger Manuel Palafox, guitarist Mingo Cervantes, and conguero Enrique Mendoza, all of whom remained with him for more than 40 years. While they toured around the American West and Southwest, Arizona and Texas became main stays on their tours.
Camacho's live shows were so popular they became favorites of the U.S. Department of Defense. His bands played numerous USO tours throughout Europe and Asia, 36 countries in all. At several shows during the Vietnam War, the band played under combat conditions.
The early Ray Camacho & the Teardrops (sometimes known as the International Ray Camacho & the Teardrops) began recording in 1968 with the single "Volveras"/"El Pollo de Carlitos," issued by Copper State in 1968, followed by "She's So Good to Me"/"Sunshine Superman" a year later on ARV. The Teardrops' first long-player, a self-titled effort, was issued by California Artists in 1970. "Si Si Puede" wasn't included (it was issued later as a standalone), but the single "Pecadora" was. They recorded several more singles for C.A. and then for literally dozens of labels throughout the '70s, '80s, and '90s -- including La Nueva Decada for Sony in 1991 and Yujajay for Joey International in 1995. Camacho's band played at the inauguration of President George Bush, Sr. in 1989.
Several compilations of Camacho's various groups have been released. His most famous album, Reach Out, was originally issued in 1980. An iconic collection of Latin funk, soul, and disco, it has been reissued several times, most recently by Austria's PMG in 2016. The Ray Camacho Band has been inducted into the Hispanic Music Hall of Fame. ~ Thom Jurek