Ritchie Valens (Richard Valenzuela) was the first Latino rock star in music history. He died at age 17 in a tragic plane crash in 1959 along with two other rock legends, the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) and Buddy Holly. The story of  Ritchie’s brief career is told in the motion picture La Bamba, written and directed by Luis Valdez. What few know is that it was Luis’s brother, actor/musician Daniel Valdez, who spent many years pursuing the Ritchie Valens story and finally securing the right to tell the story from Ritchie’s family. Here Daniel recounts how the making of  La Bamba came about.


  1. says

    I remember talking to Daniel (before the Quinto Festival de Los Teatros Chicanos) at San Jose's Sacred Heart Church back in 1974. He felt he was in the running for the main role… but they picked Phillips. Danny and his whole familia have always been an inspiration to Chicanos… especially those living in San Jose.

  2. says

    most interesting! i wonder how many know that daniel played el pachuco in the new theatre for now debut of 'zoot suit'? he strode onto the taper stage and fired up a joint. nice touch, i thought.

  3. latinopia says

    Yes, My Tio who was there (I was still in kindergarden, of course!) says this is what Luis and Daniel Valdez call the "Baby Zootsuit" performances that led to the eventual big production of Zootsuit at the Taper. Watch for actress and director Rose Portillo commenting on how she was cast and then worked with Luis Valdez to craft her role as Della in Zootsuit–all coming soon to Latinopia! Tia Tenopia

  4. Midknight says

    The movie La Bamba is a good example of “mistakes” and “refusals” combining to create the perfect package. One of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

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