As the most influential exponents of the Pinoy Rock genre, the Juan Dela Cruz Band lives on as many of today’s rock artists continue to include their songs on their live playlist.
Razorback — a hard rock outfit featuring Tirso Ripoll, Louie Talan and frontman Kevin Roy, brother of the late Karl Roy — has time and again cited the seminal group as a major influence and recently performed their classic anthem “Beep Beep” during the launch of TV5’s new online lifestyle hub, Kristn.com at the NBC Tent on Wednesday.
And this Friday night, a group of musicians who call themselves the Renegades of Rock will pay homage to the band with the concert “Up In Arms!: The Official Juan Dela Cruz Tribute” at the 19 East Bar in Sucat, Parañaque.
The performers scheduled to perform are Charlie Ysmael of The Breed, Benedict Verzosa of Backdraft, Mutiny, Dahong Palay, Death By Stereo, Piranha, Anibughaw, Revelation Blue Jean Junkies, Lougee and The Cherry Bums, Kastigo, Times Two and Thy Holy Water vs JunoRedFeather.
“This is our own small way of paying homage to the original and greatest Pinoy Rock renegade,” declared host Ramon Zialcita, also known as The Doctor to rock radio fans.
“We have planned this for months and we hope that that the members could join us for this special event. But in my talk with their manager Bryan Garcia, he said only Pepe Smith could make it since, Wally Gonzalez has a gig on that day and Mike Hanopol has a church affair.”
Regardless of which JDLC band member could grace the tribute and even jam with the performers, the event is clearly an indication that the band’s influence remain stronger than ever more than 40 years after they played their very first gig.
The band was founded in 1968 by Alex Cruz, Sandy Tagarro, Bing Labrador, the late Edmond Fortuno and Wally Gonzales (now spelled as Gonzalez). It had a revolving door of personnel, which also included Clifford Ho, Rene Sogueco, Romy Santos and Bobot Guerrero, before achieving their greatest success in the mid-70s with the classic line-up of Gonzalez, Mike Hanopol and Joey “Pepe” Smith.
Between 1971 and 1981, JDLC recorded five classic albums of mostly original material (“Up In Arms,” “Himig Natin”, “Maskara”, “Super Session” and “Kahit Anong Mangyari”) after which they broke up and pursued solo careers.
Aside from “Beep Beep” their other classic songs include “Balong Malalim”, “Rak En Rol Sa Ulan”, “Himig Natin”, “Kagatan”, “No Touch” and “Titsers Enemi No. 1”.
Ironically, despite the generally rebellious and anti-establishment image of rock music as defined by long hair, hippie outfits and, yes, mind-altering substances, the Juan Dela Cruz band found success during a most unusual era: Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law.
Founding member Wally Gonzalez, now also regarded as one of the country’s greatest rock guitarists, remember that it was DZRJ-AM, a radio station taken over and operated by the military during that turbulent period, that first gave them radio airplay.
“Actually, kaya kami nakapasok sa DZRJ, bumili kami ng one-hour special program para lang for JDLC every Wednesday para ma-promote yung album naming ‘Himig Natin’. Yun ang pinaka unang Pinoy Rock. After nagustuhan ng tao yung special program na ‘yun, sinimulan naman ng RJ yung show nilang ‘Pinoy Rock N’ Rhythm’ na sumuporta sa iba pang mga Pinoy Rock na banda,” Wally recalled to InterAksyon in an exclusive interview.
Wally is proud of the fact that the airplay enjoyed by JDLC and the favorable public response to it also altered the landscape of music radio programming at the time.
“Dati puro English ang maririnig mo eh kwela yung ‘Himig Natin’. Mabuti naman at maraming nagsunuran na gumawa ng Tagalog na musika,” he observed.
For a band that was supposed to maintain a low profile after the declaration, Wally said JDLC, like the Hotdog after them, also had a relatively easier time flourishing during that supposed dark era. He even vividly remembered where the band was on that fateful day of September 21, 1972.
“We were having a gig at Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard. On our way home, may mga checkpoint na naka-set up na so nagtataka kami kung bakit, yun pala na-declare na ang Martial Law,” he recalled.
“Awa ng Diyos, wala namang naaresto sa min for drugs or having long hair, ang buhok ko pa naman nun, hanggang baywang. Siguro dahil madalas akala nila babae ako.”
Although he admitted that the live circuit took a hit during the early years of what Marcos also dubbed as the New Society, Wally was surprised that the Marcos children took a liking to the band and invited them regularly to play at parties in Malacañang.
“Among the venues that we played for the Marcoses during those days were the Maharlika Hall, Jade House, Ang Pangulo yacht and the house of the Romualdezes in Olot, Leyte. We were treated as guests, with the same food and drinks and we could freely mingle with the crowds. Nakikipagkwentuhan sa amin sina President and Mrs. Marcos and also their kids, maski na long hair kami at hippie attire,” he further recalled.
Wally said they were all even issued a curfew pass, which they often used to poke fun at those manning the checkpoints.
“Pagkatapos ng mga gigs naming after 2AM, ipapasyal pa namin yung mga curfew pass namin sa checkpoints. Cheap thrills ba, hehe! Sasabihin sa amin nung mga military sa checkpoints, ‘Hirap naman sa inyo, inaabuso nyo ang curfew pass nyo eh’.”
Not that they also weren’t scared of the military back then. Wally said that although they did not feel that the government was clamping down on everyone, they were still scared of what they read about the dreaded Metrocom. “Nakakatakot talaga sila nung mga panahong yun. Pag naaresto daw yung iba, nawawala na lang, ganun ang mga balita nun,” he exclaimed.
Fortunately, the Martial Law crackdowns did not extend to their songs and hardly hindered their creativity. Some songs of JDLC such as “Rak En Rol Sa Ulan”, “Nadapa Sa Arina” and “Kagatan” are believed to have subtle drug references but to Wally’s recollection, none of their songs was ever censored.
“Parang double meaning ang ibang kanta ng JDLC, nasa sa iyo na lang ang interpretation. Naturally, yung mga tumititra ng drugs o humihitit ng marijuana, i-a-associate agad sa drugs yung narinig nila sa kanta. Parang wala naming paki ang gobyerno sa amin noon. Wala naman kaming kanta na-ban during Martial Law. Madalas pa ngang patugtugin sa radio eh”, he pointed out.
As for the most important legacy of the band that continues to play reunion gigs from time to time — the most recent of which was last October 20 at the Hard Rock Café in a gig called “Super Session Live!” — Wally said their biggest contribution was composing and recording songs in our very own language.
“Mabuti naman at maraming nagsunuran na gumawa ng kantang Tagalog after us. Hanggang ngayon, marami pa ring gumagawa ng Original Pilipino Music so para sa akin, okay yun.”