While growing up in Del Norte, Augie Trujillo Sr. started playing a guitar, a gift from his father. By the time he was a teenager, he was performing in the Southern Colorado town. Following a stint in the Navy, Augie Sr. got married and had five sons, raising them in Commerce City.
Inspired by their father’s love of music, particularly the Spanish folk songs he would play, the sons began learning instruments: Nick started on guitar but later moved to bass, Alfred took up the saxophone, Steve played guitar, Augie Jr. mastered the trumpet, and James studied piano, saxophone and singing. Their father’s sister lived next door and had sons who also played instruments: Charles Gallegos, who died earlier this year from coronavirus, played the trumpet, and Leonard Gallegos played drums. Their brother Richard Gallegos would go on to be the band's lighting technician.
Just over five decades ago, Augie Sr., who died last year at 93, his sons and their two cousins formed Los Trujillos, who are being inducted into this year’s Chicano Music Hall of Fame class, along with Lugarda Lu Liñan, who along with her family, was among the first to bring Mexican mariachi music and dance to Colorado public schools in the 1960s and ’70s, and Frank Ayala, an influential Chicano jazz musician in the Denver area for the past thirty years who is part of the band Mistura Fina.
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This year’s induction ceremony, hosted by Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center and part of the center's Chicano Music Festival, will be live-streamed on Thursday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom, Facebook and YouTube. Also, this year’s Chicano Music Festival and Hall of Fame will offer a tribute to two musical icons who passed away in the last year: Mariachi Vasquez patriarch Raul Vasquez and jazz master Freddie Rodriguez.
When Augie Trujillo Sr. was inducted into the Chicano Music Hall of Fame, Los Trujillos played the event. They will return to perform a few songs on Thursday. While Los Trujillos first formed in 1968, the band, which specializes in Tejano music, played weddings and eventually started gigging around the state, including playing events for former Denver mayor Federico Peña and former Colorado governors Roy Romer and Richard Lamm. The group also opened for such world-renowned acts as Little Joe y La Familia and Malo.
James Trujillo, who has headed Los Trujillos for the past 25 years, says that while the band has gotten paid for countless gigs, sometimes playing every weekend, the real reward has been seeing happy crowds smiling, having a good time and dancing. The band plays a lot of covers, and Trujillo says the members put their spin on the tunes, sometimes altering time signatures or adding breaks.
Since James and his brothers grew up next door to his three cousins, he considers them brothers as well, which he says, gave the band an advantage.
“We were all family," he says. "Number one was family, and number two was the band business. There were times when we actually had to turn people down because we needed the weekend off, and typically it was a weekend gig. We just needed some time off. We were playing every weekend, and it got too repetitive. It just became kind of hectic after a while."
Eventually, the band re-formed, because the members loved it.
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Over the years, the group typically had seven members of the Trujillo family, with other musicians outside the family occasionally filling in. While Nick retired from the band about a decade ago, the next generation of the Trujillo family is beginning to join. Augie Jr.’s son Jared is the current bassist.
These days, Los Trujillos aren't gigging quite as much as they used to, though James says the band was playing a lot more family functions before the pandemic hit.
“We love it,” Trujillo says. “We just do it, and that's great. That's an accomplishment. Some people use the word ‘legend,’ but I wouldn't go that far. I just enjoy what we do. The other family members enjoy what they do. And the reward is the people. They love it. We just love music. It's all because of my father. He's the one that instilled that in us, and we went with it, and we enjoyed it. We had a good time with it. And again, the people loved it, so we must be doing something right.”
For more information about the live stream, which takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, go to the Chicano Music Festival website.