Sunny & The Sunliners
Joe Jama: There was two big bands here in San Antonio, and what we called the top bands here in San Antonio, it was either the Royal Jesters or Sunny and the Sunliners, and when you're a young musician, if you get into one of these bands you've made it.
Henry Parilla: Prior to joining Sunny and the Sunliners, Sunny and the Sunliners were actually Sunny and the Sunglows. They were a San Antonio group that a guy named Manuel Guerra had put together. And he was a very a good musician, and he had talents in recording and producing. And they rerecorded a song from Little Willie [Johnson] called “Talk to Me”. And it just -- it took off. It made the Billboard Hot 100, actually the Top 10. And they were on Bandstand, and, you know, it was like -- you know, the first group since Freddy Fender, you know, that were Chicanos that were -- that were, you know, a national -- national hit, with a national hit and a national commodity then, you know. And they offered me a job, and I went to work with them. I played the organ.
I stayed with Sunliners for about four or five years and recorded songs with them, Spanish and English. The guitar player that was -- that was with us at the time when I joined the band, his name was Rudy Palacios. He’s a great guitar player, he’s a good human being. That was one of the best things about him; he’s a good -- he’s a good person.
And so Rudy came up with some stuff, and then -- and Rudy, and Cente, Vicente Montes, the bass player, and myself, and Sunny, would, you know, get together, or going down a road, and -- and work out on some songs. But mostly Rudy would come with the -- with ideas. He had a -- he had a knack for doing these guitar licks that -- you know, the kind that stay, like -- like on “My Girl”, [sings riff], he would always have a signature guitar lick on his songs. It was really a nice thing.
Chente Montes: Playing with Sunny, my God, there were so many stories. I used to do a lot of the background voices with him, so I got a chance to do a lot of, you know, recordings with him. The one I liked the most was a song called, with a Mariachi, called "El Mariachi [Alma Jalisenzia]" from -- they're from Mexico, but they were staying in Phoenix, Arizona at that time. It was called "La Sibales", and at that time the Mariachi was going to sing harmony. He was going to harmonize with Sunny, but the guy that was going to harmonize with Sunny told him, "Heck no, man! You hear this guy? He can do good, you know, background." So that's how I got started with, you know, doing background voices with Sunny, and it was great playing with Sunny. It was, it was a good guy, you know.
I didn't like the way sometimes he made us dress! (laughter) Those Bermuda shorts and a tie and a nice suit and all this, sometimes with little gangster hats, but other than that it was awesome. It was great! (laughter) Bermuda shorts.
Rudy Palacios: Sunny used to call 'em "mini suits." Remember? "Mini suits." "We're going to wear mini suits, palomia." He used to call us 'palomia', or guys, you know. And we, I personally, myself, I used to, you know, not hate it, but I didn't like them because I was embarrassed playing. Can you imagine playing with black Bermuda shorts and a coat and a tie, you know? And sometimes he'd make us wear little caps or hats; they used to call 'em "thanditos" back in the '60s. (laughter) But it was -- And you know, but Sunny, he was, I mean -- Playing with the Sunliners, oh, it's something that I will take, you know, take with me to my grave, man. It's something -- I've got such beautiful memories playing with that band. I've got some bad ones, too, but you know, thank God that the good ones outweigh the bad ones, you know. We had some beautiful times with the Sunliners. Just watching, you know, like playing at the Hollywood Palladium, you know, playing with groups like, you know, on the stage, we played like with James Brown in El Paso, we played with Chuck Berry in Pueblo, Colorado, and the Four Seasons, Archie Bell and the Drells -- You remember that there was a song called "Tighten Up"? We recorded, you know, as a matter of fact, we recorded an album with Archie Bell and the Drells.
I remember Sunny, boy, he was a stickler for rehearsing. We would get -- for rehearsal, he was real tough on rehearsals, which that's why we had such a tight band, you know, because we would rehearse so much, and then when uniform -- Boy, if you remember, Chente, if you were out of uniform, you know, he'd give you a $10 fine. Back in the '60s, that was a lot of money, a lot of money in the '60s! So, and I remember one time, and I'm sure Chente did the same, and I remember the guys, we used to wear black handkerchiefs, and sometimes I'd forget mine or at home or something like that, and I remember putting a sock on there, you know, and Sunny would never catch it, you know! (laughter) Anything to avoid that $10 fine, man! But you know, but he was, he was tough on us, but that's why we, we were who we were, the Sunliners, you know, 'cause he was, Sunny was a good, good leader in that sense, you know. He was awesome, you know. Beautiful, it was beautiful playing with the Sunliners. I don't think I could, you know, put it any other way other than man, it was awesome.