Ritchie Valens and "Hi-Tone" HEAR
Ritchie Valens heard my song, "Hi-Tone", one week before I was drafted into the Army. Valens flipped over it and said he wanted it on his first album. I had no idea at the time what a huge star Ritchie would become, but Ritchie knew. He told me flat out he would have the number one record by the end of the year ... and he did!
I remember being stationed in Panama when Ritchie's album came out and hit big, and I started hearing my song on the radio. My army buddies thought it was great and acted like I was a celebrity. I wound up signing lots of autographs everywhere I went because of that.
Because "Hi-Tone" was on the same album with "La Bamba" and "Donna", Ritchie's two biggest hits, I have a gold record for it. Now that's good luck."
I always regretted I didn't have a chance to know Ritchie better. He seemed like a special guy and since we both loved music, I thought we would have a lot in common. Unfortunately, we met just before I was sent to the Panama Canal Zone.
However, I have always been proud he chose my song among the few he was able to record before his untimely death - proud my song is on the same L.P., just a couple tracks away from the classic "La Bamba."
I heard the news about the plane crash over Armed Forces Radio while lying in my bunk resting one night and I couldn't believe my ears. I felt totally devastated.
That all happened in 1959 and, as far as I knew, no other singer recorded "Hi-Tone," which was okay with me. I always felt that song belonged to Ritchie and it never occurred to me someone else might record it. I guess I was wrong.
I learned through a friend that a young Latin singer named Pep Torres recorded the song in 2001 for his CD "Rockabilidad." I bought the CD and liked his rendition very much so I contacted him through his website. Eventually we exchanged phone numbers and I discovered, coincidentally, he lived within minutes of my home.
So a couple weeks later, we were sitting in my living room, having coffee and going over some of his recordings, which I enjoyed. I also played some of my compositions for him, with the hope he might decide to record one or two on his next session. Anyway, it was a fun experience and I made a new music friend.
Of course, nobody will ever replace Ritchie Valens. He was one of a kind and it is a loss to the world of music that he did not have a chance to fulfill his promise of even greater achievement.