By Noe Gutierrez
The Cancino story begins with patriarch Ruben Cancino, Sr. He first taught his children Pancho, Carlos, Benny, Maria, Jorge, Connie, Ruben, Chad and Mike how to play guitar and sing. “Dad taught what he knows, guitar and voice,” Chad remembers. The elder Cancino performed with his group Trio Arco Iris and as a mariachi. “The music came from Dad. He was very poor and had no means of making money. I recall hearing him talk about shining shoes to buy a guitar. He grew up with the Mexican version of the Great Depression. He had a passion for music because he taught himself how to play. He also sang, played the bass and accordion,” Mike reminisces. “Then we could choose any instrument we wanted. It’s like teaching your kid Spanish first. Because they know they will learn English anyway.”
The Cancino’s mother Julia was a vocalist in the church. Two years ago Ruben Sr. passed away and in late July of this year their mother also departed us. Funeral services for their mother were being prepared at the time of this writing. In speaking with the family their love for each other is distinct. They comprehend that without the strong encouragement by their father they would not enjoy the enthusiasm they have for music.
Chad may be the second youngest but he is treasured by his siblings for his musical virtuosity. “I played bass first at 7 years old and then gravitated to drums at 9 where I for the most part stayed. I sang while I played drums with encouragement from Benny, my older brother.” Chad has played in Unplugged the Band with John Stanley King, Ray Camacho, Mister Moto with Ruben and Benny, who had a recording deal with Warner Brothers Records, and Los Traviesos, who toured Korea three separate times. According to Mike, Chad was worth a king’s ransom to a band. “He would always play in different bands. He was always the lead singer. Having a great voice and being a great drummer made him invaluable.”
In continuing the tradition, Chad’s son Pedro plays the drums and is a vocalist. He currently performs as a member of Soul Opus.
Currently Chad plays at the Village Pub in Palm Springs Wednesday through Saturday with his band Nite Fixx. Also in Nite Fixx are Brian Nussle on bass and vocals and Ricky Lewis on guitar and vocals. He also plays drums and sings in the Santana tribute band Grupo Bohemio. Their members include Lupe Garza on bass, Manny Torres on guitar, Juan Hernandez on sax and vocals, older brother Ruben Cancino on keyboards and vocals and Enrique Cano on congas. They will be performing at the Idyllwild Summer Concert series on 7/31/14.
Ruben began playing the accordion and later switched to keyboards. Jorge never ceased playing the guitar and Benny Sr. kept up his bass playing abilities. Carlos has played mariachi music all his life. He plays guitar, guitarron and also the Bihuela, a five-string guitar. With regards to their children, Jorge has his son Jacob on guitar, Benny Sr. has Benny Jr. and Andrew on drums and Danny plays guitar and bass.
At present Mike plays drums for Unida, House of Broken Promises and Soul Sign. His first memories of music in the home are at 3 years old. He lived with his mother in a four bedroom apartment in Mecca Vineyards in the mid 70’s. He recollects drums, amplifiers, guitars bass guitars, accordions and keyboards. “My brother Carlos played mariachi. He had credit at the long defunct Dean’s Music in Indio. He financed all the instruments and gear for everyone. At eight years old I was taught how to play drums by Benny (Sr.).” At ten years old Mike was asked by his stepfather Hilario if he wanted to play drums or guitar. Mike had recently listened to Rush’s Moving Pictures and chose the drums. His stepfather promptly purchased him a four piece Ludwig drum kit at Dean’s Music. Mike listened and played along to music from AC/DC and Billy Squier. He also gives credit where credit is due. ”I learned by watching Chad play. I was and am still inspired by him. Chad was the forerunner.”
Mike started playing alto sax in 4th grade. He played quads and snare drum in the high school drum line. He was also involved in symphonic and concert bands. He and his high school drum line were one of the first groups to implement a full drum set into a show. He first met Unida and HOBP guitarist Arthur Seay at Westside Elementary School in Thermal when he was approximately ten years old and the rest is history.
Benny Jr. recounts his history. He was only three when he first picked up a set of drum sticks. He was introduced to the drums with a Junior Pro Tune series drum set that was yellow. “I remember taking it apart and not playing it very much. I wanted to learn how it worked. My parents were frustrated. Little did they know I was mastering the drums.” Benny Jr. has rightfully introduced his own child to the drums. “My son will be seven soon and he’s doing everything I used to do. He plays his set a little bit. He’s also taking a screwdriver to his trains.”
Benny Jr. looks back on his musical upbringing and the impact his father and uncles made. “We lived in Indio behind Roosevelt Elementary. I would come home after school every day and Mister Moto would be in the garage rehearsing. I would come home every day and there would be two drums sets, Mike’s and Chad’s. What does a kid do? He puts his homework in the closet and stomps the drum sets.”
Benny Jr. has played drums in the Kyle Turley Band and most recently has joined Alyce Bowie in performing their diverse set of popular music. He has also played in The Whizards and the ambitiously peculiar band InVitro, which included Mike Pygmie and Mikey Doling. “I always knew I had to do something. The drums did something for me. Early in 2003, I stopped messing around with little sets. Mike Pygmie called me to see if I wanted to check out his band The Whizards. When I started jamming with them it was definitely an introduction to musicians that made the music matter. I played with them for two years.”
Music is both nature and nurture for the Cancino family. There are obvious examples to follow and there is also a heredity factor. Benny Jr. identifies the propensities. “When they say it’s in the blood it’s no joke. My father remarried and had three children. They live in Oklahoma and they love to sing and dance. Music is innate for us, it doesn’t go away. I feel empathetic for people who don’t have an outlet. If I go too long without any musical experimentation there’s something missing. I find balance in music.”
Andrew is Benny Jr.’s younger paternal half-brother. Although Andrew began utilizing music later in the game, he has demonstrated that the proverbial rock apple does not fall far from the rock tree. “I didn’t’ grow up with that side of the family. My lineage gave me an advantage and having the genetic predisposition to music.” Andrew is fluent in guitar, bass and drums. I asked him, Why drums? His answer: “Fun”. Benny Jr. and Andrew have established a bond despite their prior estrangement. Benny speaks proudly of Andrew’s musicianship. “Andrew is a talented individual. He was playing guitar in a rock band for church. He was only 20 years old,” I have seen Andrew perform several times for his prior band Redivider, who he remains in touch with. Andrew displays veracity and bashes his drums with utter precision. He currently works full time as an insurance agent and attends college part-time pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in economics. “I keep rudiments up by using my practice pad. I play when I go to my Uncle Mike’s house. It will never leave me. Once you get bit you are stuck with the virus.”