By Noe Gutierrez
The Evaro family is synonymous with the Coachella Valley, harmony and an infinite amount of members. They transplanted from Yuma, Arizona in the 60’s to Palm Springs where they have cultivated their music and live performances all over the valley. Their legacy as entertainers does not begin there. Gene Evaro Sr. recalls the stories his parents told about the Evaro’s inception. “My dad Alfonso shared stories about our family as circus performers five generations ago. They were trapeze artists and singers.” Their longevity in the entertainment industry is only rivaled by the Jacksons and the Osmonds. They were collectively awarded a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in front of the Hyatt in 2005. Family members joke that there isn’t enough sidewalk or stars to represent each member of the family and their accomplishments, so the city decided to induct the family as a whole.
Sonny Evaro will be 82 years old in November. He has supported Frank Sinatra, Lalo Guerrero and Trini Lopez locally. He and his wife Angie and their Aunt Melva were instrumental in supporting the Evaro kids by transporting them to and from Hollywood. “We were all behind them. We started the success here in Palm Springs when we arrived in 1961. We came and never left. We were the first ones to move out here. Sonny began to contact the family back in Arizona and they followed.” Angie remembers one particular trip in the 70’s. “I took them to the Gong Show hosted by Chuck Barris and they won!” Sonny came with father Jerry and his brother Bobby as a trio after being invited by resort big wigs. “My husband opened the doors for the family,” shared Angie. Sonny continues to perform in the Coachella Valley. “Music was very good to us,” Angie professes. Jimmy, Jerry and Jeffrey are their sons. Jeffrey died in a motorcycle accident four years ago. Jerry and Jimmy continue to perform at Sammy G’s in Palm Springs.
In 1970 Gene Sr., Jerry, Jimmy, Shirley, Debbie and Ray put a band together at 10-12 years old. Gene Evaro Sr. was the primary song writer. They signed a record deal with Motown soon after. Mike Curb of Curb Records produced all of Evaro’s music. They toured with Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. Gene Sr. makes no mistake the devotion to his family. “I love all my family. I was the one that was cut away and left Palm Springs at 17. I went on tour with Ike and Tina Turner, Eddie Kendricks and the Temptations.” Gene Sr. had huge success in pursuing individual work. “I started focusing on my songs. I co-wrote the number one song “How ‘Bout Us” by Champaign and “I’m On Fire” which reached #16. I ended up writing songs for motion pictures by Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve written title tracks for approximately 23 films.” Once the success came so did the thought of having children. “They came out singing. Bryanna, Gabriella, Shavaughn, Gene Jr. and Natalie were raised in the studio.” In 2000, Gene Sr. signed a record deal with Sony BMG using the Evaro name. He went to Miami and developed two top ten singles. He remembers how the children took to the music studio and naturally participated in playing music together. “They started gelling immediately in the studio.”
Gene Sr. recalls Gene Jr. at 8 or 9 years old experimenting with musical instruments. “He rigged up all these keyboards and midis so that they would synch with each other. He had a full orchestra going. He composed it and had done it so articulately. I asked him how long it took him and he said he did it in two hours. I was taken aback. I sent out a copy of that song and received great feedback. He was also good friends with Taylor Swift. I remember him calling me about Taylor wanting to come over to share some music and I brushed it off a bit…big mistake.”
Gene Sr. has not slowed down. “I am currently doing my new album. I might do an indie thing and give it a try.” He has also performed with and produced Tony Melendez, the celebrated guitarist with no arms. “I remember we played in front of 75,000 people at one point. It was amazing.”
Also amazing are Gene Sr.’s offspring. “All my kids are singers and songwriters. They are so ready. They have played big shows.” In talking about his children Gene Sr. never forgets to mention the daughter he lost. Natalie passed away in 2008 in automobile accident in Tennessee. “Natalie is still the glue that holds us together. Natalie went to heaven three years ago. She lost her life in an automobile accident. She continues to inspire all of us. She’s always had her hand on us. She was only 20, so she’ll be 20 forever. We call her the butterfly.” Natalie’s siblings mention her on a regular basis. Gabriella, Gene Jr., Shavaughn and Bryanna all actively celebrate Natalie’s life through their music and how they communicate with others.
Gene Sr.’s children are multi-instrumentalists and vocalists. Bryanna plays bass guitar and sings. She currently performs with the Mikey Reyes Acoustic Movement and with her siblings every chance she gets. Gene Jr. plays guitar and sings. He is finishing up his most recent solo effort. He has performed recently at multiple venues and festivals under the moniker Gene Jr. and the Family, along with Shavaughn and Gabriella, who also sing and play guitar respectively. Shirley agrees with all of the family. “The kids are all incredible. They have their own style. I believe it’s a gift from God.”
Shirley Evaro resides in Indio and is the entertainment and marketing director at The River in Rancho Mirage. She recently released a Christian solo album entitled, Just Because Of Jesus. Her parents are Sonny and Angie. “My dad and my grandfather paved the way for the whole Evaro family. Everyone is really talented and amazing. In the 70’s The Evaro Tradition were managed by my Dad.” Shirley is most proud of her father and his courage in moving to the desert. “My dad has played here for 62 years in desert. He was the talent.” She is equally affected by her mother, “My mom was always encouraging us. It was so easy because we were born right into it. We got up and music would be playing. Dad would call us over to sing. It’s something we would want to do.”
Shirley shared some stories of their early success and how they responded as only adolescents could. “We were driving on the freeway and all of a sudden K-EARTH 101 played our song on the radio and we started screaming. My Mom pulled over the van. We didn’t’ know what to do. We jumped out on the freeway and started jumping up and down and running around. Another time at 7:00 a.m. in the morning on the school bus our driver was cool and had the radio on and he played our song. It was one of the most awesome times in our lives. It taught us to share our sounds.”
Shirley states the Evaro gift eloquently. “God has been good to us. It’s all we’ve ever known. My mom Angie says it’s in our DNA. We were born into it. We never thought that there were people out there with normal jobs.” Here’s hoping that the Evaro family continue to pursue music and share it with us.