Ask my 90 year old mom who her favorite singer is. She might say me. But she'll likely say Trini Lopez. When I was a kid, my folks were absolutely not raising me on Elvis and Buddy Holly and Fat Domino and such. No. I guess that there was some Perry Como and Frank Sinatra playing in the house now and again. And my dad was one of the better "twisters" back in the day, so maybe there was a little Chubby Checker. I don't know.
But I do remember that we had a Trini Lopez album. It was my mom's favorite. And when my folks one time (and only one time) got each of the Gilbert kids a record (a 45, which was a single with a B side on the back), the one that I got was "If I Had a Hammer" by Trini Lopez. Cool, right?
Trini Lopez wasn't particularly cool back in the late 50s and the 60s. Yes, he did have a few hits. And he was a star in his own right. But do you ever hear anyone talking about Trini Lopez? I mean, Elvis is still the King. Fats Domino was beloved. Chuck Berry was the Father of Rock and Roll. Tony Bennett is having a major renaissance. Buddy Holly was, well, Buddy Holly. And then the Beatles came roaring on the scene in the early 60s. And the British Invasion happened. So Trini Lopez never really was an A lister in the Rock and Roll world.
But he was really so good. Really. So call this a guilty pleasure post. Because the album that my folks had (it was called More Trini Lopez at PJ's) was my first favorite album. Yes, it was quickly overtaken by Meet the Beatles. But it was a great album. And it included a bunch of really sweet folk songs, played with a rock beat, and I dug it. Among the songs on the album were Walk Right In; Kansas City; If You Wanna Be Happy; and Green Green, none of which were written by Trini. But his versions were just so catchy.
As it turns out, Trini Lopez got his start when Buddy Holly recommended that Trini and his band contact Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico. He never had any success with Norman Petty or the band. But, in 1963, he released Trini Lopez at PJ's, which contained Trini's version of If I Had a Hammer, a song that reached number 1 in several countries (and number 3 in the U.S.). And then my first favorite album, More Trini Lopez at PJ's was released later in 1963. And his career was on the upswing. He had several hits (including Lemon Tree) in the mid and late 60s. Gibson asked him to design two guitars in 1964. And NBC aired a Trini Lopez variety special in 1969. But then Trini apparently got the acting bug; his acting career, though, was not particularly notable. During and after the acting thing, he did several more music projects, but he never regained the popularity that he enjoyed in the early and mid 60's.
Still, everytime I hear a Trini Lopez song, I smile. He's just good. And he's my mom's favorite. So to honor Trini Lopez, here's Trini doing a live performance of Green Green in 1963. So good, right? I mean, there's so much to see here. The groovin' bass player. The crowd in their suits and ties. The syncronized clapping. Trini's cool guitar. And, of course, Trini!
And, for those of you who want to know more about Trini Lopez, go here to see Trini doing a one-man show in 2014 when Trini was 77 years old.