Robert Beltran, Manny Silva, Ruben Beltran, Larry Pinon, Louie Ledesma
Dr. Groove is a 9-member classic Rock/R&B Band, featuring horns, multiple percussionists, and even a full-time sound man! They have been playing in El Paso since 1991. We met up with six of them (Robert, Manny, Larry, Ruben, Sean, and Louie) Wednesday night in Handlebars.
EPMS: How many band members, total, have you had since you started in 1991?
Louie: About 30.
EPMS: I know this is going to be a long list, but what places have you played in EP?
Various members: Barmuda Triangle, Handlebars, Bulldogs English Pub, Rods and Wheels (now Murphy's Cantina), Bennigans, Mulligans, Bombardiers, Chili Blues, Mugshots, the Pour House, Senses do Brazil, street festival downtown (Millenium Festival), Barnett Harley, Speaking Rock, Danny's Place, the El Paso County Coliseum, Sunland Park Race Track...
EPMS: Y'all look like a great New Year's Eve band. Where do you play New Year's Eve?
Louie: We don't; we spend time with our families.
EPMS: What things about your band would surprise people that come see you play?
Robert: They see only four hours, but we spend eight hours, including picking up the equipment, setting up, tearing down.
Louie: We have members of all ages in the band. People don't realize what kind of people put the band together.
Sean: I like that the older guys let us young guys play in the group. (Larry, Sean, Jerry all under 30).
Manny: Of the nine guys in the band, four have Bachelor's degrees, and two more are almost there.
EPMS: What else is unusual about your band?
Ruben: no egos, no superstars.
Manny: great chemistry.
Ruben: We play funk to jazz to swing to blues. On any night, my brother (Robert) and I might switch vocals (lead or backup).
EPMS: Give me an example of what kind of swing music you play.
Ruben: Jump, jive and wail.
Louie: by the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Manny: The horn section sometimes goes through crowd playing.
EPMS: Like mariachis?
EPMS: Who is the best musician in the group?
Ruben: The most talented, I'd say, Jerry.
Louie: He's the most technically trained.
Sean: He can play the trombone, keyboards, and the drums.
Larry: All at the same time (lol).
Louie: Everybody brings something to the table.
EPMS: What are your influences?
Manny: Carlos Santana.
Louie: Besides alcohol?
Sean: My family. Without them I woudn't be able to do this. Musically, Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band, Stuart Copeland of the Police, Chad Sexton of 311.
Larry: Tower of Power, Phil Collins, the Phoenix Horns, Maynard Ferguson.
EPMS: What percent of your set list is original?
Larry: About 1%
Louie: We came out as a cover band, we decided to stay as a cover band.
Manny: Jerry has a lot of songs in his head.
Larry: We do a lot of improvisation... everyone in the band.
Robert: Ruben, Louie, the whole band.
Sean: If solos come up, the're not written out.
Larry: Any given night, it could be anyone.
EPMS: How do you set it up? You give someone, say, 4 or 8 bars (to do a solo)?
Ruben: Someone will take a ride for any amount of bars, and when that person is tired... it's all about eye contact... then the rest come in.
Larry: We've learned to play off each other.
Manny: We cue off each other.
Louie: Once whoever is soloing gets to a certain chord, we know that in four more bars, they're finishing up, and the rest of band comes in.
EPMS: Favorite talk shows?
Manny: The same.
Robert: Letterman, for dry wit.
Larry: The late, great Johnny Carson. Jon Stewart.
EPMS: Unusual day jobs?
Louie: What is unusual is that we have day jobs and still play.
Larry: Another thing people do not understand: everyone is a full-time student or works.
Manny: Most of us are students or have already graduated.
EPMS: If I see you play now, then 6 months later, what percent of the set list will have changed?
Larry: Maybe nothing. Right now, we have a whole different approach... To show we're different... We're trying to show off our musicianship, our musicality.
Sean: It's more about entertainment; we're not looking to go on the road. We want people to have fun, but you always have to be ready... You never know what musicians are out in the crowd.
EPMS: What changes would you like to see in El Paso, as far as live music is concerned?
Louie: I wish we'd get more support... from people, radio. Lots of people say "There's nothing to do in El Paso," but there are many good bands here. Quite possibly it is too costly for a bar to do media ads. Radio and TV should make it easier for venues to do that. I think it is a combination of things, between the bands, TV, radio, newspaper.
Ruben: Nobody wants to fill the bill.
Louie: We (the music scene) ain't gonna grow if nobody makes it accessible. (We can advance) simply because we get support from the press, in this case elpasomusicscene.com, coming out to see dates, see bands. Without that kind of support, we're stuck in the water.
Ruben: We rely on the support of all the venue owners, like Eddie here at Handlebars.
Sean: We get support from friends and family that come out. Families, especially. Sometimes we have extra gigs, back to back... I don't think all this would happen if they didn't support us.
Louie: We go see other bands some times, and some of them come to see us.
Robert: Alibi , Fidelity.
Ruben: Grupo asi.
Louie: Some of the members of these groups support us by showing up to our shows and even playing a few tunes with us.
Ruben: We became successful due to a lot of the (previous) members of the band. Because of all of them, I think we are one of the most successful bands in El Paso.
Sean: How we play is reflected off what we listen to, and it gets interpreted by each of us. Putting our own special flavor into it makes us what we are.
One of their biggest fans, Randy, of Florida, gives this opinion about becoming a Dr. Groove fan: "The first set, you'll understand it. The second set, you'll stay because you understand it. The third set, you're hooked."
- Charles Hurley