Rick Fuentes was born in San Jose, California. His Tejano heritage was bred by his South Texas native parents, Ricardo Fuentes of Brownsville, Texas and Irene Navarro of San Benito, Texas. The musical community of the late 70’s and early 80’s knew the senior Fuentes, “Richard”, as the charismatic leader of a popular national touring Chicano band, “The Brown Express”. Richard played the button accordion and a Farfisa organ, giving the band a style of its own. Rick recalls going to many of their gigs and assisting his father with “sound checks”. Musically, the young Rick Fuentes was developing his own love for the keyboard, but only played recordings of “The Brown Express”. His father used this to his advantage and had Rick play his keyboard on stage before performances while he monitored quality and adjusted sound.
Since Richard Fuentes was on active tour with “The Brown Express”, young Rick was forced to stay home with his keyboard. Driven by the incredible feeling of playing on stage with his father’s band, he continued to develop his talents and passion for music, solidifying his aspiration to become a musician. In 1983, while on tour in Texas, “The Brown Express” suffered a tragic rollover accident, in which Richard Fuentes and another band member were killed. It was a very difficult time for Rick as he struggled with his loss and with the pressure to continue in his father’s footsteps. He questioned his ability and asked himself, “How will I do it?” As his own path developed and his talents unfolded, Rick learned one thing: His father’s death was his strength; He would never leave Rick’s side.
In 1985, while maternal grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, 14-year-old Rick experienced his first public performance. “Grupo 101”, which consisted of local musicians and a few ex-members of “The Brown Express”, was performing at the family reception. Unaware that Rick had been practicing the keyboard part to one of their recordings for weeks, they invited him to play a song. He confidently accepted the invitation and was overwhelmed with the emotional response from the family and from experiencing “that feeling” again. Throughout the years that followed, Rick became addicted to the stage and played keyboards, bass, and rhythm guitar in venues throughout the Bay Area. As with many underage musicians, some bars had him wait on the stage or go outside during the breaks. (He couldn’t wait to turn 21!) In 1989, at the age of 18, Rick was fortunate to join a band formed by Grammy-nominated accordionist, Chavela Ortíz Hernandez, also known as “La Reina Del Acordión” – “The Accordion Queen”. A native of Fresno, California, she was an ex-member of “The Brown Express”, who had branched out to form her own group. It was Chavela that bought Rick his first piano accordion and basically directed him to play it. The group, “Chavela Y Su Grupo Express”- “Chavela & The Express” would come to have two accordions and an organ sound just like Richard Fuentes’ original sound with “The Brown Express”. Touring the “Mexican Regional” market all over the United States with Chavela was like a dream come true for Rick and he enjoyed it until another tragedy forced a change in course. On October 9, 1992, while doing a photo shoot at a ranch in Milpitas, California, a horse that Chavela was being photographed on was startled. As the horse ran from the scene, she fell off and was fatally injured. Devastated for several months after the accident, Rick wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue playing “Mexican Regional” music or follow the music in his heart: “Tejano” – “Tex-Mex”.
In March of 1993, Rick learned that Tejano legend Ruben Ramos was coming out to California and New Mexico for a couple of weeks and that keyboardist/guitarist Joe Ramos was unable to make the trip. Not only did Rick fill in for those shows, he also managed to join “Ruben Ramos and Texas Revolution” and move to Austin, Texas. Once in Texas, Rick soon began doing studio work with various Tejano music icons, such as Gilbert Velasquez, Joel Guzman, Laura Canales, Ram Herrera, Jimmy Gonzales, and others.
In early 1995, he left Austin for McAllen to join “Fandango USA” as keyboardist, accordionist, and co-arranger. The band had recently gained popularity with their mega-hit “La Charanga”. Rick contributed to the momentum by co-arranging a CD with them that was later nominated for a Grammy in the “Best Tejano Album” category. The group toured all over the U.S. and gave Rick his first international experience by touring in Mexico. The commutes from the Rio Grande Valley to his home and family in Austin became demanding and he soon came to the realization that another transition was on the horizon.
In November 1996, the doors again opened for Rick and he returned to “The Texas Revolution” and moved back to Austin. Shortly after rejoining the band that year, he had the opportunity to perform at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. To Rick, it was like playing back in San Antonio with fans from all over Texas. Since then, he has been able to perform in shows from Denmark to Belgium and Michigan to Hawaii.
They say that things in life come full circle, and though the Tejano community hasn’t seen the last of Rick Fuentes, he has started to realize that the talents he saw in his father’s hands are in his own today. In November of 2006, Rick traveled to his birthplace of San Jose, California to reunite with many of the original members of “The Brown Express”. Rick honorably took his father’s place on the stage as they opened up for “Ruben Ramos and The Mexican Revolution.” The crowd loved the sounds that Richard Fuentes developed and those that Rick Fuentes continues to bless us with today.