Savor member since 2015, Chico Hernandez

Interview video thumbnail for Chico

Growing up, one of my older cousins was a guitar player who was really into Santana. Early on, we used to hear the band jamming at our local park while I was playing baseball right next-door. What impressed me especially was those rhythms. I didn’t know the details at the time, but I was really focusing on the percussion and the bass.

They would play the older songs, like Black Magic Woman, and Mother Africa. And I would be thinking “What’s that?!” To me it sounded like a train that was roaring by you.

young Chico on Timbales

Starting the musical journey

When I was young, I wanted to be a professional athlete, because I loved sports and I was good at them. But once I got to high school, I changed my focus to music. That same cousin moved to San Francisco, where he ran into some ex-band members of Santana, including Jose “Chepito” Areas, Santana’s original, brilliant Timbale player. In fact, he ended up joining Chepito’s band.

I was more and more drawn to the timbales; the ambience they had, that tinny, ”rimshot” kind of sound. Besides that, I saw Tito Puente on TV, and loved the way he not only played the timbales, but also put on a show for the audience.

Back then, we didn’t have YouTube. So the way I learned to play was by watching other people. Skilled percussionists from whom I could increase my own skills and develop my technique. In fact, the only lessons I ever had was when I won a percussion contest; first prize was personal sessions with Karl Perazzo and Raul Rekow: Santana’s long-time percussion team.

Chico with Santana percussion section
Chico with long-time Santana percussion section: Raul Rekow, Chico, Karl Perazzo, and Armando Peraza.

Entering the band scene

As I got older, I joined a local group that played Santana music, among other artists. After about a year with them, I moved up to the Bay Area to live with my cousin. He was playing with a lot of very seasoned, professional musicians. They would do gigs, and I would go along to participate in the rehearsals. That’s when I got totally hooked, and started to develop my technique.

After moving back to Los Angeles, I really started to dig in and do a lot of woodshedding. Finally, I got hired by a musician named James Felix: a former lead singer for Tower of Power. He was doing some phenomenal stuff with sequencers, and he wanted live musicians to play along with it.

Through him I got hooked up with a lot of different great musicians: The Yellow Jackets, Calterra, [bass player] John Patitucci, and many others.

Soto top 40 band promo

Traveling the world

Eventually, I joined a Los Angeles-based top 40 band that traveled everywhere — Indonesia, Europe, Hong Kong, Russia, you name it. We played six days a week and I was on the road with them for quite a while.

Through them I was introduced to and was able to play with El Chicano, War, Marc Anthony’s band, and others. Then I hooked up with my first Santana tribute band, which featured ex-members of Santana’s band, like drummer Wilfredo Reyes.

Going back to my roots

Since then, I have played with various different Santana tribute bands. Now, with Savor, I have come full circle. Not only playing dead-on versions of the Santana songs I grew up with, but also mixing in our originals, which capture that same vibe that hooked me in the first place.

Meet: Sergio Gonzales | Drums