- Associated Press - Monday, September 18, 2017

DALLAS (AP) - Trini Lopez is 80 years old, but he still can’t put his guitar down.

The Dallas Morning News reports the Dallas native just finished his 80th album, a milestone in an outstanding career that exploded to heights he would have never imagined. Lopez became an international superstar in the early 1960s when his hit single “If I Had a Hammer” reached No. 1 on the charts in 25 countries in 1963.

“Can you believe it?” Lopez said more than once when talking about his career’s journey during a phone interview.

Music got him and his family out of poverty. As the son of Mexican immigrants from Guanajuato, he remembers his challenging beginnings in the Little Mexico barrio in Dallas. Being poor. Violence and prejudice in his neighborhood. But everything seemed to change after his father bought him a $12 guitar from a pawnshop. It was a luxury item for him.

“That was the biggest reward in my life,” said Lopez, who now lives in California.

He played on street corners, then elite clubs in Dallas like the Cipango Club. He also performed in some places that didn’t allow Mexicans in the 1950s. Those were his local big breaks. Years later, he was mentored by Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra and Buddy Holly, who were both influential in his career.

All along, Lopez stuck to his Latino roots despite growing up in a time where he was once told that no one would buy an album from an artist with a Mexican last name.

Lopez has got to go,” he remembers being told about an album deal.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry to waste your time and thank you for the opportunity, but no,’” Lopez recalls. He refused to sign deals that asked for his name to be changed.

“You know how many (Latino) artists in America that changed their name? Vikki Carr and Freddy Fender. I insisted on keeping my name Lopez. I’m proud to be a Lopez. I’m proud to be a Mexicano,” he said.

Lopez made his fortune and gave money to his parents and siblings, giving them things they thought they’d never be able to afford, like nice vacations and homes. His sister, Lucy Martinez, who still lives in Dallas, described her brother as the family’s miracle.

“When he made it, he wanted to give everything back,” Martinez, 87, said. “He was so loyal to the family.”

Lopez went on and did acting roles too, performing in the 1967 movie “The Dirty Dozen.” He’s been working on a book the last 10 years that looks back at his career.

There are some decisions he wishes he could go back and redo, like when 20th Century Fox offered him a three-year contract for movies that he turned down. Or when Universal Studios wanted to offer a movie and TV contract. Then there was the Broadway show that he didn’t think was worth doing.

“Can you believe it?” Lopez said again. “I was very particular with my career.”

Lopez will be holding a conversation at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas on Saturday night, Sept. 23.

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com


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