FAIRFIELD — Three-time Grammy-winning band Los Lobos has strong ties to Iowa, and that connection will be solidified this weekend as the iconic group headlines FAIRfest while on its 40th anniversary tour.
Los Lobos will perform Friday night during the first day of the free three-day festival and will be among 40 bands spending the weekend in Fairfield.
“When you look at the Los Lobos summer schedule, to get a band of this caliber coming to a town of 9,500 in southeast Iowa, that’s a major coup for Fairfield,” said James Moore, station manager at KRUU 100.1 FM, the main FAIRfest sponsor. “A free, full weekend of killer music in a great little town, only the second year, but what a great tradition is building.”
Los Lobos came to instant fame with the remake of “La Bamba,” a Mexican folk song given a rock-and-roll twist when first recorded by Ritchie Valens in 1958. The song was also the name of the hit movie, which featured Los Lobos performing the soundtrack.
Steve Berlin, who plays saxophone, percussion, flute, midsax, harmonica and melodica, spoke on-air recently with Moore and noted that this was one of those momentous moments in the band's history.
"That Clear Lake thing is pretty amazing, I have to say. They've kept that ballroom exactly as it was the night that Ritchie played there last, so if you want to take a walk back in time, you have to go there," Berlin said. "We played at the 50th anniversary of it two or three years ago, and it was February — it was a freezing cold day. Richie's family was all there, including his sister, who we're very close to. I just kind of walked in the door and she was the first person I saw. She's crying, as you might expect — it was a very emotional day. I went over and gave her a hug, and she's leaning on me, and she says 'That's it right there ... That's the phone booth that he called Mama from.' They literally had the phone booth with the 10-cent dial phone still completely intact, and that was the last time they talked to him. That was pretty darn heavy."