Joe "King" Carrasco Wishes Houston a "Tamale Christmas"

Categories: Texas Me

As the Reigning Royalty of Tex-Mex Party Rock, Joe "King" Carrasco has been playing his utterly unique mixture of early and garage-rock, polka, cumbias, and Latin rhythm since the mid-'70s.

But while others dream of sugar plums and hams and fruitcakes during the holiday season, for Carrasco it's the time to celebrate the taste of tamales. He professes his love for the masa, meat, and husk delicacy with a simple-but-insanely-catchy new single, "Tamale Christmas."

Carrasco remembers meeting fellow musician Ben Marines and his wife, Rosa, in 1974. It was at her little restaurant where he first developed a love for the dish, which he actually later used to advance his musical career.

"We used to play the Soap Creek Saloon there, and they would decide whether to keep a band or not by how much beer they sold during their shows," Carrasco says on the phone from his restaurant/club in Puerto Vallarta, Nacho Daddy.

So he came up with the idea to have the "First Annual Tamale Shuck Off" the one night in the late '70s. The event's poster featured former President Gerald Ford who, on an earlier trip to San Antonio as commander-in-chief (and not familiar with local cuisine), attempted to eat a tamale with the husk on, to the lasting chagrin of Texans.

"But we did something different. We put jalapenos in the tamales to make them hot," Carrasco laughs. And we set a bar record for selling beer that night!"

"Tamale Christmas," though, had a long cooking period. Carrasco first started writing the song in the '80s with then-roommate Johnny Perez, the original drummer for the Sir Douglas Quintet.

They would fiddle with it on and off for years until Carrasco finally recorded it September 2012 originally as a fundraiser for HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians).

Sadly, Perez -- who was ill and in the hospital at the time -- died about a week before he could hear the finished product, which is now available to download.

"That was sad. A lot of those guys from the Quintet and the Texas Tornados are gone," Carrasco notes. "Johnny's gone, Doug [Sahm] is gone, Freddy [Fender]'s gone. Flaco [Jimenez] is gone...oh, wait. Flaco's not dead! I've got a show with him next month!"

Story continues on the next page.

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I remember some of those Party on the Plaza shows. At one or two points during the proceedings, Joe "King" would launch himself off a speaker or a railing while playing the guitar. Truly great.

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