About West Side Horns
The original West Side Horns, Rocky Morales (tenor sax), Louie Bustos (tenor, baritone sax) and Charlie McBirney (trumpet), started working together, off and on, in the '60s, before the crew had a name. While they consistently worked various gigs, together and apart, the horns gained their moniker, and an international identity among those who read the small print on album covers, via their work with Doug Sahm. When McBirney left the road, trumpeter Al Gomez stepped in.
Morales started playing alto sax in junior high and at Fox Tech High School. The sound of another San Antonian changed his mind. "When I heard Clifford Scott play 'Honky Tonk’ I switched to tenor. ‘That was it,’ Morales said. Morales began working with Sahm in the Mar-Kays in the early '60s. He played the Eastwood Country Club with Joe & the VIPs, rocked and rolled with Rudy & the Reno Bops, played jumping blues with Randy Garibay and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Sahm on stages around the world.
While he was still in high school at Edgewood Bustos started playing rock n roll and R&B with Sunny & the Sunliners. Though he wasn’t old enough to get in, Bustos hung outside clubs such as the Tiffany Lounge to hear Morales work. He went on to make his sax mark with Little Joe and with the Love Machine. Now he often shares the stage with one of his mentors. "When I was in junior high Spot Barnett played our prom. I was playing alto. When Spot played that tenor I said, 'Wow.’ And switched to tenor.
A later addition to the West Side Horns, sax giant Barnett in the late '50s and early '60s was THE bandleader in San Antonio. Though his headquarters were in the Ebony Lounge on the East Side, his influence was felt throughout San Antonio. Barnett¹s band, which included future Texas Tornados drummer Ernie "Murphy” Durawa, was known for mixing blues, jazz and rock 'n’ roll. Sahm did a bass-playing stint in Barnett¹s band and every musician worth his salt made pilgrimages to the Ebony to watch the master work. In the '70s Barnett played sax with Bobby Bland. Through the '80s and most of the '90s Barnett lived in South Bend, Ind. where he worked construction and believed himself retired from the music business. In the late '90s he returned to San Antonio and promptly went back to work leading his own band and joining the West Side Horns.
At 45, Gomez is the kid of the bunch but he grew up in a musical household. His dad leads a big band. Two of his sisters are music educators. Gomez worked with keyboard man Sauce Gonzalez in Joe Bravo¹s band. In the late '70s, in a West Side joint called the Ooh-La-La, Gomez was introduced to the West Side Horns and the West Side sound. "I was in a tuxedo and carrying my horn. They were playing blues. Man,” Gomez said. In the mid-'80s, when trumpeter McBirney opted to quit the road, Gomez stepped into the trumpet spot. He¹s an arranger and also a first-call studio player whose work is heard on projects ranging from Tejano discs to songwriter James Talley’s latest, "Touchstones.”
Arturo "Sauce” Gonzalez
He plays piano and organ. The Hammond B-3 is his first love. "But it’s too heavy to carry around,” he says with a laugh. Sauce’s dad played piano at the house but "the radio was my college.” Influenced by the sounds of Jimmy Smith, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sauce played with Sunny & the Sunglows, Little Joe, Joe Bravo, the Drifters, the Coasters and others. He can play polkas, but he loves the blues. In the '70s he began working with Sahm. For a while he split time between Sahm’s various groups and Miss Lavelle White’s Blues and Soul Situation. Now he leads The West Side Sound, a blues/R&B band that usually includes at least one member of the West Side Horns.
The quintessential Texas blues bass man turned professional in the late '50s, before he was old enough to drink. He worked with the Dell-Kings early on, plied his bass trade on the East Side and was the original Sir Douglas Quintet bass player. "I’ve always played blues, R&B and rock n roll,” he said. For years a regular in Sahm’s blues projects, Barber also has played and recorded with the Texas Tornados, Kim Wilson, Johnny Nicholas (with most of the West Side Horns), Augie Meyers, Randy Garibay Shawn Sahm & the S.A. Grover, and currently playing with Ruben V. These days Barber gigs steadily with Ruben V. He also has his own web site, www.jack-barber.com.