Walk down Naugle Avenue past the Elgin cat refuge bungalow next to Grayce’s on any given Wednesday night and you’re likely to receive the gift of music wafting from the home of Rich Moreno. His living room is the venue for the weekly rehearsal of the Borderline Band, the latest incarnation of a Moreno family band, whose roots go back to the mid-1970s when Rich and his brothers Charles and Robert were in demand on a regular basis at area bars, restaurants and supper clubs.
Having grown up in a household in which music was a regular part of family life, encouraged by their piano-playing mother, the brothers began playing together while they were kids but got serious about playing professionally when Rich got out of the army. The core of their repertoire was solidly built on rock and roll, but they showed up prepared to deliver blues, country, Mexican and other genres as well for varied audiences. While Rich (lead guitar), Charles (bass) and Robert (percussion) consistently formed the heart of the band, they were sometimes joined by other family members, cousin Tammy Quiroga and nephew Charles Murrietta, among them.
For several years they enjoyed the camaraderie, the simple pleasure of playing together and the positive feedback of appreciative audiences at places like the Golden Dragon and the House and Cellar. But, not unlike the evolution of many performing groups, musically speaking, the Moreno brothers drifted apart as the demands of family life and earning a living took center stage. For most of their adult lives, the brothers kept developing their musical talents by playing on their own, jamming when the occasion presented itself, and sitting in with other bands. Rich and Charles fit music in wherever they could while working in the construction business. Robert, the youngest brother, while living in Tucson and making a living as a barber, was the most active in the music scene, playing with a number of local bands as well as fronting his own band called Descarga (Spanish for Discharge).
After decades of going their own way, the brothers are back together and creating the latest iteration of a Moreno Family Band. They’ve been practicing every Wednesday night for the past year or so and are working up an eclectic set list they hope to demo and use as a marketing tool to line up regular gigs. Intent on broadening their appeal, they have convinced local keyboardist, Gama Leyva, to join the band along with banjo player, Kelly Edge. Leyva and Edge are also regular members of the current version of the Stringbenders.
I first heard the Morenos perform at the Tin Shed Theater a couple years ago when they played for an appreciative audience at an Arizona Humanities-sponsored film and discussion called “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History.” After that program I spoke with Rich and came away feeling that he and his musical kin could play a significant role in bridging the cultural gap that many experience in this community. My bet is that this group of talented musicians will receive an enthusiastic reception by music lovers hereabouts and that their music will indeed help bring about a better appreciation for cultural differences. Rich, who serves as the music director for the group, hopes to book some gigs for the band early in the New Year. To book the Borderline Band, give Rich a call at (520) 604-6829.
Musicians of Note is a new column in the PRT that recognizes individuals and groups whose collective talents combine to produce the rich and vibrant musical tapestry of Eastern Santa Cruz County.