Javier Bátiz, known as the “Father of Mexican Rock and Roll,” has also been given the Spanish nickname, “Brujo del rock” – “meaning ‘warlock,’” he explains, from as long as he can remember.
“I don’t know why…Maybe they think I’m a brujo, but I like it – it’s better than being called, ‘cockroach!,’” he says in his playful manner.
The name makes sense, considering the definition of a “warlock” is “a male practitioner of magic,” and Bátiz says he’s had an inexplicable talent for playing music on the guitar, piano, saxophone and drums, ever since a young age.
I asked him if he went to school for music.
“There are no music schools in Tijuana,” he says, laughing deeply and with an energy that is contagious.
Bátiz, now 72, and with more than 25 albums under his belt, has lived all his life south of the border in Tijuana, Mexico.
“I still live in the house where I was born in,” says the award-winning musician. Just last year, the city of Tijuana had the street his house is on named after him.
He was 12 when he first started playing the guitar.
“I haven’t stopped since then,” says Bátiz. “My guitar playing is a gift from God. I take it very seriously that God gave me this blessing and to be able to share it. I like to teach people who want to learn. And some that I’ve taught, know more than me now.”
He remembers fondly how he would tell his various friends in high school, “You’ll play the guitar, you’ll play the piano,” until he formed his own band called the TJ’s.
“We’d cross the border to San Diego for Battle of the Bands,” says Batiz.
He then mentions Grammy-winning musician, Carlos Santana, and how they met when they were both young boys.
“Santana’s mom saw me playing in a bar in Tijuana, and she brought him over,” says Bátiz, who was around 15 at the time. “She knew Santana wanted to play like me. I shared everything I know from my guitar to him.”
Bátiz says Santana started playing with him when he was 12, and he stayed playing with him for about six years.
“He left to San Francisco in ’65,” continues Bátiz. “I went to Mexico City…We are still really good buddies, and we try to get together when we can.”
Bátiz continues to say it was when he moved to Mexico City that his music career really took off. He was heavily inspired by music by the blues sounds of B.B. King, Elmore James and Little Richard, which was pretty much unheard of in Mexico at the time.
“I used to sing ‘Sweet 16,’ and they loved it…I worked with the big, famous musicians, and then I got married, and it all went to hell,” says Bátiz, laughing whole-heartedly again.
“I’ve been married four more times,” says Bátiz. “But this time – Claudia and I – we’ve been together 25 years.”
Although, they’ve been together for the past quarter decade, as Claudia Madrid plays the drums accompanying Bátiz, they just officially tied the knot last year.
“We’re grandparents. It’s beautiful – it’s really great,” says Bátiz about what makes their relationship solid. “We travel, we work, we go to the movies, we go to the Sizzler and Popeye’s [he laughs again]. The music will keep us together. We play good music, and we have a lot of fun.”
The 8-member Bátiz Band just played in Chicago, after having been in Los Angeles – where Bátiz was honored by the city on October 7 — and then they’ll go to Mexico City, and New York next month.
“I’m very thankful, because I can still play,” says the musician. “I write the songs and play them – I play the piano, sax, all the instruments…It’s very natural. It’s a blessing.”