Popular Pueblo Group Led by Talented Irene Chavez
I was recently in Pueblo visit with record collector and entrepreneur Joel Scherzer. Joel was in possession of both a copy of the Pueblo 1960’s group The Fabulous Fremonts Valerie 45 recording as well as great promotional photo of the band. And so I contacted my friend Doctor George Krieger formerly with The Colorado Hall of Fame Board and thanks to his efforts I was able to round up most of the following information.
The Fabulous Fremonts formed in the early 1960’s and were headed up lead singer and bass guitar player (and table steel guitar player) Irene Chavez. Irene started playing guitar at the age of 7 and would occasionally join her mother as a duet performing on local radio in Pueblo. Irene – with help from her mother – assembled the Fremonts which included Henry Garcia on lead guitar, Vic Macheto on saxophone and John Rivera on drums. They took their name from a Las Vegas night club ash tray “The Fremont”. They usually performed as “The Fabulous Fremonts” but would also go by “The Fremonts”.
Krieger: “In 1961, while attending Central High, Irene entered the GI Forum competition which was a talent and beauty contest. She won the Pueblo competition, the state of Colorado competition and placed third in the national competition in Las Vegas.”
Vic Macheto and John Rivera both departed the band with Rivera being replaced by drummer John Trujillo. The Fremonts continued as a trio performing at Pueblo’s Honey Bucket and Tony’s Danceland.
Next came the opportunity to cut a record – Krieger: “Since many of the other (Pueblo) bands were recording songs, the Fremonts asked their manager (Irene’s mother) if they could cut a record. A session was scheduled with Valerie Records (the Band Box subsidiary) and the band made the long drive north to Denver accompanied by Irene’s soon-to-be-husband, Tano Roybal.
Irene remembers recording as being a scary experience as each member of the band was isolated behind a screen in a large room. After recording several songs on tape, “Gee Whiz” and “Watermelon Man” were deemed the best and pressed as a record. For around $500 the band received the master tape and 300 records.”
“Gee Whiz” received local airplay and did chart #38 on the local charts. Shortly after this, according to Krieger, Garcia departed the group when he got married and Irene elected to stop performing in order to begin a family.
Later in the 1960’s Irene reformed the band with Henry Garcia once again on guitar but this was a short lived endeavor. Irene next went into nursing obtaining her degree from SCSC and eventually working in Pueblo nursing homes and then Peakview Hospital.
In 1980 Irene joined a local group called “Sugar and Spice”. Krieger: Irene recalled “Music had really changed by then and bass playing had become more complicated. Disco came in and that ruined it for live musicians since most of the clubs would just play records. People didn’t go out as much as they did before, either.”
Irene was diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and doctors told her she probably had about six months to live. But she continued on – beating the disease. Then tragically, Irene was killed in a traffic accident in the mid 1990’s along with her parents.
(Visit Doctor Krieger’s excellent Blog – “Rock and Roll Reviews & Trivia” or click on graphic)
The Fabulous Fremonts performing “Gee Whiz” – a really solid teenage sound from 1962 – This was formerly done by Bob and Earl.
45 – Valerie 2003 – “Gee Whiz” b/w “Watermelon Man”