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Eric Yee and Lawrence Trujillo — Harmonizing those Latin vibes

Eric Yee and Lawrence Trujillo play guitars for New Mexican music bands like Al Hurricane, Jr., Lorenzo Antonio, and Sparx.
September 25, 2019
  •  Lawrence and Eric
  •  Lawrence Eric
  •  Lawrence Eric
  •  Lawrence Eric
  •  Lawrence Eric
“It was TA-55 here in Los Alamos that brought us together,” says Eric with a laugh. “I was jamming with a guitarist by the name of Harold Sanchez in the crafts breakroom. One day Lawrence walked around the corner, and Harold tells me, ‘You know, Lawrence here plays guitar also.’ When I heard him play, all I could say was, ‘whoa!’”

Harmonizing those Latino vibes

A capacity crowd at an Albuquerque venue goes wild as popular recording artist Lorenzo Antonio and his band take the stage. A mariachi band quickly sets down a Latin beat while the main band’s rhythm section accompanies it with a hint of American country.

Adding to this distinctly New Mexican cocktail are guitarists Eric Yee of the Equipment Maintenance & Decontamination (NPI-3) group and Lawrence Trujillo of the Logistics Central Shops (LOG-CS) group, both of whom kick off some pop-driven harmonies. Lorenzo’s sweet croon of the song “Lagrimas de Juventud” (“Tears of Youth”) mesmerizes the crowd, but a minute into the song Eric and Lawrence get a chance to showcase some of their signature guitar melodies, the men working off each other’s catchy vibes.

“I picked up the guitar when I was about 13,” says Lawrence. “I used to listen to my dad and uncles play, and I asked them if they could teach me. They showed me a few things, and it just took off from there.”

“For me, I was inspired by these other kids at school walking around carrying their guitar cases,” adds Eric. “So, at age 13 I took a class on how to play guitar, to find out what it was like. I’ve never looked back.”

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Lawrence Trujillo (left) and Eric Yee (right), guitars at the ready, pose for the camera moments before taking the stage.

Jamming at TA-55

Lawrence prefers country music and Eric the hard-driving rhythms of rock and roll, but both men found a mutual love of Música Nuevo Méxicana (New Mexico Music), a genre of music that builds upon Hispanic folk music with American country, blues, jazz, rockabilly, and pop-driven rock and roll. This type of music really took off during the 1970s, with artists such as Al Hurricane and Freddie Brown popularizing the musical genre.

“It was TA-55 here in Los Alamos that brought us together,” says Eric with a laugh. “I was jamming with a guitarist by the name of Harold Sanchez in the crafts breakroom. One day Lawrence walked around the corner, and Harold tells me, ‘You know, Lawrence here plays guitar also.’ When I heard him play, all I could say was, ‘whoa!’”

It turns out that Eric was the lone guitar player supporting pioneer recording artist Al Hurricane. The stress of so many gigs under Hurricane led Eric to suggest that a second guitarist be brought on board. When Hurricane asked for suggestions, Eric immediately recommended Lawrence.

“This was about five years ago,” remembers Eric. “I called Lawrence at work, and I asked if there was any way he could start playing with the band. There were some logistics to work out, but Lawrence agreed. So, I brought him in and we’ve been supporting Al Hurricane and his family’s other bands ever since.”

Eric and Lawrence are not only the guitarists for Al Hurricane (known as the “godfather of New Mexico music”) and his son Al Hurricane, Jr., the duo also support Lorenzo Antonio (Hurricane Sr. is his uncle) and his sisters (the sisters go under the name “Sparx”).

“We really support one big family, the Sanchez family,” explains Lawrence. “They all have stage names, too. Like Al Senior, he got his nickname from his mom. As a kid, Al often knocked things over, even when he was trying to sit still. His mom said he was like a hurricane, and the nickname stuck.”

 

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Eric Yee (far left) and Lawrence Trujillo (second from the right) stand with the other members of Al Hurricane’s (seated) band

Helping Write the Hits

Having supported members of the Sanchez family, Eric and Lawrence have learned that each band leader brings with him or her certain ways of working. It then falls on the guitarists, along with the rest of the band, to work with a band leader to develop the songs that may become hit records.

“When I hear the beginnings of a song, the first thing I like to do is figure out its rhythm,” explains Lawrence. “Once I have a good idea about the song’s rhythmic structure, I can begin to work on the guitar hooks and leads.”

“It’s a little different for me,” says Eric. “Like when I was working with Al Senior, he would send down a song complete with the lyrics. So, for me I go to Lawrence to help me out with the phrasing, from which I build the rhythm. I like the spontaneity of rock music, but when it comes to songs with strong melody lines, the guitar’s rhythm needs to complement the phrasing of the words.”

Like the Sanchez family, Eric has found that his own family has branched into music as well. “I have six daughters,” Eric says with a smile. “One of them, Jasmine, played with me and the band that backs Al Hurricane, Jr. She got a taste of what it’s like to be a musician and now she’s got her own projects going, writing and singing her own music.”

Although Lawrence continues to play for the Sanchez family bands, Eric has decided to take a break from performing to focus on his job at TA-55. Says Eric, “It was an amazing 12 years, but the Laboratory’s mission is my top priority right now.”

Trujillo (far left) and Eric Yee (far right) backstage with the Al Hurricane, Jr., band. Eric’s daughter Jasmine stands in front of Eric; she had been playing with the band for about four months.

Trujillo (far left) and Eric Yee (far right) backstage with the Al Hurricane, Jr., band. Eric’s daughter Jasmine stands in front of Eric; she had been playing with the band for about four months.

Eric Yee and Lawrence Trujillo work at the Los Alamos Plutonium Facility (TA-55), with Eric working out of the Equipment Maintenance & Decontamination (NPI-3) group and Lawrence assigned to the Logistics Central Shops (LOG-CS) group.


Resources

New Mexico Music Commission

Al Hurricane biography



Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Employee Spotlight articles are solely those of the featured employees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Los Alamos National Laboratory.