Omaha blues man Hector Anchondo riding high – Part 2

Speaking from Aspen, Colorado, where he solo toured last month, Anchondo
reflected on the journey that’s taken him from his Missouri Ozark hill country
origins to this Great Plains base and beyond.

He took up guitar at 16 while living on his family’s farm. He’d never played an
instrument before, though he did sing in choir. It was passion at first lick.

“It was like a flip switched on. I took it very serious from the start. I’ve always
been about the craft of it,” he said.

He recalls a guitar solo in a Guns N’ Roses video sealing the deal.

“I was like, That is what I’m going to do, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever
since.”

He grew up influenced by Los Tigres del Norte, traditional American roots
sounds, soaring Jimi Hendrix blues riffs and ’90s grunge-hip hop beats.

“I always liked the blues. It’s the emotional expression when you’re on stage –
the personality part of it. You can really be yourself.”

Carlos Santana was another “big influence.”

“I had an immediate connection through our Hispanic background. His Latin
grooves caught me right away and I’ve been hooked ever since.

“Eric Clapton was also a big influence. especially his acoustic MTV unplugged
album. I could not stop listening to it. Learning the songs was a complete joy.”

He gigged in Missouri before moving to Omaha, where he had family, to try
making it in a bigger market.

“There was a lot of not playing music out live because I was starting from
scratch. I didn’t know where to begin.
Then I started hitting every open mic in town. I would go to those every week
without fail. I started meeting other musicians. It was a real tight-knit
community.”

Stage Right became a second home.

“It was a lot of fun. It was a very nice, accepting, open atmosphere. I also
started my own weekly gig at Caffeine Dreams.”

He slept on couches and floors and worked McDonald’s to get by. On stage,
veteran players noticed his talent.

“A lot of older musicians came up to me and told me to never stop – that I had
a good thing going, I was very fortunate to have lots of encouragement.”

The natural worked to hone his intuitive gifts.

“Sometimes I would practice the same riff or part for hours upon hours until I
got it right.”

His pursuit of mastery attracted other artists and he formed a popular band,
Anchondo, with some of them. Live performing gigs beckoned and local
stations gave their music airplay, especially “She Devil.”

“We were doing a lot of great touring and getting festivals, playing some
auditoriums in the Midwest – but barely making any money. We were living dirt
poor. Any money I’ve ever made I’ve always invested back into music.”

He’s spared no expense with guitars. Despite having a Fender Strat and a
Dobro Resonator (anonymously left on his doorstep), his go-to is a Delaney
Austin.

“It was hand-made special for me. The sound quality, the playability, the
jumbo frets, the sustain, I could go on and on. Plus, it feels good to be a
Delaney-endorsed artist.”

Things were looking up. Then the recession hit and bookings fizzled.
“it just killed us. We stopped playing. I had to do a lot of soul searching, like, Is
this when I hang it up?”

Tired of dishwasher, check-out clerk and construction jobs to make ends
meet, he recommitted to his dream.

“I just couldn’t stop being a musician.”

He formed a new band, wrote dozens of songs and released the well-received
EPs Kicking Up Dust and Young Guns with blues as his new calling card.

He strategically entered his band in the Nebraska Blues Challenge. After
losing the first two years, they won the next two, thus qualifying for the
international event down South. He describes that hyped stage in the nation’s
blues mecca “a game-changer.”

“It meant getting in front of the blues worlds eye. It was a huge learning
experience, too, watching other bands that competed.”

He entered “uncharted waters” by hiring L.A.-based radio promoter-record
publicist Frank Roszak to get
Roll the Dice heard.

“I knew that was the right move to make,” Anchondo said. “I knew I had to
strike while the iron was still hot. It was a complete success. I finally had an
album being played all over the world. We got some serious exposure out of
that. It was a dream come true and something I’d been working for my entire
career.”

Meanwhile. he’s trying to enrichen the area blues scene with the In the Market
fest – now in year four.

“Every year it’s grown and this year is going to kick a lot of ass,” he said. “All
the bands are outstanding.”

He credits E3 Entertainment and the Blues Society for “doing the majority of
the work to make the festival happen.”

He said the Blues Society and its BluesEd program “have really grown the
Omaha music scene.” His drummer, Khaugman Winfield, is a BluesEd alum.

Anchondo appreciates the Blues Society coming to his aid last spring
following emergency surgery.

“It was absolutely wonderful of them. So many people rallied together and
helped out. My mind is still blown by all the love and support.”

He’s performing again in Omaha at Baxter Arena September 14 and The
Waiting Room November 21.

“I anticipate continuing to be based out of Omaha and keep going with
business as usual. Omaha has been such a great and wonderful springboard
for my music career.”

He’s been down this road too long to know that “making it” doesn’t ever mean
being home free.

“There’s still lots of struggles and sacrificing, but I have a very full life with my
family and getting to play music professionally. It’s my full-time job. I couldn’t
ask for anything more.”

Except maybe time.

“I’m trying to set this next album up to where I have a lot more time to perfect
certain things and to invest more in my guitar and my vocals.”

Follow at hectoranchondo.com.

Visit www.InTheMarketForBlues.com.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.com.

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