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Senor Gringo: We Just Started Falling in Love with This Genre…This Latin Jazz

Written and Photographed by Chloe Hodge

It’s not unusual for large crowds to gather early on Friday nights at Tyler’s FRESH by Brookshire’s and although this night is no exception, you would think that the heat would be a deterrent. However, there’s no stopping this bunch from coming out early to score a great table and watch while the evening’s entertainment sets up their equipment, tunes their guitars, plugs in their amplifiers, and adjusts their sound. And actually, the heat is stifled well by a nice breeze and the shade of the building, so its quiet pleasant even though the temperatures are soaring.

senor gringo2As the hot Texas sun begins to descend, Senor Gringo begins their renditions. When the music starts, the crowd experiences a sound quite uncommon for the area. Riffs of Latin guitar and bell chimes fill the air between the chatter and the cheers. Money is thrown into the open guitar case while the musicians play classic Santana. A particular vibe and passion of playing is reflected by those who are in attendance, becoming human metronomes while they tap their toes to the beat, allowing a bond to form with the performers. It is a relationship built on the foundation of the thrill of music.

That is the impression I got when I spoke with the members of the Tyler based quintet in their studio that is embellished with posters of the Beatles’ prominent “Abbey Road” album cover and Dire Straits. That is when it registered that I had stumbled upon the four-walled canvas of their melodic works of art.

“Our music is always a work in process. We get together maybe once a week in our studio,” says keyboardist Don Elbert. “The process has developed over a long time.”

The band was formed many years ago, with this particular lineup of musicians only being a few months old. In the early years of Senor Gringo, the band was primarily inspired by classic rock. As time shifted, Senor Gringo has made a drastic transition – blending that same classic rock music with the rich culture of flamenco guitar.

“I just got turned on to the flamenco guitar. It’s everywhere in all varieties of genres. It’s in country songs and rap and rock. From Jesse Cook to Puff Daddy,” said guitarist and vocalist Richard Callahan. “I just love it.”

The musicians in the band come from various backgrounds of music. Richard Callahan was inspired through metal bands such as Pantera, Testament, and Metallica.

Keyboardist Don Elbert’s music career comes from a soft blues background.

Percussionist Elbert Wright began his musicianship with jazz. Alex Blair, the bassist, is a high school orchestra director who had been taught by a diverse blend of instrumentalists from the classical to modern day music.

For drummer Kevin Ewalt, music has taken him around the world, including South America. That is where the inspirations for the Latin style jazz came about. With the various backgrounds of euphonious influences came the birth of a distinctive sound, so easily differentiated from other bands in the area.

“We had started out doing all this rock and blues music, but we started falling in love with this genre… this Latin jazz sound and feel,” said Don Elbert, the keyboardist for Senor Gringo. “We’re having a blast with it.”

Hours of practicing scales and songs went into learning the quick rifts to really capture that Spanish essence. Although the members of the band have been playing for a combined number of decades, the grooves and techniques that come with the Latin style melodies were a challenge for the band. That challenge is made clearly visible by the callused hands caused by picking strings or beating on a Conga – the result of playing a single song for 10 minutes.

Senor Gringo has become popular entertainment for those in Smith County, playing in many restaurants like Jul’s, Fresh, and Cork. Their goals however, exceed delighting fellow East Texans. The band is in the process of recording their latest work to be publish on iTunes.

Senor Gringo will perform every Saturday at 7pm at Jul’s, located on Old Jacksonville Hwy. “We are very proud of our gigs at Juls,” said Wright. “We get treated really well and always have a blast playing there. Everyone has lots of fun.” The public is invited to attend and admission is free.

For more info about the band and a schedule of upcoming live performances, check out the Senor Gringo Jazz Facebook page at


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Around East Texas

April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup

Upcoming Concerts

April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advance online for $15 at

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Blind Pursuit: Chasing Dreams

stretford tyler tx

By Johnny Griffith

In science, there is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect which states, that in a complex system, small changes in one place can have a larger effect elsewhere. This is best illustrated in the hypothetical example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a hurricane in China.

A more practical example of this would be the formation of the band Blind Pursuit, based out of Palestine, Texas. An amalgamation of sound and styles brought to the table by each individual member, Blind Pursuit is the end result of five people from different backgrounds and geographical origins ending up in a small town in East Texas and magic happening.

Hailing from Southeast Louisiana, Maine, Cayuga, and Harmony, the odds of these five people interacting were astronomical, but small changes had large effects and Blind Pursuit has been a staple in the east Texas music scene for three years now. We recently tracked them down to get to know them just a little better.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has been playing gigs around East Texas since 2015. What was the genesis of the band and what is the current line up?

Blind Pursuit: Our first show was February 28th, 2015 opening for our good friends Blacktop Mojo at Click’s Live in Tyler.

Our current lineup includes Marc Mitchell on drums, Craig Jones on bass guitar, John Reed on lead guitar, Katie Reed with lead vocals, and Michael Jones on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.

Craig and Katie hail from Cayuga, Texas. John was raised right down the road in the Harmony Community just outside of Palestine. Marc migrated from the great state of Maine; and Mike spent most of his time about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been in Texas since 1998 and spends his time filling in behind the bar at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse in Palestine, and working construction. He met John and Katie again in 2013. John and Katie own Reed Construction where John builds custom homes and Katie does interior design. Craig owns Oak Floor Supply in Tyler, Texas and Marc is in marketing and communications and sometimes moonlights at the Appleton Coffee House.

Johnny: How about the name – there’s a lot to be said in that name. What does it mean to the band and where did the idea come from?

Blind Pursuit: The name Blind Pursuit stems from the belief that we are all pursuing something, whether it be chasing dreams, running after love, or following your passions; at some point, it takes a blind leap of faith to achieve something truly great. In all actuality, we started with the word ‘Pursuit’ and since we had no idea of how or where we were going or how to get there, ‘Blind’ seemed like the obvious choice.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has a pretty eclectic mix of sounds in your catalog but how would you describe ‘your’ sound?

Blind Pursuit: Wow! That’s a great question, one that we’ve been asking for quite some time. We play what we love. We are a varied group of musicians with different musical backgrounds and tastes, and we play what we would like to hear if we were sitting in the audience. Our own sound stems from songwriting, which is mainly done by our lead singer Michael, and so it definitely has a soulful, emotional style to it, and has a layered Indie rock feel. You can hear a little bit of our southern influences layered in as well as the obvious differences of having two lead vocalists. So if you wanted to pigeonhole us into a specific genre, I would say we fall into the Indie Rock genre, just because it encompasses such a wide variety of sounds and musical stylings.

Johnny: How much of your show is covers versus originals these days?

Blind Pursuit: After the release of our debut album “Offramp,” we do about ¾ covers and the rest originals. New material is constantly being added and we hope to shift the number of originals to a larger segment of the show.

Johnny: About how many shows does the band try to play a month?

Blind Pursuit: We’re currently averaging five shows a month but we are always looking to add to that.

Johnny: Are most of the gigs in the east Texas area or do you travel out of the area?

Blind Pursuit: The majority of our shows are in East Texas. We do travel to north and central Texas on occasion and we are hoping to broaden our travel radius this year.

Johnny: What are you most proud of as a band?

Blind Pursuit: Our album, without a doubt. We feel like it is such an outpouring of who we are and our evolution over the past couple years. It’s like we have given birth to our own child. So much love, nurturing and hard work has gone into this project. Our resources and time have been singularly focused towards this and we could not be prouder of how it has turned out. We worked with so many great musicians and our Producer, Phillip Moseley was a great asset. They have been invaluable in helping us birth this album.

Johnny: What has been your favorite moment, on stage or off, as a group so far?

Blind Pursuit: I think it has been a thousand small moments of connection with our fans. We’ve heard stories where our songs touched someone going through a divorce, or something we sang really resonated with someone going through a tough time, and you just stop for a second after the mad rush and adrenaline goes away, and you think about how you’re affecting people and the connections you’re making. When we see people singing along with our songs, grabbing their person and dancing, when you see an emotional reaction – that’s the good stuff, the reason we do what we do.

Johnny: What is in the works for the year?

Blind Pursuit: We’ve got another handful of songs and hopefully, that will translate into a new project as well. Whether the next step is an EP or a full-length album is yet to be determined.

Johnny: What’s in the water down in Palestine, between Blind Pursuit, Blacktop Mojo, Kolby Cooper, and others… seems like Palestine has become a serious music town. What’s your take on it?

Blind Pursuit: Every once in awhile, “magic” happens in the most unlikely of places. If you’ve seen the documentary on Muscle Shoals and the music that came out of that small studio in Alabama, then you kind of have insight into the madness behind the magic.

All these acts from Palestine are backed by the most awesome community of people who rally behind us and get the word out, grassroots style. The people here truly love music and they believe in us, or we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. We have a connection, not only through the town we’re from but through our producer and the studio we’ve all recorded at, Audioworx.

Johnny: What experience do you hope first timers will have at a Blind Pursuit show?

Blind Pursuit: Someone recently left a review on our Facebook page that sums it up perfectly: “Bet you will leave their concert feeling like your soul is a little more free than when you walked in.” We hope that everyone will leave feeling a little lighter and a little more connected to their fellow man. In a world where we are bombarded with distractions, we hope people can come and reconnect and feel more human than when they came in. We hope the love and passion that we have for life and music can be felt and translates well to concert goers.

Blind Pursuit can be found at and

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