I first met Carlos Santana in 1966 in the women’s gymnasium at Foothill College in Los Altos. My high school buddy Gregg Rolie and I used to commute to college there together, and I’d jokingly remind him that he used to copy my homework on the way to school. On this particular Wednesday night at Foothill, Gregg had invited me to come see the new band from San Francisco that he had just joined, called the Santana Blues Band. They would be playing one of their first concerts together at the gym. I have been a huge fan of Santana ever since. I remember from that night that they played the Peter Green song, “Black Magic Woman,” that I knew from listening to KMPX. They also played Cream’s “I’m So Glad.” I was hooked.
Today, Carlos and his band are currently on tour and will be in the Bay Area on Sunday, July 27, at Shoreline Amphitheatre. He recently released his first Latin music album, called Corazon (Heart), which has been Number 1 in America on the Billboard Latin charts for four straight weeks. It also is Number 1 in more than 24 other countries. The new CD features many Latin superstars, including Gloria Estefan, Miguel, and Pitbull. In addition, if you are fan of the 2014 FIFA World Cup,™ Carlos will be featured at the World Cup’s Closing Ceremony at the legendary Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
“It is an honor to take part in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and have “Dar um Jeito (We Will Find A Way”) selected as the Anthem. I look forward to performing the song with my brothers, Wyclef and Alexandre Pires, in Rio de Janeiro at the closing ceremonies on July 13, and sharing this message of light and hope on the World Cup stage. Whether it is on the World Cup stage or in the intimacy of the House of Blues in Las Vegas, we always bring 5 things … Genuine, Honest, Sincere, True, Authentic and For Real on every song. ” — Carlos Santana.
During my radio career, I have had the opportunity to interview Carlos several times, and it is always fun and informative. He has evolved into an iconic rock god, but his feet are firmly on the ground. Carlos really is in a league of his own, and it is safe to say that he is one of the most successful musicians ever to come out of the Bay Area.
As to the future, Carlos has been signed to do two more months of his residency concerts at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, in November 2014 and January 2015. BAM also got Carlos to confirm a very special project that had been in the rumor-mill for a while: he is putting the original Santana Band back together again to record Santana 4!
BAM’s Interview With Carlos Santana
For clarity and continuity, some of the text has been edited from the original interview. If you prefer the extended version, click on the mp3 link provided below.
Richard Brackett’s Santana Photo Gallery
BAM: What was the first record you ever bought?
Carlos Santana: There were three. Little Walter’s Greatest Hits, The Doors… first album, and The Kinks’ Greatest Hits.
BAM: What was your first car?
Santana: [laughs] An Excalibur, fire engine red… it really was an incredible car! I didn’t know how to drive, but I knew how to get it out of the showroom. The police stopped me because I was driving like 20 miles per hour in the fast lane. [laughs] The police helped me get off the freeway, and asked, “Where’s your driver’s license?” He said, “Tell you what. Give me the keys to your car, and I’ll have my friend drive your car to your house, and I’ll follow you. Take this card, and this guy will teach you how to drive for a week… and I won’t give you a ticket.”
BAM: What was your first guitar?
Santana: My first guitar was hot! It was a Melody Maker… brown and black… student model… I bought it for $35 in Tijuana because it was “hot.”
BAM: Who was your biggest Guitar God growing up?
Santana: Manitas de Plata. He’s a Flamenco guy. He’s like the first Paco de Lucia.
BAM: Did you ever meet Jimi Hendrix?
Santana: Yes, I sure did.
BAM: Did you ever play with him?
Santana: When you’re around Jimi Hendrix, you just watch.
BAM: What was the name of your first band?
Santana: The Strangers.
BAM: Where was that… in San Francisco?
Santana: No, that was in Tijuana.
BAM: What do you remember from Woodstock that you’ll never forget?
Santana: Bill Graham and how proud he was of us.
BAM: How about the closing of Fillmore West.
Santana: Bill Graham and how proud he was of us.
BAM: You were frequently the headliner at the Bay Area Music Awards, The Bammies. When you preformed there, you always took the opportunity to expose the audience to something new. Do you have any Bammie memories you’d like to share?
Santana: Many, like with Tony Williams and Pharaoh Sanders. I learned that from Bill Graham. Like, if you want to hear the Grateful Dead, you gotta hear Miles Davis… if you want to hear the Santana Band, you gotta hear Buddy Rich. I’m a good student, and Bill Graham was an incredible teacher, mentor. So was Clive Davis. Bill Graham still communicates with me. He’s on the other side, but he’s not far… he’s as close as my next breath. I have an incredible support system – inner and outer.
BAM: For over 40 years you’ve been performing, recording, touring, inventing… you just never stop! You have the Number 1 Latin Album in the United States, and you’re Number 1 in 24 other countries. You’ve brought together some of the top Latin superstars, including Gloria Estefan, Miguel, Pitbull, and many others. How fun was that to put together?
Santana: We’re going to close the celebrations at World Cup in Brazil. Can you believe that?!
Santana: There are three words I must say every day constantly until they sift into my pores.Gratitude… thankful, and appreciative for all of the blessings and miracles.
BAM: Your shows at the House of Blues in Las Vegas are a bit more intimate than what you’re used to. Is that what makes these shows special for you?
Santana: We get to use it like a laboratory and try out new things all of the time. We make it memorable… We’ll play anywhere… Carnegie Hall, parking lots… we don’t care. Once I close my eyes, it’s the same place anyway.
BAM: I’m happy to tell Bay Area fans that Carlos will be coming home, and playing the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. It’s on Sunday, July 27. With such a deep songbook, what can we expect to be on the Shoreline set list?
Santana: We know people come to hear Santana, but we also sneak in songs by Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley… most of the time… I just tear up the set list and we just go! When you come to a Santana concert there’s going to be a lot of energy that’s going to memorable.
BAM: The rumor is that you may be getting the original Santana band back together again. Is that true?
Santana: Oh, it’s happening! Neal Schon really stayed on me like a guided missile, and I thank him from the center of my heart for it. We’ve been to the studio a couple of times, and we’re going back again and complete this album, Santana 4. This is the original band we did the first three albums with. It feels wonderful to rekindle our dimension with Gregg Rolie, Michael Carabello, Michael Schrieve, and Neil Schon.
BAM: That will be something else. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Santana: I feel the same way, too. Stay Precious!