Making music with the Guitar Guys of Rick's on Main
For most of his 68 years, Jorge Ramos “had no notion about any kind of musical instruments, except for the radio.” Then, a couple years ago the retired X-ray technician found out about the “Thursday Night Guitar Guys" at Rick's. Now he's there every week, working on a new chord.
“It’s what I call my therapy session,” Ramos says.
The Guitar Guys are not so much a band, but a loose gathering of amateur musicians, many of whom met in beginning guitar classes held at Alhambra High School. Two of the core members, Jeu Foon, a retired engineer, and Craig Hall, a handyman, began meeting each Thursday evening at the Rick’s on Main Street to practice what they learned in class. Even after the classes were cut three years ago, they continued showing up on Thursday nights. By then, they were playing whole sets, and bantering to their audience of passersby and diners.
Last Thursday, Hall and Foon were the first to arrive. Foon brought with him a tattered binder of sheet music that has grown to 300 songs. They play everything from Bad Romance by Lady Gaga to Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson.
The group had the courtyard mostly to themselves. Every so often a motorcycle’s roar as it tore down the street or the hiss of a public bus coming to a rest nearby would interrupt their session. A man getting pastries next door wandered over and requested the group play Guantanamera. And two girls sang along to the group’s rendition of a recent pop song.
As the night wore on, more musicians trickled in, the group doubled, and the bongos and a cajon, box-like drum, were brought out. Foon suggested we bring their show to the cafe down the street. Before I knew it, I was on a small stage, bopping away on the cajon with "the guys," while they strummed and belted out a cover of Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Foon says music has always been important in Alhambra, with the summertime concerts that the city used to hold, as well as the community of musicians who attend open mic nights at Etnia where we played that night.
“It’s a family. Everyone eventually gets to know each other,” says Foon. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a great player or not, it really doesn’t, as long as you love music.”
The group meets every Thursday, around 6pm or 7pm next to Rick's In & Out's outdoor stage located at 132 W Main St., Alhambra, CA 91801. The open mic night at Etnia, formerly known as the Cafe on Second Street, (7 S 2nd St, Alhambra, CA 91801) is also on Thursday nights.