CONEJOS COUNTY —Indian Nickel has been one of the San Luis Valley’s premier bands for 50 years and it’s time to celebrate.
The band is dedicating its 50th Anniversary as a fundraiser for Aundre Chavez, a 14-year-old local who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) on June 6, 2019. The fun and food event will be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Hall in Conejos at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15. Cost will be $12 for a Frito Pie meal and the dance or $ 7 for just one. Tickets in advance will be $10 and $5 respectively, with all proceeds going to the Chavez family for medical costs. Phone (791) 628-9572 for tickets and more information.
Indian Nickel has been entertaining audiences for five decades with their own signature blend of music – combining several different Hispanic musical forms with classic rock and country. It’s a combination with something for everyone, and truly has become its own roots genre of music in this area. “It’s like they are our own ‘Los Lobos’,” says local record producer and recording engineer Don Richmond. “They honor traditions going back to the various different roots of our combined cultures in our area, yet they make it new and make it their own,” he continues.
Indian Nickel has released several CDs over the years including a new release celebrating their 50th year anniversary. What started as a group of talented guys in rural Manassa playing the music of the San Luis Valley in and out of the area has become a regional favorite and has been inducted into the Chicano Music Hall of Fame, established in 2002 to celebrate and recognize those who have contributed significantly to the music of Mexico in the United States. It also recognizes those who introduced and broadened the influence of other musical forms to the Chicano musical community. The focus is on Colorado musicians emphasizing the best, the first and the only.
Indian Nickel includes Leroy Casias, lead guitarist and founder of the band. Leroy’s’ musical journey began in 1969 with love for all types of music, especially old corridos and piesas. With great perseverance, he has continued to bring out his passion through the music.
Floyd Martinez - rhythm guitar and vocals is also a founder. Floyd’s musical journey also began in 1969. His smooth harmony vocals and rhythm guitar talents are an integral part of the foundation of Indian Nickel’s sound.
Jeffrey Jacquez - keyboard and vocals. Jeffrey joined the band in 1999, bringing a new flavor of New Mexico style Tex-Mex and a little salsa to the band. His keyboard and vocal talents are an important part of the band’s wide-ranging tapestry of sound.
John Overton - Drums and vocals. John joined the band in late 2004, bringing with him decades of experience in many area bands. His energy, talents and great personality shine through with each beat.
Vernon Padilla - bass guitar and background vocals. Vernon joined the band in 2015. His years of experience and solid bass playing provide a strong foundation for the band’s wide variety of music.
Their Saturday show will be just one of many benefits the band has played over the years and they recall people who had them play at their weddings are now booking their Golden Anniversary celebrations. Indian Nickel has had a following ever since they began practicing together off a dirt road in Manassa. “We used to practice outside,” Casias said. “People knew we were practicing. They would line up and listen to us.”
Fans still follow the group all over the San Luis Valley and down to Taos, over to Pueblo, Grand Junction and Montrose and even to Denver and Albuquerque. Casias, now a Taos, New Mexico resident, is lead guitarist while Monte Vista resident Martinez plays rhythm guitar. Jeff Jacquez, from San Acacio, plays the keyboards; Johnny Overton from the Sargent area is the band’s drummer and Arnie Quesada from Romeo plays bass. They are versatile with their repertoire including Spanish, old rock and roll, country, cumbia and oldies.
Indian Nickel has established itself as “The Sound of the Valley” — mainstays of the San Luis Valley and beyond. Celebrating cultural and social activities at both the family level and on professional stages for decades they have provided dance music that merges the traditional with the contemporary. Under Casias’ direction, the band has built a musical bridge between New Mexico and Colorado. Their music is heard frequently as far north as Denver and south into Albuquerque and beyond. They continue to influence new generations of musicians and they tour and record extensively.
The anniversary album is one that will stay in the car CD player until it becomes the “road music, always counted upon for enjoyment.