Growing up and going to Fiesta, I would watch my godfather, Reynaldo Aceves, perform on his guitar. He used to teach me guitar, take me to piano lessons, and encourage my musical growth. During his career, he established himself as a successful modern-day troubadour, performing for radio, television, hotels, and cruise ships and becoming a familiar face for Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days.
A self-taught musician, Aceves was born in Mexico City in 1926. He first came to Santa Barbara on a Californian tour with the quintet Los Hermanos Reyes, playing rancheros, huapangos, and boleros. He played in Federico’s restaurant in Buellton for three years until he was contracted to play at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas, where he lived for five years. During his Vegas residency, he was also contracted to play on a cruise ship for seven weeks and to perform in Taiwan for 10 days; during the winter and spring seasons he would play in Puerto Vallarta at the Sheraton and Fiesta Americana hotel.
By the time he returned to Santa Barbara, he had recorded a solo LP, Sangre Romántica, in Los Angeles and had been featured in three Mexican TV shows, including El club del hogar, Lluvia de estrellas, and Hondo. He performed original music at the S.B. radio station KTMS and was featured in the Santa Barbara News-Press. He performed regularly at the original Harbor restaurant, The Biltmore, Papagallo’s, and El Paseo.
In 2000, he was featured as an extra in the TV movie Missing Pieces with James Coburn. Filmed locally, the production needed a guitar trio for a scene, and Aceves jumped at the chance. He asked one fellow extra to hold the maracas and another guy to hold the guitar while he sang and played for the group.
He recalls being in the ’46 Fiesta parade, and in ’72 he would accompany El Presidente to perform for all his presentations. Carrying on the family’s involvement with Old Spanish Days, his stepson, Roger Aceves, was the Fiesta El Presidente in 2001.