The 1991 Concert At The University of Puerto Rico:

Revisiting The 1960s

1960s Peace Sign

Challengers @ UPR

I never stopped practicing the songs that I used to play with my band The Stokes; a lot of Beatles, some Byrds, Hendrix, Cream, The Doors, etc.

Well, in 1991, after not playing in a band since 1971 (with "La Banda del K-Rajo"), a promoter in Puerto Rico, Fidel Estrada, decided to bring together four of the most popular bands in Puerto Rico during the 1960s (The Challengers, Vagabonds, Sound Inc. and Sunsets), for an "encore" presentation (before we all died of old age! ). So there I was, with The Challengers, in front of 1,700 people (more or less). I had played to that many before, in the late 1960s, but not at the Theater of the University Of Puerto Rico Graduation which has excellent acoustics and where I had heard not only Beethoven's 9th & 6th, but other international acts during my university years. But "dig" this: I never played at the Theater even though my band did play the University more than once. I always wanted to play in that Theater, but it never happened until Apr 26, 1991!! Four days after my birthday.

The lead singer of the band (Rino, and the one who told me before, that he rather have me play the guitar with them than "this young guy" that they had in waiting, who didn't have the "feel" of the 1960s) kept saying, after noticing that I knew how to play all the songs that were suggested, that "Tony has been practicing for the last 20 years for this event!" And he wasn't too off since I only practice songs from those years! Following is a list of the songs we played at the University of Puerto Rico:

  • I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Byrds)
  • You Can't Do That (Beatles)
  • Nowhere Man (Beatles)
  • One (3 Dog Night)
  • Feelin' Alright? (By Dave Mason, recorded by Traffic, 3 Dog Night and Joe Cocker)
  • Blowin' In The Wind (Bob Dylan)
  • It's For You (3 Dog Night). Written by Lennon & McArtney
  • Emily (an original by The Challengers)
As if that wasn't enough, the night before, we, the 4 bands, played in LIVE local TV Video Camera which in Puerto Rico means the whole Island. We played in the most popular variety show "Noche De Gala" which was dedicated that night (April 25, 1991) to the 1960s. They are not used to live broadcasting anymore and they asked us if we were ready, to which our answer was: "Tell us, ARE YOU ready?, 'cause we are!" If you would have seen the show, a "strange" thing you would have noticed would have been these TV hosts speaking Spanish while the music was from the (English language) 1960s.

Needless to say, the promoter had to plan this a year in advance since a lot of the musicians are all scattered around the USA and working as doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and programmers (like me ) etc. Though some are still working as musicians in Puerto Rico, they are not having as much fun as before during the 1960s as they told me in confidence. We, the ones that had to travel to Puerto Rico to perform in the concert, stayed in what is in my opinion the best hotel in Puerto Rico: The Condado Plaza. All expenses paid, of course (sweet!)

This reunion was much better than a high school reunion! In Puerto Rico, because it is so small, all the better musicians knew each other then and it was like a big family; no, it was more like a closely-knit fraternity where we actually treated each other differently than we would other people (i.e., with a "brother" or "sister" attitude). We were all teens then and that friendship lasts to this day!

I was amazed. In the last song at the concert (we were playing "Feeling Alright") all the members of the other 3 bands came out on stage and joined us, like a big family! The audience was so moved that some of them came on stage with us also! You should see the video!
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José Nogueras (quien fué el último cantante de mi banda original, THE STOKES), se unió al grupo en la tarima también. Alberto Carrión (buen amigo) fue a uno de los ensayos y nos miraba con "la carita" de "déjenme jugar, please!" El tenía un grupo de rock en el 1965-66 MUY bueno: Los Cromagnon. Y despues estuvo en otros grupos. Naturalmente que en el 1991 el ya había ido y venido como el resto de nosotros, y claro que lo dejamos tocar con los CHALLENGERS en el concierto en la Universidad de Puerto Rico. ¡Fue un honor no solo dejarlo, sino el que él nos preguntara si lo dejábamos tocar!

En el concierto de la UPR el dijo por el micrófono: "¡Me tomó 25 años tocar con los Challengers pero al fin lo logré!"

Los Stokes (mi banda) competía (¡amigablemente!) más con los Challengers que con cualquier otro grupo. Pero para 1969 fue claro que ellos (los Challengers) tomaron la ventaja no solo por que nuestro cantante principal Raymond Files se fue al ejército y bien poco despues a Viet Nam dejándonos sin voz, pero por que los Challengers grabaron un LP muy bueno cuyo éxito mayor fué la cancion "It's For You" escrita por Lennon y McCartney pero hecha famosa por "Three Dog Night". Estuvo pegada #1 en Puerto Rico por cinco semanas. Para completar, durante ese año yo perdí un poco de interes en la música pues comenzé a tomar "en serio" la Universidad, la cual me abrió un mundo nuevo y amplio. Resumen: Me gradué de la UPR numero 1 en Física en el 1974 (Medalla Facundo Bueso).

De hecho Raymond tocó con la banda RPM en Puerto Rico. Y antes fué el cantante de TOP BANANA.
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The following link takes you to all the songs of another performance with Raymond Files and myselft in Long Island, New York, twelve years earlier when we were in our late twenties...

Tony The Hippie

--Tony Alicea--


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