Chris Pérez is not the man he was nearly 20 years ago, when he last performed in McAllen.
The widower of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez said he now knows how to properly cope with the death of his wife, universally known as the Queen of Tejano.
“I approach things from a different perspective now than I used to back then,” Chris, 50, said. “I don’t feel like I am carrying all the weight that I used to feel back then, and I used to feel that way without even realizing it.
“Now I know where all these things emotionally are coming from, and with everything I have gone through in the past years, I now not only realize it, I can fix them now.”
Selena was murdered by her employee, Yolanda Saldivar, in 1995.
Chris has not seriously played Tejano music because of what he told himself after her death: “If I am going to play music again, it is not going to be the type of music that I was playing with her. I did not feel like I had it in me to go on with it. It was like it was not mine anymore.
“And once you’re with a band like Selena y Los Dinos, where do you go from there, as far as a musician, the fun and love that we all had for each other?”
Chris, a San Antonio native, was the lead guitarist for Selena y Los Dinos, which released six Tejano albums. He said that during his show Saturday at Cine El Rey, he will be playing the genre of music where his roots are: rock and roll.
“You will be getting more of a rock show than if you saw us in McAllen in 2000 –– you are going to get a full-on rock show in comparison to the past,” he said, with a chuckle.
He also noted that all five original members of the band he formed after Selena’s death, the Chris Pérez Band (now dubbed the Chris Pérez Project) will be at the show, even after being apart for almost a decade.
He had the idea of reuniting with the band this summer when the band’s original singer, John Garza, called him to catch up. He compared the phone call to the way teenagers reunite with classmates after breaks apart –– as if time did not hinder their relationship, but instead strengthened it.
“I told Johnny, ‘Dude, what if we just got everybody back together again and do a couple of shows, and just see how that goes,’” Chris recalled of the phone conversation.
Right after, he sent a text to the remaining three guys, who all agreed in less than a minute to restore their band. The band performed together for the first time after breaking up on Aug. 24.
Chris said that reuniting with them has brought him peace.
“It wasn’t until we were all in one room and all started playing together that I first realized how much growth I had experienced, and all that I had gone through, emotionally and as a musician,” he said.
Chris was 15 when he bought his first guitar, a pearl-white Fender Telecaster, with money he earned working part-time at McDonalds. He got the job for the sole reason of buying the guitar, and wanted it so badly that he lied about his age to get the position.
After saving enough for pedals, then an amp, he began playing in garages with friends.
Chris recalls how his relationship with Selena started and was always centered around music. He remembers listening to Selena y Los Dinos albums, which were given to him by Shelly Lares, the lead singer of the band he played for in 1986. At that time, Selena’s brother, A.B. Quintanilla was looking for a new guitarist, and Chris already knew the style of their band.
“I would listen to them and think about how they were so good, even though they were so young,” he said.
“I was a rock-and-roller, I just happened to have had the chance to play different types of music. So, by the time I had met the guys and Selena, it was a seamless transition. I did not go in there trying to change anything up because I knew how important it is to carry over what they had done before.”
But he did not always hold the appreciation he has now for Tejano.
Chris said that his only exposure to that genre before meeting Selena was from the religious conjunto radio station his grandmother would play when he was a child.
“The dude would be talking over some conjunto music with super delayed vocals, and I could not understand what he was saying, he was talking Spanish so fast,” he said. “It just did not excite me.”
Selena’s passion for Tejano encouraged him to look at the genre from a different angle.
“I saw how much love that kind of music, how many showed up for gigs, and they would all start dancing,” Chris said. “It was a new thing to me. In rock, no one goes up and starts two-stepping.”
He added that he has seen people dress up as himself and Selena for Halloween, but this season was different.
“The really unbelievable part is seeing people dress their kids up as us, because it’s the new generation that is carrying our love story, not just the music,” he said.
“For some reason, this Halloween hit me. I can see 100,000% why Selena inspires so many young girls, but sometimes I can’t wrap my head around the idea of younger boys wanting to dress like me. After a really long time of not considering myself, or not wanting to consider myself as any kind of role model, I started to see things from a different perspective.”