El Paso musician Charlie Quintana dies in Mexico after prolific career

Charlie Quintana

This story or rock stardom starts in El Paso. Charlie "Chalo" Quintana had a love of music. And his skills as a drummer took him from West Texas to stages all over the world.

He was only 15 years old when he joined his friend and fellow El Pasoan Tito Larriva in Los Angeles. They played in a seminal punk band balled The Plugz.

But by the late 1980s, the band had evolved into a much more polished production. The Cruzados released their debut album in 1987 which spawned the hit song "Motorcycle Girl."

From there, Quintana would go on to play and record with several other artists, including Bob Dylan and Cracker. He was also a member of Izzy and the Juju Hounds before joining the band Social Distortion in 2000.

“I remember the first time I listened to The Plugz it made me proud to be Chicano and stuff like that because he’s from here," said Jason Montoya, Quintana's nephew who lives in El Paso.

Montoya said his family has amassed a large collection of photos, videos and memorabilia of Quintana's career.

“It didn’t really hit me that he was famous," said Montoya. "I knew that he would always play with music but being his nephew and being like 10, 9 or 8, it was like, 'OK you play with bands, cool.' But then when you get older and you start liking the band it’s like, 'Oh shoot.'”

Jason has fond memories of watching his uncle play with Social Distortion when they came through El Paso.

“He never bragged about it," Montoya said. "He never said, 'Yeah, I’m famous.' It was just Uncle Charlie.”

Quintana left the music business in 2009. Thirty years of playing drums had taken a toll on his body. He moved to Cancun to retire.

“I’m sure he did a lot of relaxing,"said Montoya. "He toured for decades. I’m sure a lot of nothing, laying on the beach, gaining some weight, eating the food.”

Over the past several months, I had been in contact with Quintana on Facebook. I wanted to talk to him about his life in the music business. But he was more interested in talking about the stray dogs he was trying to foster. An opportunity for an on-camera interview never materialized. Quintana suffered a heart attack and died earlier this month.

“I mean it was just one day to the next. I woke up and it was news on my phone. I had nine or ten missed calls from my mom and all kinds of text messages. It was not a great way to start the day.”

His former bandmate in the Cruzados - Steven Hufsteter - wrote on Facebook: "We had an amazing connection, you can hear it in the way we play together. He was magic as a person and that’s why to know him was to love him."

The distinct snap of Quintana's snare drum has been silenced. But his legacy is as a vibrant musician, as a drummer with a unique swing will live on.

“A lot of people don’t have the courage to chase their dream and even if they fail or not he just did it," said Montoya. "We wasn’t trying to be famous. He was just trying to play his music, which was always the coolest thing.”

Quintana is survived by his mother, his two sisters and his daughter.

He was 56 years old.

His family is in the process of making funeral arrangements in El Paso. A GoFundMe campaign for the transportation and funeral costs has already exceeded its goal of $7,500.

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