Chris Pérez

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For the baseball player, see Chris Perez (baseball).
Chris Pérez
Man in jeans and T-shirt playing red electric guitar
Pérez in 2012
Background information
Birth name Christopher Gilbert Pérez
Born (1969-08-14) August 14, 1969 (age 45)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S
Genres Heavy metal,[1] rock, Latin rock, cumbia, Tejano
Occupation(s) Guitarist, songwriter, author
Instruments Electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Years active 1986–present
Labels EMI Latin, Hollywood, Q-Zone
Associated acts Selena, Selena y Los Dinos, A.B. Quintanilla, Kumbia Kings, Kumbia All Starz, Shelly Lares, Elida Reyna, The Chris Pérez Band, The Chris Pérez Project

Christopher Gilbert "Chris" Pérez (born August 14, 1969) is an American guitarist, songwriter and author best known as lead guitarist for the Tejano band Selena y Los Dinos. He married the frontwoman of the group, Selena, on April 2, 1992. Pérez grew up in San Antonio, Texas as one of two children of Gilbert Pérez and Carmen Medina. In 1986, he joined Shelly Lares' band. By the late 1980s, Pérez was reputed among Tejano musicians for his guitar skills. This caught A.B. Quintanilla III's attention; at the time, Quintanilla was seeking another guitarist for the band he produced, Selena y Los Dinos. Shortly after Pérez joined the band, he and Selena began a personal relationship.

Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., forced them to end their relationship because he felt Pérez' image might damage Selena's career. They ignored his threats to disband the group, and continued their relationship. Quintanilla Jr. fired Pérez from the band, forbidding Selena to go with him. They later eloped, and Selena's father accepted the relationship. Pérez was asked to collaborate on several of Selena's songs with A.B. and other members of the band, using his guitar to piece out melodies and incorporating a number of musical genres into their songs.

During the early 1990s Pérez was arrested for driving under the influence in San Antonio, but was released without charge. Within months of his first arrest, Pérez was involved in a trashed-hotel-room incident; he and two members of Selena y Los Dinos were intoxicated and began wrestling in a room, breaking the door and punching holes in the walls. On March 31, 1995 Selena was killed by her friend and former manager of her boutiques, Yolanda Saldivar. Her death devastated Pérez, who began abusing drugs and alcohol.

In 1998 he met Venessa Villanueva through his friend John Garza, and began dating her. That year, Pérez formed the Chris Pérez Band and began writing songs for their debut album. They signed with Hollywood Records and released their first album, Resurrection, which won a Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album. The band disbanded after their second album, Una Noche Mas (2002), was released. Pérez and Villanueva had two children, Cassie and Noah, before divorcing in 2008. Pérez continued in the music business and often played with A.B.'s groups, the Kumbia Kings and the Kumbia All-Starz. He left both groups and formed another band (the Chris Pérez Project, which included Puerto Rican singer Angel Ferrer) in 2010. In 2012 Pérez wrote a book about his and Selena's relationship entitled To Selena, With Love, which received a positive reception from critics and fans.

Early life[edit]

Chris Pérez was born on August 14, 1969 in San Antonio, Texas to Gilbert Pérez, a computer programmer,[2] and Carmen Medina, he's Mexican American. In 1974, when Pérez was four years old, his parents divorced.[3] In middle school he learned to play the French horn, and joined his school's concert band with his mother's support. Pérez decided to play electric guitar, and was self-taught; however, his mother disapproved because of negative stereotypes associated with the rock-and-roll world[4] before her remarriage in 1978.[5] Pérez's favorite musicians were Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard,[6] Kiss,[7] the Scorpions,[8] Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden;[2] he also admired Ricky Martin during the 1990s.[9] His guitar solos are inspired by Carlos Santana.[10]

When Pérez was seventeen years old, he wanted to run away to Los Angeles, California to start a rock band. At the time, he shared an apartment with his father and worked at a library.[6][11] Pérez was asked by Tony Lares to join his cousin Shelly Lares' band in 1986.[12] Tony Lares told Pérez that Shelly performed Tejano music—a mixture of traditional Mexican folk music, polkas and country music sung in Spanish or English—which Pérez disliked. He wrote in To Selena, With Love that he joined Shelly's band with "foot-dragging resistance", but the job paid more than the library.[13] Pérez became Shelly's musical director after Tony left the group.[14] In 1988 Pérez co-wrote three songs for Shelly's debut album,[15] and had a good reception for his guitar-playing.[16] Around this time, Pérez formed a rock band with two of his friends and planned to leave Shelly's band.[17]


1989—1995: Selena y Los Dinos and legal problems[edit]

In 1989 Roger Garcia, lead guitarist for Selena y Los Dinos, married and left the music business.[16] The group's bassist, A.B. Quintanilla III, had heard good things about Pérez from other Tejano groups so he and other band members saw him rehearsing with Shelly.[16][12] Quintanilla invited Pérez to one of Selena's performances, and asked him if he was interested in playing with Selena y Los Dinos; Pérez accepted.[17] His decision was based on Los Dinos's sound, which was more "hip and sophisticated" than other Tejano bands; he also wanted to learn about arranging music (A.B.'s job, which he admired).[17]

Pérez auditioned for the group's manager (A.B.'s father Abraham Quintanilla, Jr.), who initially disliked Pérez' rocker image; A.B. insisted that he change his appearance for the band. The elder Quintanilla feared that allowing Pérez in the group might affect his daughter Selena's "perfect image" and ruin her career. A.B. finally convinced him to accept Pérez,[18][12] encouraging the latter to explore different musical genres and mold their sounds to his own tastes.[19] He and A.B became close friends, and Pérez occasionally accompanied A.B. in writing songs for Selena's next recording.[20] Pérez knew little Spanish, and lead keyboardist Ricky Vela tutored him.[21]

In 1991, Pérez was arrested for driving under the influence and speeding in San Antonio, Texas. A police officer became involved in an altercation with Perez' cousin, and Pérez came to his cousin's aid.[22] After the brawl, police handcuffed Pérez and his cousin and freed Pérez's friend, telling him to "run, don't walk" and advising him to "not even turn around". When Pérez was booked, police confirmed that they initiated a high-speed chase and were following Pérez's car. Pérez reported that the officers were lying, but decided not to pursue the matter because it would be "[his] word against theirs."[23] He was released without charges, but told Selena and Abraham about his run-in with the police; they appreciated being informed.[24]

Several months after his arrest, Pérez shared a hotel room with two road crew members of Selena y Los Dinos. The two brothers (who were intoxicated) began wrestling, and Pérez (who was also drunk) joined them. One brother knocked the door off its hinges, and holes in the wall were later found inside the room. Pérez decided to sleep at home, instead of at the hotel.[20] The next morning, both brothers were fired from the band. Abraham accepted Pérez' apology, giving him another chance.[25] The elder Quintanilla opened a recording studio, Q-Productions, in late 1993 and asked Pérez if he would write songs for a rock band he managed.[26] The lead vocalist for that group, Nando "Guerro" Dominguez, went to Pérez and Selena's house to begin recording. After several hours, Pérez was ending the recording session when Selena asked to record Dominguez' demo.[27] Her version of the song was unreleased until 2004, when it was added to her posthumous compilation album Momentos Intimos as "Puede Ser". A.B. wrote "Ya No", the last recording for Selena's studio album Amor Prohibido (1994). He wanted to turn it into a rock song and asked for Pérez' assistance.[28]

Relationship with Selena[edit]

In 1989 Pérez and A.B. wrote Selena's Coca-Cola commercial jingle, and after the company accepted the lyrics and Selena filmed the commercial A.B. treated the band to a vacation in Acapulco, Mexico.[18] Pérez began to be attracted to Selena, although he had a girlfriend in San Antonio.[11] After the trip Pérez thought it would be best for him and Selena if he tried to distance himself from her, but found it difficult and decided to try building a relationship with her.[29] They expressed their feelings for each other at a Pizza Hut restaurant, and shortly afterwards became a couple.[30][31] Pérez and Selena hid their relationship, fearing that Abraham would try to break them up.[32][33] This stressed Selena, who did not want to hide her feelings for Pérez.[24]

The band's drummer, Selena's sister Suzette Quintanilla, found Pérez and Selena flirting with each other.[34] She told Abraham, who took Pérez off the bus and told him that his and Selena's relationship was over.[35] Pérez and Selena continued their relationship despite Abraham's disapproval;[36][37] Selena's mother, Marcella Quintanilla, approved of them.[38] One day, Abraham stopped the tour bus and went to the back (where Pérez and Selena were sitting). He shouted that their relationship was over; Selena screamed back, and Pérez tried to calm them both down. After Abraham insulted Pérez (calling him a "cancer in my family"),[39] Pérez supported Selena as she argued with her father. Abraham said that he would disband the group if they continued their relationship. Selena and Pérez relented; Abraham fired him from the band, and prevented Selena from running off with him.[40]

After Pérez was fired from the band,[41] he moved back in with his father and began playing music wherever he could. Pérez wrote that "free of that nerve-racking situation with her father and the other members of Los Dinos, I started enjoying my life again", noting that Selena still suffered from their separation and the two tried to keep in touch while she was touring.[42] On the morning of April 2, 1992, Selena pounded on Pérez' hotel-room door. She forced her way in and began to cry, saying that she could not continue without him. Selena wanted to get married that day, but Pérez insisted that it was not the right thing to do at the moment. Selena then told him that her father would never accept their relationship, and would not attend their planned wedding.[43] Pérez agreed, and they eloped in Nueces County, Texas.[44][39]

Selena believed that her father would leave her and Pérez alone if they were married, and they would not have to hide.[45] Within hours of their marriage, the media announced Selena and Pérez' elopement.[46] Selena's family tried to track her down; Abraham did not take the news well, and alienated himself for a time.[46] Selena and Pérez moved into an apartment in Corpus Christi.[47] Abraham approached Pérez, apologized, accepted the marriage and took Pérez back into the band.[48]

1995–1998: After Selena, remarriage and fatherhood[edit]

Main article: Murder of Selena

In early 1995 Abraham found out Yolanda Saldivar, who managed Selena's boutiques and fan club, was embezzling money. They held a meeting in early March, with Saldivar denying that she had anything to do with the fiscal discrepancies in checks that were found written in her name. Selena tried to repair her friendship with Saldivar, despite her father's warnings.[49] On March 30, 1995, Selena and Pérez met with Saldivar at a motel to recover missing financial papers for tax purposes.[50] When Selena arrived home she told Pérez that Saldivar did not give her the correct documents, and Saldivar tried convincing Selena to return to her motel room alone. Pérez told Selena it was too late, and he did not want her driving alone at night. Selena then agreed to meet with Saldivar the next morning. On March 31, she met with Saldivar, who delayed the transfer of papers by telling Selena she had been raped in Mexico.[51] Selena took Saldivar to a local hospital, where doctors found no evidence of rape. When they returned to the motel room, Selena ended her four-year working relationship with Saldivar. As she turned to leave, Saldivar reached into her handbag, pulled out a Taurus Model 85 .38 caliber revolver, pointed it at Selena and pulled the trigger.[52] The bullet pierced Selena's aorta; she collapsed in the motel lobby, naming Saldivar as her assailant.[53] She was transferred to a nearby hospital, where doctors found the damage irreparable; she was pronounced dead within the hour.[54]

After Selena's murder, Pérez did not eat for two days.[55] In his book he says that when he could not sleep he began abusing alcohol and other drugs,[56] and went into seclusion. Family members noticed that he was rapidly losing weight,[57] and Pérez felt guilty for not protecting Selena from Saldivar.[58] In 1996, he moved out of his Corpus Christi house and back in with his father in San Antonio. John Garza introduced him to Venessa Villanueva, and after getting to know each other they became a couple in 1998.[2][59] In 2001 Pérez married Villanueva and they had two children, a boy and a girl.[37][60] Although it was rumored that Villanueva did not want to divorce Pérez, and instead had the desire to try and work things out in their relationship, it was finally decided that their relationship was irreconcilable. The couple filed for divorce in 2008.[61][62]

1999–2009: Chris Perez Band and other projects[edit]

The rock ballad[63] "Best I Can", which centers around the difficulty of Pérez' life without Selena, was received favorably by critics.[64][65] Vocals by John Garza, with lyrics by Pérez[66]

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Pérez' friend, John Garza, moved into Pérez' house six months after Selena's death. They began writing music, which Pérez found healing.[67] In 1998 he formed a rock band with Garza, Rudy Martinez (former member of La Mafia) on bass, former Selena y Los Dinos keyboardist Joe Ojeda and Jesse Esquivel on drums. The band's name (the Chris Pérez Band) was chosen by Garza, Martinez, Ojeda and Esquivel.[68] Pérez preferred Cinco Souls; however, the others wanted to utilize Pérez' "reluctant celebrity."[2] The band was signed to Hollywood Records, and went to A&M Studios (now Henson Studios) in Los Angeles to begin recording their debut album. The song "Best I Can", written by Pérez, explores his feelings about losing Selena and his struggle to continue without her.[69][64] The song was originally not planned for the album, for fear that listeners would think Pérez included the track for commercial reasons. However, after recording a demo Hollywood Records and the band tried to convince Pérez to include it on the album.[70]

"Another Day" (about Pérez' devotion to Selena) was included on the album.[70] Ojeda wrote "Solo Tu", a romantic ballad which was changed by Pérez into a rock song.[68] Resurrection was released on May 18, 1999, and won the 2000 Grammy Award for Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album.[37] The record company released two promotional singles (one English and one Spanish: the title track and the ballad "Por Que Tu Fuiste") to radio stations, appealing to both audiences.[71] The Los Angeles Times wrote that the album was "upbeat and danceable, the lyrics speak almost uniformly of loss, anger, violence and abandonment".[2] The Chris Perez Band was the opening act for Mexican band Mana. In March 2000, Pérez began preparing for his second studio album;[72] On April 16, the band released its second and final album, Una Noche Más, before breaking up.[73] Pérez joined A.B.'s band, the Kumbia All-Starz, in 2005 and left it in 2009 to form his own band.[73][74] On April 7, 2005, Los Dinos reunited at the Selena ¡VIVE! tribute concert.[75]

2010 to present[edit]

In the early 2010s Pérez formed a new group (the Chris Pérez Project) with Puerto Rican singer Angel Ferrer, releasing "Todo es Diferente".[76] In March 2012 Pérez wrote To Selena, With Love, which described his and Selena's relationship and their struggles.[77] Pérez initially did not want to write the book, saying that fans had asked him to write it.[62][78] When writing To Selena, With Love Pérez did not seek the Quintanilla family's approval, and did not disclose the project in fear of their reaction.[37] After finishing the book Pérez approached Abraham, who approved of it.[37] In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Pérez said that by writing To Selena, With Love he was able to "move forward".[37] The book was praised by critics and fans.[58][61][79] To Selena, With Love dispelled the rumor that Selena was pregnant when she died (which had appeared in media reports after her death).[80]

Personality and musical influences[edit]

According to The Dallas Morning News,[65],[81] Justice for Selena,[82] They Died Too Young[33] and Selena: Como La Flor,[83] Pérez is a shy person. In his early career as a guitarist for Selena y Los Dinos he was the antithesis of Abraham's "clean-cut, nice kids",[84] a rebellious rocker and a "long-haired tough guy".[81] In an interview with the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Pérez admitted discomfort at being an entertainer.[78] Until the release of his book, Pérez had kept quiet about his personal life and shied away from media attention.[39][85][86] Carlos Valdez (the District Attorney who prosecuted Yolanda Saldivar) described Pérez as "shy and uncomfortable when in the spotlight", and this was echoed by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.[78] His inability to talk about himself when interviewed was also discussed in Valdez' book. Valdez said that the music business was not work for Pérez, who enjoyed being a guitarist and called it his "reason for [his] existence". Pérez was considered by Valdez as "honest, sincere, and someone who could be trusted and believed [in]."[82]

Leila Cobo of Billboard magazine believed that Pérez' musical styles included contemporary cumbia music, reminiscent of music produced by A.B., R&B, rap and funk music.[87] Chuck Taylor, a Billboard editor, called Pérez' debut album a "lot of classic rock elements".[88] David Cazares of the Sun Sentinel called Pérez' debut album "average rock" music.[89] The San Antonio Express-News said that Resurrection was a fusion of "pop rock grooves and Tejano soul".[90] Pérez is known for tapping into Latin genres, such as cumbia and Latin rock.[88][91]


Published works[edit]

  • To Selena, With Love (2012)


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