Mexican-American singer Trini Lopez, who had a hit in 1963 with his version of If I Had A Hammer and played one of The Dirty Dozen, has died at 83.
Lopez, an accomplished guitarist, was mentored by Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra and designed two instruments for the Gibson Guitar Corporation.
Lopez died in Palm Springs, California, of complications from coronavirus.
His debut live album, Trini Lopez at PJ’s, was released in 1963 and featured his version of Pete Seeger’s If I Had A Hammer. The song made it to number three in the US and number four in the UK, and sold more than a million copies.
Lopez’ connection to The Beatles is amazing. From January 16, 1964 to February 4, 1964, Lopez played on a bill with The Beatles at The Olympia Theatre in Paris, along with French singer Sylvie Vartan. The three acts played two shows each night during the week and three shows on weekends. Lopez received top billing for this engagement and The Beatles actually opened for him. After this stand at the Olympia Theatre ended on February 4th with The Beatles opening for Lopez, the four boys made their live U.S. television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show only four days later on February 8. Needless to say, the world of the four lads from Liverpool changed drastically in those four days.
In an interview, Lopez talk on The Beatles opening for him for almost a month in Paris:
“What happened was, we got booked into the Olympic Theatre, right before they came to America. We were there for a whole month in Paris. Two shows a night, three on Saturday. I used to steal the show from them every night! The French newspapers would say “Bravo Trini Lopez! Who are The Beatles?” Can you believe that? They didn’t have much of an act. They used to just stand there and shake their heads with the hair. The girls loved that hair. We were there in January ’64 for a whole month. In fact, when we finished doing the shows, the last night we were there, reporters came to my dressing room. My dressing room was next to theirs and they said “Mr. Lopez, The Beatles are leaving tomorrow for New York. Do you think they’ll be a hit?” I said “I don’t think so.” I whispered ’cause I didn’t want them to hear me. They said “Why not?” I said “Because in America there’s a group I like much better than these guys called The Beach Boys.” And I really liked ’em much better. Little did I know…(laughs) Unbelievable. But, it was a great experience being with them.”
The Beatles were obviously ready to move on after opening for Trini Lopez in Paris during that time period. The United States was ripe for their energetic live national television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show to say the least.
Lopez recorded more than 60 albums and was a popular headliner in Las Vegas. He was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003 and was honoured on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in 2008. He was unmarried and had no children.