Corpus interview with Gilbert Pena & Rick De Leon
1. I’m really grateful I finally found you! I’ve been searching you for a very long time. Let’s start the interview! Where did you grow up and what were some of your early influences in life?
Gilbert: I grew up in Corpus Christi, Tex. My Dad, Ms Jones, The Beatles, Elvis, The Platters, Aretha, JFK, Martin L. King, etc. My Dad owned a dry cleaning business. We had customers of all Ethnic people. So I never realized that anyone was different. He treated all people the same. Not till I was in High School did I come across people treating each other differently. I never gave thought to the fact that all White-American and high sociaty folks parked by the front entrance and the Hispanics parked in the rear of the school. Of course then we were called Mexicans. I believe it was 1962-63 when the first African-American was allowed into our school. There was a lot of hoopla about it. I did’nt understand. Then JFK was killed, I was in the library when this happened, I did’nt understand. Then MLK, again I did’nt understand. I was a young nerdty American that did’nt understand. Ms Jones was my 7th grade English teacher. The first day of class, she asked the class to write, in 500 words or less, what we had done over the summer. Then she came up to me and asked me to write her a poem. I did’nt understand. I had read, over the weekend, that Alaska had been allowed to become a state. So I wrote, “Tecas the biggest, Texas the Great, Now we have Alaska, and its our biggest state. I took it to her and she told me to go sit outside till the class was over. I did’nt understand. Fifteen words to complete the class assignment. How did she know I wrote. Apparently my sixth grade teacher had wrote, in my file, that I had been writing notes to girls that were in my class. My Brother and I used to sing harmonies of the Platters and other groups in the late fifties and early sixties. I never knew that the lyrics that we sang were writing by normal folks like me. Elvis was a fantastic entertainer and the Beatles wrote and performed their own Music. I used their styles & philosyfies to help form Corpus.
Rick: I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, sparkling City by the Sea. I have many musical influences. You see I come from a family background of musicians. Learned to play the guitar at an early age, from spanish trio music to what is now called Tejano music. My influences in music are Humble Pie, Pete Framton, Grandfunk Railroad, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly and many others. My dad is and still is my influence to the music field. There are many others but I will keep things simple.
2. Were you in any bands before forming Corpus? Any releases perhaps?
Gilbert: No other bands or releases.
Rick: I was in local bands mostly for the era, spanish or tejano bands. I started professionally touring around the age of 12-13 years old with a band called the “Dinos”. Don’t know if you know this but this is the same name of the Band that Selena Quintanilla was with, except her dad was a member of the group at the time. The rythm section decided it was time to move on so my brother, me and James Castillo (Corpus Bassist) joined the group and the tours began. I also played with other locals like “Freddie Martinez”, Johnnie Canales orchestra, and others. These guys were some of the top headliners for that time and I had the opportunity to spread my wings if you will. Finally after doing the tour thing, finally decided to do something different. Therefore, the pre-Corpus era was started. Before Corpus we called ourselves “Buddha”. This was the early 70s. Working with the band above and other locals we did record albums, CDs, etc, which worked will for the time.
3. When and how was Corpus born? Why the name Corpus?
Gilbert: A member of a local band, James Castillo, use to come by the house to read my writings. He was a neighbor and friend of the family. One day he asked me if I would write lyrics for them cause they wanted to do original material. I thru him my manuscript and told him to use those. ” but those are poems” he said. I replied, the Beatles said “there’s nothing you can’t say that can’t be sung”, in one of their songs. So he took them to the others to see if they could use them. Well, they liked them and used them. They asked me to come join them and help them with the new songs. We started looking for a name for the band. I suggested that CORPUS would be a good name. NO! just because we were from Corpus would not do. Well, I explained that Corpus Christi was the body of Christ. But, CORPUS was to be our Woman and we the Males thus creating our children which would be our songs. Thus, Corpus, Creation A Child, which was to be our first. They agreed. Creation A Child had a dual meaning which I will explain when I do the stories of each of our songs on the album.
Rick: Corpus was born during our high school days. The original name “Buddha” wasn’t quit taking on so we began to soul search. This was about the time that we “Buddha” at the time which was “James Castillo, Frutoso Ilanes, and my self decided to do original music, lyrics, etc. Gilbert Pena came on board after looking at his material/s, found that his writings had that hook we needed to try something new. We tossed names around and if I remember right, Gilbert came up with the name Corpus and after discussion kind of made since, the body of Christ. The birth of Christ, the birth of Corpus. And well, the rest is as they say, history.
4. Did you release any 45?
Gilbert: No 45’s.
Rick: We never released a 45. We wanted and did an album. Our mindset was to do the ballads, and commercial music to get a feel of what the responses would be from our friends and those that followed the Corpus music. Our plans were to record two more LPs and go from there. Unfortunately that didn’t materialize.
5. In 1971 you released your LP on Acorn records. What can you tell me about this label? Was it private release?
How many copies were made?
Gilbert: The guys that put up the monies for the recordings, Poses & Miller, POMIL Music, handled all the admin stuff. I was told that only 1000 albums were made but on the left corner of the album cover, it has ACORN LP-1001.
Rick: The Acorn label was a label that was a localized private release. POMIL, our management decided to do this label and push the product. ACORN was born. At that time in Corpus Christi, things were limited for recording studios. We’d drive to houston to the studios but never got any bites from any producers, etc. The best type of recording studio in Corpus was an 8 track recording studio. Talk about plenty of over dubs. Every song recorded on the album was recorded on an 8 track studio. I think we recorded or had 1000 albums made but somewhere out there, there is a 1001 album. Pretty Classic I think.
6. I would like if you could tell me some of your strongest memories from producing and recording your LP?
What gear did you guys use? What can you say about the amazing cover artwork?
Gilbert: Like I said, the producers were PO/MIL The recordings were at FREDDIE’S STUDIO in Corpus Christi. At one point, Freddy called me into his office and offered the band a contract to be signed by the five of us. I told him, ‘Sure, after our attorney reads it over” He took it back and tore it up. I never signed anything and don’t know if the others did without my knowledge. As far as recording, it was a fantastic experience. I thought that William was the greatest lead guitarist that I personally knew. Diddy, was the epitamy of Paul McCarthney in Looks, Voice, and Composer. The Band, as a whole, was our geatest achievement to that point and looking forward to a great career in the Music World. We had Three albums ready to publish and chose to go with Ballads first so as not to create a stir form the get go. We had subjects like: Politics, Reencarnation, Prejudice, Ecology, Love, Hate, War, etc. The gear we used was the basics. The Fantastic Artwork were local Artists aquired by PO/MIL. The front cover was created by SUSAN VOGEL and the back was JULIE MARSHALL. I never met them and don’t know if they are still around. I’m now trying to get in touch with the boys and maybe can get more info from them.
Rick: As I said in the previous question, our album was recorded on an 8 track system, I think the tape wide was 1 1/2 or 2 inch or something like that. We spent many hours working on the album, harmonies, overdubs, double tracking. We were able to make an 8 track system into a 16 track system with overdubs but the price one pays is quality loss and some clearity. These days, the systems are out of this world. It amazes me how things that don’t sound very good can be made perfect. Hey, technology right? The cover work, have never up to now met the artists that did the front or back cover but I personally say they did a fantastic job. Not bad for a black and white ablum cover. With the exception of the recording studio called Studio ‘B” at the time, we used, basic sound pedals, echoplexes, SGs, Les Paul, Acoutic Amps, Marshalls, Peavey. Nothing fancy. Anything to make it work we tried.
7. I would really appreciate if you could comment each of your songs…
Gilbert: (FM-From manuscript) (NFM- not from manuscript but writing while in the band.)
A1 Cruising (NFM)
Cruising was written about a friend who came in to work, one morning, and told me what had happened, after work, the day before. He said” while going home from work, yesterday, I saw a pair of hitchikers and picked them up. We got stoned and I asked them where to drop them off. She told him to drop the guy she was with,off first. Then he and her went to a park, got stoned again, made love, and parted ways. The next day I showed him and the band the lyrics I had written and they chose it for the first song on the album.
A2 Joy (NFM)
A friend asked me to write something that would attract this girl he had just met in hopes of hooking up with her. I asked him to describe her to me and told him that the words and feelings would be mine and hoped they would help. That night, after he had described her to me, I went home and opened my high school yearbook and turned to the picture of the girl voted “MOST BEAUTIFUL” her name was FARRAH FAWCETT. She gratuated with me in the same class of “65” at W.B.RAY High School. This was before she became famous on her Calender and Charlies Angels. Thus “JOY” was created.
A3 Marriage (FM)
Was my personal observations on the subject. I wasn’t at the time.
A4 Creation a Child (NFM)
Here comes the dual meaning. DIDDY, the lead singer/composer, asked me to write about him and his lady, who were expecting a baby. I told him that I would try. He Loved it. At the same time we were expecting our first album, thus “CREATION A CHILD” was our first baby. I recently adked Diddy if Rick Jr. was the child I had written about and he replied “YES”. I’ve never met him but hope I will some day.
B1 Just a Man (FM)
I was trying to describe to the Ladies who I was.
B2 We Can Make It, Luv (FM)
Describing what would happen if I should find that special someone I was looking for.
B3 Not Mine (FM)
I thought I had found her but was mistaken by lust.
B4 Where Is She (FM)
Self explained. Looking but not finding.
B5 Mythical Dream (FM)
My sister asked me to be an escort for one of her friends to a grand ball. Hers had declined and was in dire straits. The theme of the Dance was “MYTHICAL GODESSES”. Each Lady had these grand gowns, specially made, depicting the different Godesses of Mythology. The Lady, I escorted was “VENUS” I exccepted. Looking forward to the activities during and after the ball. To no avail. Her Father picked her up after the dance to my dismay. It was a grand time but Zeus wouldn’t allow his daughter to leave with someone the had no knowledge of.
Rick: Comments on the songs? Crusing – that one was the very first song we worked on as our original. I remember being at my dads house, doing the 1, 2, 3 typical chords on the guitar, basic rock and roll. It was then that crusing was born. That one our first born. Joy-was written I think because one of our friends had a crush on a girl named Joy and asked Gilbert if he could write something about it. I did a spin off on early Paul McCartney after the Beatles broke up and was listening to one of his tunes calle wild life I think, hence Joy was born. Marriage – I think Gilbert (Lyricist) wrote that while he was deep in thought. That one was born after listening to some Allman Brothers music. Creation a Child, Wow that one touches my heart. My wife and I at the time were expecting our first born and I asked Gilbert if he could write something for me actually for us. Creation a child was born. I didn’t listen to any type of music for the lyrics, things just flowed naturally and Creation and Child was born and POMIL and we the band decided to make it the album song. By the way, I am still married to the same beautiful person. My song is now 39 years old.
Just a Man – looking thru the lyrics book, something caught my eye, read the lyrics, and the hook was set. Again this song was developed after hearing early Allman Brothers music. We Can Make it Luv- this was created after one of the band members was going thru some hardships, not sure. A bit blurry at the time. Not mine – was created after we all agreed that we wanted to try and add some accoustical flavor to music, not sure how that came about, but I personally like the sound of it. Where is she- hummmm, things get a bit blurry once again, typical searching thru the lyrics, this one had something that stood out, worked on it after listening to some early Led Zepplin music. Mythical Dream, Not sure but remember something to the affect that Gilbert brought my the lyrics and asked if we could put music to them, I think William the lead guitarist put the chords together on this one specifically. Keep in mind Klemen, we, the band members put this together, everyone had input and everyone deserves the pat on the back if you will.
8. Did you do any touring? If so, where and with what bands did you play?
Gilbert: The only touring we did was in Texas. Austin, San Antonio, and the lower south Texas. The only other band I was involved with was in the Army. I sang with a group of guys from all over at the NCO Clubs.
Rick: We did localized touring, the state of Texas mostly, the doors were opening for us and things looked promising but that did not materialize. There were local bands, I remember one from a nearby town called “Apple”, another one called the Thrillkill” brothers. There were other top head liners that we opened for but things were quite foggy then.
9. What happened next after the album was out?
Gilbert: We were pretty popular, while the album was out, got hooked on drugs, got married to the wrong gal. Went to the Carnival for a Year, then left town to get away from the Drugs.
Rick: After the album was out we played plenty of outdoor concerts, locally, around the state, we started to work on the other album and I remember Gilber saying that we should call our proposed second album, “Corpus – Alive Again”. That heading would work right about now don’t you think? Anyway we started to work on other tunes, things went not so well and we parted ways. I think we were together as a group for about 5-8 years, not sure, but we spent plenty of time working to music, pretty much 24-7. We ate music, slept music, dreamt music, etc. In our eyes we had a purpose and that purpose was making it in the music industry. Well… it is what it is.
10. What were you doing in the late 70’s, 80’s and years till now?
Gilbert: Worked for a Cabinet Co. for 21 years till the Housing Problems forced a layoff. I had to retire and self support myself.
Rick: After I left the group a few years after that I joined the Army. Went away for a few years to get my family together and mostly to get my self together. Remember, the 70s, plenty of spirits, drugs, make luv not war type of thing. Flower children and all that. Any got cleaned up, got direction and learned a trade. Right now I work for the local electrical company as an instructor for High Voltage Electrical Equipment. My job has my on the road about 85 percent of the time, but enjoy it very much. Retirement? in about 4 years unless the ecomony takes a turn for the worse.
11. I heard you are trying to make two more albums, that you already recorded?…please explain your future plans?
Gilbert: I’m trying to get in touch with the guys and motivate them to record the other two albums we had ready. But, its been almost 40 years and I’m sure everyone is settled into their lives. But I’m hoping we can do something before we pass on.
Rick: First, let me say that I had no idea that our album was on the internet, etc. My son called me about 4 months ago and seriously advised that I had to get on the internet and see what was going on. Its a mind blower to have this come back and receive the reponses like they are. Amazing to me. I have often wondered what it would be like to do studio work and chip off the old rust and see what could materialize. It would be nice to try something, think about it “Corpus Alive Again”. Hummmm. I wouldnt mind doing something. With this technology? It would be interesting.
12. Thank you very much for your time and effort! Would you like to share anything else, perhaps?
Gilbert: Ever since I got wind of the renewed interest in our album, I’ve been trying to contact anyone that may help me. Amazon, at one point, had sold over 100,000 cd’s. I sent e-mails to BMI, who is supposed to guarantee royalties to all artist under their domain. On the album it clearly states, PO/MIL:-BMI. I have never received any monies from the sales of the albums. CD Universe is currently selling them at $16,39 a piece. At one point, Target was sellinhg them. I found this out after a party in which my daughter-in-law was bragging about my writings and the album. So for the past few years I’ve been trying to no avail. Maybe there’s a statue of limitations. But I figure as long as the CDS or Albums have my name on them, I deserve some form of compensation. What do you think? I’ll even give you 10% to 20% of whatever I get as a donation to the Magazine. Here’s continued success to you and PBM. Gilbert Pena Jr.
P.S. One of the other songs we had ready was “ALL AMERICAN” writen about the state of the country and where it was headed after JFK and MLK. thx Have a Blessed Day. gp wheew !!!!!!!
Rick: I would like to share this with all of you that have enjoyed our Music,,,,,,,,,,,,We created this music as band or group, all band members had input on how this project was developed and created. POMIL our managers did an outstanding job getting doors to open for us. It was a team effort, I wouldn’t of had it any other way. Thanks Klemen for this interview. brought back a lot of fantastic memories and a journey well worth it.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
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