Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,”where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
The group formed in the Latin District of San Francisco. They are named after group leader Carlos Santana, and were originally known as the Santana Blues Band. It’s one of the few groups named after a guitarist in the band (The J. Geils Band is another).
They appeared at both the original (1969) and second (1994) Woodstock. When they played the 1969 festival, they hadn’t yet released their first album – their manager, Bill Graham, pulled some strings to get them on the bill. They went on sooner than expected, catching Carlos in the middle of a mescaline experience. “I was praying to God to keep me in time and in tune,” he said.
Their performance was one of the most acclaimed and thrust them to stardom. As Graham predicted, it went to their heads: Carlos embraced an extravagant rock star lifestyle, but soon changed direction and went down a more spiritual path.
Carlos launched line of shoes at J.C. Penny in 2000. He did not design them, but they were supposed to be inspired by his music. Proceeds go to children’s charities.
When Neal Schon entered the group, there was some controversy because he was white. Carlos Santana wanted to try a two-guitar sound and thought Schon was up to task even though he didn’t have a Latin heritage. Schon and Rolie formed Journey when they left the group.
When the band had some hits and became a popular live draw, some of the members started using drugs, and Carlos thought they were getting lazy at their shows. He briefly left the band, but rejoined them later on tour.
Carlos Santana had a huge resurgence when his 1999 album Supernatural was released. Pairing Carlos with popular young singers like Rob Thomas, Everlast and Dave Matthews was a winning combination, and made Santana relevant to a whole new generation. The album was the big winner at the 2000 Grammy Awards.
Some of Santana’s early hits were new arrangements or adaptations of other artists’ material: “Jingo” from Babatunde Olatunji, Willie Bobo’s “Evil Ways,” Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va,” and Peter Green’s “Black Magic Woman” (a big UK single for the late ’60s Fleetwood Mac).
In addition to being husband and wife for 34 years, Carlos Santana and his wife, Deborah, have also owned businesses and started a children’s charity, the Milagro Foundation, together. In late 2007, Deborah filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
In the early ’70s, Santana helped out another Bay-area band that went on to a five-decade career: Tower Of Power. Carlos Santana enlisted them as an opening act when ToP’s first album came out.
“We were hot in the Bay area, but in the rest of the country we were nothing,” Tower Of Power founder Emilio Castillo said in an interview. “But Carlos was into the band. And mind you, every night, we gave him a run for his money. A lot of guys would have just said, ‘I ain’t going to have those guys open for me, I look bad.’ But I believe he felt it made him play better and urged him on. So he took us all over the country and people had no idea who we were.”