-Finalist in the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN (top 8 of 240 acts worldwide)
-Semifinalist at the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN
-Winner of the 2014 & 2015 Nebraska State Blues Challenge
-Winner of the 2013, 2014, & 2015 “Best Blues Band of the Year” award by the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards
Hector Anchondo is on a roll. After an International Blues Challenge finalist spot in 2016 and the release of the chart-topping album Roll the Dice in 2017, Anchondo is celebrating new awards and successes in 2018, and is anticipating both a new album and a new baby by the end of the year.
February brought a prestigious Omaha Arts and Entertainment Award for Best Blues act; his fourth in five years. The blues festival he started four years ago, In the Market for Blues, grew this year to include 28 bands in eight venues in Omaha’s Old Market district. His second project as a solo acoustic act, in which he gets to revel in his roots and show off his finger-picking skills, is gaining in popularity.
And following up on a busy summer tour, Hector is headed to the studio to make another album this fall—when he and his wife are also expecting their second child.
The new all-original album, he says, will be a continuation of the fun-loving, hard-driving blues that made Roll the Dice so successful, but will show off more of his song-writing skills and may include more blues rock flavor, and may include an acoustic cut that will reflect the work he does as a solo artist when not working with his full ensemble.
Hector Anchondo’s future just keeps getting brighter, and it’s well-earned. The new album, and the successes of the recent years, are the hard-won rewards of many years of devotion to his craft.
While other guys his age were going to college, getting married, buying homes, and building professional careers, Hector was playing guitar. He lived on the road, and when he wasn’t on the road, he lived on couches. He got jobs as he needed them, but quit as soon as he could get back on tour. He put off having kids. He put off marriage. Instead, he played guitar.
His passion for music was acquired early in life, and drove every decision he made from then on. Growing up on a Missouri farm, Anchondo soaked up roots music, Latino music, bluegrass and old blues. He picked up the guitar as teen, and as soon as he finished high school, while classmates headed off to college, he headed for Omaha, where he had some family, to make a life playing guitar.
“Omaha turned out to be a great place for a new artist starting out,” Anchondo said. “They will get behind a new act with new original music.”
The young guitarist started hitting Omaha jam nights every single week, where older musicians recognized his prodigious talent and took him under their wings. Within only a couple years, he had a hot original Latin and reggae band and a song on local radio. Anchondo toured with that band almost non-stop for the next 10 years.
“It was a lot of sleeping on floors, or in the van, or just driving on through to the next show,” he said.
When the recession of 2008 happened, work dried up in the music scene, and the stress took its toll on the band, which parted company. Anchondo found himself without a band, working as a dishwasher in a Cuban restaurant. That year that tested his resolve more than any other.
“I was kind of floundering personally,” said Anchondo. “I was like, ‘what do I do?’ I had put all my eggs in that basket, into music.”
Anchondo knew his mind, though. It was guitar or nothing. And, he realized, this could be the moment he finally got to do a thing he’d wanted to do all his life. He had loved the blues since he was kid, and had been sneaking in blues songs at his concerts for years. He wanted to play blues full time. So he started looking for other musicians who could help him make the hard-partying kind of blues he’d always loved.
When you put your mind to doing the thing you were born to do, the universe helps. Anchondo got an unexpected call from an old friend in St. Louis. He’d been a fan of Anchondo’s Latin music, but he had always loved those blues songs Anchondo snuck in even more.
“He had his own little record label, he was like, ‘I have this crazy idea, tell me what you think. I want to help you put out a Hector Anchondo blues album,’” the guitarist said. “I said, ‘Hell, yeah. Let’s do it.”
Anchondo wrote 30 songs that summer, narrowed it to five, and put out an EP called Kicking Up Dust. The album did well; he did Young Guns two years later. Omaha embraced Anchondo’s new direction and his tight, powerful band and sent them to the International Blues Challenge twice. In 2015 they made the semi-finals; in 2016 they made the final nine.
“It felt like we won,” said Anchondo. “it was cool the amount of hype we had that whole week.”
The band started sharing stages with the biggest names in blues, including Coco Montoya, Magic Slim, and the Royal Southern Brotherhood. When he went into the studio to make his most recent album, Amanda Fish joined him for what would be the opening track.
The album, Roll the Dice, was the best thing Anchondo had ever done. It was saturated with his history of blues, with flavors of Latin, rockabilly and Americana. It showcased the flawless, fluid and brilliant style that he earned in 20 years of love and discipline. There was buzz around his band, he knew. He was on the verge of breaking onto the national scene. He wanted to release the album and make it count, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Then a guy at a booking agency suggested he see if KBA-winning blues publicist Frank Roszak would accept him as a client. Roszak was delighted. With the help of the high-powered publicist, Anchondo’s released Roll the Dice worldwide. The results were nearly overwhelming.
The album leapt to the top of blues charts, including the top 25 on the Living Blues chart, and spent many weeks on the Roots Music Report blues and blues rock charts. Critics fell over themselves to heap the album with praise, calling it “fabulous,” “inventive,” “magnificent,” and “absolutely beautiful.”
“Anchondo’s spectacular guitar playing and suave vocal stylings stand out front in his newest release, Roll the Dice,” said one Philadelphia critic. “Immersed in blues and Americana, this ten song album is a wonderful delight.”
Making a Scene said, “Anchondo’s fluid guitar notes and vocal clarity are a pleasure.”
The Omaha veteran is finally realizing dreams a lifetime in the making. His music is finally being recognized world-wide, he is enjoying success as well with his second project as a solo acoustic performer, and the festival he initiated is giving back to the Omaha music community that has supported him for so long.
But not all the dreams he is achieving are musical.
“I put off having a family, having a child, and each year that went by, my thoughts became more powerful about having a child,” he said. “But I was dedicated to the craft, and I put all my efforts there. I watched other people having babies, thinking I’ll be one of the ones who doesn’t. Then I ended up meeting a really wonderful girl, and we ended up having our son.”
This fall he and his wife will welcome their second child.
A bright future for Hector Anchondo also means a bright future for fans of blues music.
With the new album on the way and his tour base constantly growing, new audiences all over the world will get a chance to experience the smooth smoky voice that can make you smile even as tears fill your eyes, the audacious grooves of his powerful band, and the lyrical mastery of Anchondo’s guitar, telling the story of a life lived for the love of music.