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LATINO PROFILE: WBGU-FM Radio Show Host Freddy G, and his fantastic interviews

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


About once a month, music fans across the country can catch Freddy G spinning the latest Tejano hits on WBGU-FM 88.1.


Fred Gutiérrez currently compiles a four-hour show that runs 8 a.m. to noon on Sunday mornings, time that Bowling Green State University has devoted to international-themed shows as part of an effort to promote diversity. “La Unica” shows air on a rotating basis, so Freddy G is behind the microphone once every three weeks.


Over the years, Freddy G has broadcasted at WBGU with DJs such as Geraldo Rosales, Joe Cárdenas, Andrés Alvarez, Maribel, and Rudy Lomeli


Gutiérrez has been broadcasting for almost three decades, first brought into the fold by his former co-host Juan Sánchez, who has since moved out of the area. Both were part of a very successful Tejano program on WRED 95.7FM out of Gibsonburg, Ohio, organized by Celso Rodríguez. The 8-year program ran every weekend and included additional DJs such as Lupe Moreno (now, lead vocalist for Tejano Sound Band), Joe Muñoz, and Israel Zamarripa.


Freddy G also co-hosted Tejano programs with Super DJ Sylvester Durán on WFOB 1430AM (out of Fostoria, Ohio) and occasionally on WCWA 1230AM (out of Toledo).  


“I enjoy it and I enjoy music. We have so much music—lots and lots of music—I have collected over the years,” he said. “I just like to put it on. Now with the Internet, you can find any kind of music that you want online.”


“La Unica” also is broadcast over the Internet, so Freddy G has found a much wider audience, with faithful fans listening in Texas, California, and Florida, among other locations.


“They call us on a weekly basis,” said the 65-year old Gutiérrez. “I have a lot of music.”


Fred Gutiérrez

Yvonne Ramos-Ybarra

Freddy G estimates his Tejano music collection at “about 3,000 CD’s.” That’s not bad for a kid who preferred rock-and-roll music and didn’t like Tejano growing up in Brownsville, Texas.


“Now that I’m older and after I came up here, I just saw the need for Mexican music, so I started listening to it and tried to get into it,” he recalled. “I speak Spanish fluently, so I just started to work with people. I enjoy Mexican music now. But when I was a kid, I didn’t. I was a Beatles fan. You know, every kid growing up then, it was about rock, rock-and-roll. I just grew up and got into Tejano music—and that’s what I do now.”


With the need to keep his show fresh and play the latest Tejano music, his collection continues to grow by leaps and bounds.


“I keep buying it, but a lot of it they just send to us,” said Gutiérrez.


But Freddy G refuses to call his long-time radio gig a second career.


“It’s a hobby. It’s more of a hobby,” he explained. “There’s no money involved, so, no, we don’t make any money. We don’t charge for any announcements or anything. It’s all for the public.”


But it might as well be a second career. A show host has to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for a four-hour broadcast—lining up guests, gathering information, and deciding on that day’s playlist.


“You spend time studying the new music. I spend the whole week gathering all the new music so that when I go to the studio, I have the latest of the Tejano music,” he said.


Gutiérrez was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, and migrated to Northwest Ohio at the age of 17 to work the farm fields. He attended Owens Community College and decided to settle in the area.


Gutiérrez worked for pipeline companies for over 38 years before he retired, including a 26-year stint with Findlay-based Marathon Oil. He now resides in Dunbridge with his wife of 42 years, Lucy. The couple raised four adult children—one boy and three girls. All remained in Northwest Ohio, except one who now lives in Denver. All four attended Bowling Green State University.


But his passion for Tejano music goes well beyond the airwaves. Gutiérrez works as a show promoter and helps to line up big-name music acts for local summer festivals, such as Midwest LatinoFest and the annual Ss. Peter and Paul festival.


“I go to all the shows here. Now that I’m retired, I go to Texas quite a bit. I spend four months out of the year in Texas,” he explained. “I just go over there for the festivals and do a lot of promoting over there.”


While playing music, Freddy G interviews guests and promotes upcoming Latino events across Northwest Ohio. His most recent show just before Thanksgiving featured an interview with Elaina Hernández of El Corazón de México dance troupe, which had a recent fundraiser dinner.

He also promoted the Dec. 5 Toys for Sylvania Tots baile at Sylvania Area Family Services, featuring the Tejano Sound Band and the Nov. 28 Yvonne y Grupo Fuego show at the Latin American Club in Defiance.


Freddy G interviews diva Yvonne Ramos-Ybarra and Grupo Fuego


Gutiérrez conducted an in-studio interview with Yvonne Ramos-Ybarra on her recent win at the Tejano Music Awards as Best New Tejano Female Artist and how it continues to pay big dividends for Yvonne y Grupo Fuego, as she seems to be on the airwaves weekly with one media outlet or another.


The interview also featured her husband and bandleader Michael Ybarra, as well as her parents, where the couple revealed a few upcoming plans for the band. Yvonne y Grupo Fuego now has an agent in Dallas helping to promote their music across the country. That will come in handy, as the band puts the finishing touches on its second CD.


“When you’re an independent artist, it’s hard, because you don’t have a big label backing you,” said Ms. Ramos-Ybarra. “You have to do that footwork yourself. With us being here in the Midwest, sometimes you don’t know all those avenues.”


The radio interview also recapped the band’s recent trip to San Antonio to perform and attend the Tejano Music Awards ceremony where Yvonne was nominated individually and the band collectively for awards.


“It was more (that I dreamed). Honestly, before we got there, I tried not to think about it,” said Ms. Ramos-Ybarra. “It was a little overwhelming—and you don’t want to get your hopes up.”


While she stated there wasn’t a competition between the top five groups and singers, she admitted she and the band did what everyone else probably did: going online to “size up the competition.” After listening to the other musical acts, she had decided “it was anybody’s ball game” to win.


“It was like I was in a dream. After you win the award, they take you backstage to this media room. You feel like you’re walking in a maze,” she said. “It was overwhelming. What was really surreal is before the awards, they take all the artists performing and the top five and the presenters and take us to a ‘hole-up hotel,’ where we were all mingling together. Some people you wouldn’t expect come up to say hello, and they’re the bigger names in the Tejano industry.”


Yvonne revealed that just before she won the award for best new Tejano female artist, the show’s organizers pulled a bit of a ruse to get her backstage. The producers sent a text asking her to come to the lobby, because a presenter had backed out at the last moment. So she was nervously waiting in the wings, thinking she would read another winner’s name when her own was called by other presenters.


“All of a sudden, my category comes up on the screen and it starts hitting me that ‘hey, wait a minute, I’m not here to present,’” she recalled. “The waterworks had already started and I was crying before I even hit the stage. I couldn’t believe it. When I hit the stage, I honestly felt dizzy. I thought I was going to pass out.”


The awards ceremony was streamed live online, so Yvonne’s family members were huddled around a smartphone at her grandmother’s 85th birthday party. On the long ride home from Texas in the group’s RV, a relative posted a video of the family’s own celebration back in Northwest Ohio, which Yvonne admitted, with a laugh, started another bawling episode.


While she expected to see a big production, the friendly atmosphere and professionalism of the San Antonio-based awards weekend “exceeded her expectations.” Grupo Fuego performed the night before the awards at a pre-ceremony event at Bar West, alongside a band from Florida.


“It was awesome to see people from other areas. There wasn’t so much pressure, not being from Texas,” said Ms. Ramos-Ybarra.


“It was a great feeling down there. To be accepted in your genre of music in the capital, it was great to experience it,” added Michael Ybarra. “We got to meet a lot of people, shake a lot of hands, and make a lot of new friends and a lot of new connections.”


This year’s Tejano Music Awards may have been a turning point for the music genre in general, because so many artists and groups won awards or participated from other cities and states, such as Arizona, Colorado, California, and even Idaho.


“Just seeing all these artists that are finally being recognized and to show that Tejano is not just in Texas—the boundaries are everywhere,” Michael noted. “It was a nice feeling to see that.”


Yvonne’s father Rubén admitted he had never attended the Tejano Music Awards before, despite his long and successful musical career. But he stated he and some old friends became bandmates and are practicing an 18-song set to return to active performing.


“Right now, the guys I’ve got in the band, they’re seasoned musicians. They’ve been playing for a long time,” he said. “I’m ready to play. I’m ready to play.”


Rubén also revealed his father played accordion and his grandfather played guitar—so the family’s musical roots run deep. The family played in the basement at gatherings all the time.

Yvonne stated her son and daughter both have natural singing voices, but like her, they are terrified to take the stage. But Ms. Ramos-Ybarra somehow manages to fight off her stage fright.


Most of the Grupo Fuego band members have known each other for more than 20 years, which Yvonne stated is more than a musical act, but more like a “family.”


“It’s wonderful, because we’re all still close to our faith. We do a lot of prayer together. I really love that about us,” she said. “Now, we’re all grown up. In the 90’s, we were all just kids. Now we’re all grown up, we have our own families, and we know what’s important. God first, family second, career third. Anything outside of that doesn’t work.”


So even after 20 years, Freddy G still elicits new information out of veteran and upcoming Tejano acts alike, while promoting a sound that faded for a while, but continues to make a comeback as the Latino population grows by leaps and bounds.


Not bad for a radio show— WBGU-FM 88.1—started by a bunch of Latino BGSU students back in 1978 by the now-familiar names of Benito Lucio, known then as El Super Mex and now retired from Ohio Job and Family Services but who still dabbles in radio and TV in Columbus, and his then-classmate, future community activist Margarita De León. Other familiar names as DJs in those days included Richard Romero of Lorain and Roberto Torres of Swanton.


Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.





Copyright © 1989 to 2015 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/01/15 19:57:24 -0800.




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