Acoustic guitars, accordion or harmonica (also called mouth organ), tom toms, a pair of sticks called "claveles", the coconut grater called "rallador", banjo- these were the musical instruments of the 50's. To sing, they used a cone shaped mouthpiece that simply amplified the voice by a few feet or so. There were two types of guitars, a large one for accompaniment and a small one used to pick out songs and called a "requinta". There were famous men at the guitar like don Lalo Varela, Tatin Rosado and Emilio Rivero Sr.
The accordionists were Wil Alamilla, Aldo Marin and Ovidio Guerrero. There were a lot of percussions and no base, so one danced more on melody than rhythm. And then came electrical power to San Pedro and with it, of course, the electric musical instruments. The fishing cooperative, Caribena Fishing cooperative, was doing well and bought a set of instruments consisting of drums, guitars, bass, and two amplifiers. Whoever wanted to practise with them could do so, and indeed several young boys did. There was El Conjunto Sargaso, and Los Atomicos del Caribe. But they were still using the accordion as the lead instrument to produce the melody of songs, as well as some acoustic instruments.
Los Shadows practised for about two months straight, every night, every weekend. Some of the members had some previous experience. Others started from scratch. It was a self-taught group. There were no special effects as found on modern keyboards, so all sounds had to be original and based on talent. I think the guitar had an apparatus called a "wah wah" which sort of echoed the sound when desired. That is all. Los Shadows made their first appearance at a primary school Halloween fair and was an immediate hit. They played boleros or souls, merengue, waltz, corridos, and cumbias. The crowd loved the group because it was different from the traditional acoustic bands.
Los Shadows played at weddings, Big Daddys, Marinos Club, and Skin Divers Club. For an engagement they first started charging 50 dollars for the night from 8 p.m. to one in the morning. On Sundays, they entertained at Marinos Bar and charged 2 dollars for a request. When the men were "high", they preferred listening to Los Shadows rather than putting 25 cents into the jukebox. A typical Sunday sometimes netted one hundred dollars profit, and that was extremely good.
I can recall once when an insurance company hired the boys to play in Belize City for their annual general meeting. This time the boys said they would charge one hundred dollars. Duffy Nunez, the manager of the company, gave an order for us to eat and drink at one of the renown restaurants in the city, and when he called us a few days later, his remark was: "How can you guys charge me 100 dollars and leave a two hundred dollar food bill at the restaurant?" We had fun in the city and thought we were great because we played alongside Glenn Bood and the Telegrams, which was a top band, and the crowd seemed to have liked us more because we gave them the good Latin music.
Then came the collapse of Los Shadows. It only lasted for about two years. No there was no conflict with the members. In fact up until today every time Nando sees me, he remarks "Call me Mac", which was written in silver on my black bass guitar. The real reason we broke up was due to the girls. We were all single boys, and we all loved dancing and there was no other band on the island that would play from time to time and give us the chance to dance. And it was difficult to be on the bandstand and see your girlfriend dancing with others. So one by one, the spirit of Los Shadows died away and soon they were really only shadows. They went into oblivion. But the guys and gals of the early 1970's remember them all and this photo is a proud testimony of the first all electric band in San Pedro - Los Shadows.
-by Angel Nuņez, Columnist