Story and photo by Ramón Hernández (07/17/2011) La Prensa de San Antonio – 6E (Hispanic Entertainment Archives)
If angel etic voiced Valentina Estrada comes across as a sweetheart, it is probably because she was born on Valentine’s Day.
For years, this famous Las Vegas Latin music acts promoter has made a name for herself booking the nation’s top Hispanic bands. Now the tables have turned for and she is now promoting her first recording.
“Thanks to Johnny Hernández, I finally realized the release of my first compact disc,” the charming, statuesque, blonde said during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
And it has been long overdue when one considers that Estrada grew up singing with her grandmother, Gerarda Reina León at an Outreach Church in Fresno, California.
At 18 and as a member of the Outreach Prison Ministries Teen Challenge Program, she began singing at juvenile correctional institutions and major women’s federal prisons in California. She also honed her vocal skills by getting up to sing with different bands at various local night clubs.
Later, she moved to San José, California and did a four-year stint with Rudy Madrid and the Cruisers with whom she crooned the Spanish and English pop classics of the day.
On the personal front, she became Mrs. Díaz, but that part of her lifeended 13 years later and in June 2002, the now single mother of four – Venessa Perales, Joshua, Israel and Simón Díaz -- moved to Las Vegas to visit her father and brother; and she wound up staying. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today Estrada is entering a new chapter in her life. This time as a recording artist and the name of her CD is “Sincerely” (Oldies ReLived).
“I chose to do oldies because that’s my life and it relives the romance and the memories of back in the day so that they will never go away,” the Fresno-native said.
The production starts with the title song, wheezes through “Gee Whiz” and leads into the mesmerizing “Our Day Will Come” and Armando Manzanero’s “Somos Novios” translated into English.
Even tough, red-bloodied macho men will get goose bumps and feel a chill going up their spine when they hear Estrada’s honey-voiced lush seductive vocals in “Sabor A Mi.” Her sexy voice is enough to melt any man’s heart and defenses, whew.
Then the Stronghold Records artist picks up the tempo with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Kansas City.” By now, actually after the first song, one is left impressed with the excellent, superb backup vocals. So for those wondering, that is Little Joe’s brother and Valentina’s ex-husband, Johnny Hernández, doing all the four and five-part harmonies and taking his voice to new vocal ranges coupled with a few falsetto parts.
Hernández’s astounding vocals, new kick-butt arrangements and sampled horns give this production a brassy kick that coupled with Valentina’s vocals make this CD a winner.
The CD sadly comes to a close with “Be My Baby,” “My Guy” and “Tell Him.” But the good news is that you can play it again, and again, and again.
In closing Hernández, who owns Stronghold Records and produced Valentina said, “I think we captured the essence of what oldies are about and I’m very proud of this CD.”
Both artists also acknowledged and thanked Lawrence Tarin, who co-arranged, engineered and played all the music; saxophonist Steve Vaughn and Vic “Nash” Espinoza, who played guitar on two tracks.
Now everyone including Estrada’s mother, Amanda Clara León, is out pushing the compact disc.
“Besides being my biggest fan, my mother is a salesman and the best promoter,” the Vegas promoter turned singer said.