Bob Morales

In the 1987 movie “La Bamba”, Bob Morales was portrayed by actor Esai Morales as a careless, impetuous, somewhat irresponsible but nonetheless caring older brother to Ritchie Valens, the musical prodigy that hailed from Pacoima.

The biopic told the story of how a young boy who attended Pacoima Junior High and San Fernando High School became a Rock ‘n Roll icon whose music still reverberates and lives on today.

Esai Morales, the actor who played Bob Morales in the film  has said that the the man he portrayed,  “contributed to an honest telling of his brother’s and family’s story, infusing it with heart, pain and depth”, as shown in the painful final scenes of the film that show him crying over the news that shook the music world, that announced the death of Ritchie in a plane crash that became known as “The Day the Music Died.  Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., aka as The Big Booper and Buddy Holly also died in that crash .

Last weekend, the news traveled via social media that Bob Morales, who proudly carried his little brother’s legacy, has gone to join him.  Morales passed away this past weekend in Watsonville, California where he livved with his wife and children. He was 81.

Olivia Morales, his daughter, posted a notice on Facebook confirming his death.

(italics begins) “On behalf of myself and my beautiful Mom Joanie Morales we want to thank everyone one for your prayers and positive vibes. Tonight our hero made his final journey to heaven where he was reunited with his brother Ritchie, his Mom and my Brother Brandon (sic),” she wrote.

“He was at home with his loving family, right where he wanted to be, my Momma by his side. We have the strength of our creator to guide us through this journey. There is not enough gratitude in the world to thank my sister without you we would be lost. 

“We are so blessed to have the family we do, there was an abundance of LOVE in our home as our king made his journey. I wish I had enough brain power to go name by name and thank you but you know who you are. We LOVE you Dad xoxo FOREVER!”. (italics ends) 

Gil Rocha, the leader of Silouettes, that put Ritchie Valens on the route to stardom, said the film “La Bomba,” is somewhat embellished, including it’s depiction of Morales, what is accurate is that,  “Bob had a “heart of gold. “Ritchie and Bob had a really loving relationship and while Bob was older, he  struggled with learning disabilities and he watched Ritchie as he did things and it helped him along.”  

After Ritchie’s death in 1959, Bob became a substance abuser and suffered from depression. He also admitted to abusing his girlfriend, Rosie, which is depicted in the movie.

According to the website Remezcla, Bob was a notorious weed smoker who was always involved in the music scene with a group called “Guitars not Guns”.

In an interview with Internet site Lowrider Network in 2015, Bob said he eventually got a job as a rehabilitation worker at a detox center in Watsonville, California. During his time there, he met his wife Joanie.

In 2012, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent 42 radiation therapies in 42 days. Then depression set in, according to Lowrider.

“I had no ambition or motivation to do anything,” he told Lowrider. “The doctor told me to drink a lot of water to wash everything out of my system. A few months passed by and I started to feel a lot better. When I went back for testing, most of my cancer cells were gone.” Bob was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and had multiple remissions with the disease.  

Services for Morales are still pending and there are discussions to possibly have services in Watsonville as well as a memorial in the Northeast San Fernando Valley however no firm announcement has yet been made.