Jazz musician, accomplished bassist

Carlos Cruz Laguana was born on 4 November 1925, and died at age 65 on 30 June 1991. He was a banker by profession, but is best remembered for his musical prowess as a bassist.

Laguana’s favorite instrument was the upright bass. Laguana played at weddings, christenings, and birthday parties. He also played on the military and civilian nightclub circuits in the late 1940s through the early 1960s. Laguana played at clubs such as The McCombo, an enlisted men’s club at US Naval Station, Ricky’s Suburban Club, Breakers Club, and the Casino Garden.

Some of the musicians he played with included the late trumpet player Ignacio “Sunshine” Santos; saxophone player Johnny Chaco; pianist Jose Kamminga Gogue; guitarist Kelly Carbullido; the Gumabon brothers; the late guitarist “Ding” Palomo (father of noted musician Patrick Palomo); and brothers Forrest Harris and “Deanie” Harris, lead guitarist and drummer, respectively.

Aside from being an accomplished bassist and guitarist, Laguana also played instruments such as the piano, violin, mandolin, bass, banjo, and accordion with relative ease. Laguana’s most cherished possession, however, was an old German-made concertina-like instrument (called an atmoniko in Chamorro) owned and played by his father, the late Jose Padilla Laguana. When his father died in 1960s, Carlos Laguana claimed possession of the atmoniku by virtue of the fact that he was the eldest and only child who learned to play the instrument.

Laguana is remembered as being a self-taught musician whose love of music motivated him to learn and play just about any instrument, except the drums. Laguana loved and drew inspriration from artists including Glenn Miller, Louie Armstrong and Les Brown and his band “Renown.” Some of the more memorable jazz standards Laguana loved to play includw “Misty,” “Satin Doll,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,” “Nearness of You,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Stardust,” “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” “Perdido,” “How High the Moon,” “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole, and “Pennies from Heaven.”

Laguana had ten children, all of whom he passed on his love and talent for music to. His daughter, Lillian, and sons, Carlos and Lawrence, are well-known musicians on Guam who followed in their father’s example and love for the jazz genre.

By James Perez Viernes, PhD

Editor’s note: The photos and initial research for this entry is courtesy of Mico and Stevie Scott’s Jazz on Guam: An Oral History, a project funded by the Guam Humanities Council and in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.