Versatile band

The Compadres was a musical band that formed in the early 1960s as the Continentals. The group, at certain points in time, was also known as the Jass Society (1970-1973) and Tropic Voice (1979-1980). The original members consisted of teenagers from the southern village of Santa Rita including John Sarmiento, Phillip Santos, Frank Crisostomo, John Quintanilla, and George Santos. The musicians were later joined by Jesse Baleto, Andy Viernes, Joe Salas, and Bill and Joe Sarmiento.

The young musicians played at various parties throughout the village including weddings, christenings, and fiestas. At the onset of the Vietnam War, the group began to entertain at numerous military clubs throughout the island as the demand grew for musical entertainment for military personnel. The band played top forty music, island favorites, jazz, and almost anything that a particular venue, audience, or occasion demanded.

John Sarmiento, Philip Santos, John Quintanilla, Frank Crisostomo, and George Santos had their first off-island gig in Saipan. They played at the Officer’s Club at Capitol Hill. They were all minors and were sponsored by Frank D. Quan, who worked in Saipan. They left on a ship out of the old Commercial Port, in Naval Station. They played at the nightclub, as minors, for a month.

As time passed, the group saw its members come and go, but a core group consisting of Baleto, Viernes, Salas, and John, Bill, and Joe Sarmiento remained. They regrouped by the early 1970s, and as each of its members began to start their own families, they became godparents for each other’s children, and decided to rename the band: the Compadres. In Chamorro, kompådre is a term used to refer to the male godparent of one’s child or to refer to the father of one’s godchild.

The Compadres continued to grow in popularity throughout the island and added well-known musician Bill Muna to their group. They performed throughout Guam’s party and nightclub circuit, as well as in the neighboring island of Saipan, the US mainland, and various Asian cities. In addition to playing Guam’s party and nightclub circuit, the band also was involved in political campaigns writing many jingles for Guam’s politicians.

Many well-known Guam musicians at one time or another joined the Compadres including Richard Singubao, John and Bill Leon Guerrero, J.T. Taisague, Linda Guerrero, Joe “Fluffy” Mendiola, Antonio “Ning” Reyes, Peter Salas, Joseph “Ketch Ebang” Santos, Sal Di Amore, David Borja, and Carlos Laguana. Others performed alongside the band including Johnny Sablan, Jimmy Dee, the Reyes Brothers, the Charfauros Brothers, Jesse Bias, Ruby Santos, J.D. Crutch, Joe Cunningham, and Chuck McJohn.

The Compadres released their first album Eva in 1979 consisting entirely of original Chamorro songs mostly written by Baleto. They recorded and provided the musical instrumentation for popular local singer Johnny Sablan in his earlier albums and the Meskla Uno and Meskla Dos Albums. Eva was re-released as Hafa Adai Ginen Compadres some time in 2000.

Two original members of the Compadres, Baleto and Muna, have passed away. The remaining band members live on Guam and throughout the US mainland and continue to play music together when possible.

By James Perez Viernes