Clients / Artists / AB Quintanilla

Imagine a young man's flight from poverty, from denial to embrace of his heritage, from a dream attained to a dream shattered, a rise and fall and rise again, to achievements unprecedented in his field …

That, in bare outline, is the life of A. B. Quintanilla -- or, more accurately, the first stage in the life of this extraordinary musician, producer, songwriter, loyal family member, and survivor.

True, he had a head start in a way; when his sister Selena shone as the brightest young star in Latin music, A. B. was at her side, producing her records, writing her hits, playing bass onstage with her in their family's band.

But in the dark years that followed her passing in 1995, A. B. had to fight back toward the light on his own. It was, as he says now, an experience "I would not wish on my worst enemy," yet it was also undeniably a trial from which one either emerges strong or doesn't emerge at all.
Today, Quintanilla can look back on a history of rare accomplishment even as he builds on a foundation for conquests to come. He's won Grammys and BMI songwriting awards, founded and led one of the most popular bands in the modern Latin market, built a studio complex that lets him produce hits without straying far from his roots in Texas. Like his sister, A. B. has built a unique sound in his music by drawing from diverse sources of inspiration. And he's gearing up to explore areas untouched by other musical entrepreneurs.

As the Latin music boom builds, A. B. Quintanilla's contributions will only grow greater. Yet no matter how many careers he launches, or how much he helps to enrich America's changing soundscape, he will never turn his back on the past, on the lessons learned through hardship as well as love.

Abraham Quintanilla III was born in Toppenish, Washington, the first child of Abraham II and Marcela. Just three months after his birth, the family moved down to Lake Jackson, Texas, where A. B. and his younger sisters, Selena and Suzette, were raised.

For the first eighteen years of his life, A. B. spoke English exclusively. "We spoke zero Spanish at home," he remembers. "As a matter of fact, I hated everything related to Spanish, including Spanish music. Lake Jackson was predominantly Anglo; Suzette and I were two of only ten Hispanics at our school. I wanted to fit in, so all I listened to at the time was Journey, Boston, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and things like that."

All that changed when the family moved again, this time to Corpus Christi. "This was predominantly a Mexican-American community," A. B. says, "and that made me turn a 360. I'd go around the corner, and there's a Mexican bakery, with products from Mexico. I'd turn on the radio station, and I'd hear Latin-flavored music instead of rock & roll. And I'd hang out with other Mexican-American kids; they all knew Spanish, and I didn't."

As A. B. and his sisters learned Spanish, they also began playing gigs as Selena Y Los Dinos. Although his father founded the group, A. B. was their leader; from running rehearsals to calling the shots onstage, he displayed a take-charge tendency from the start. His father, however, held the creative reins, which led to a problem at one of their first appearances. After booking Los Dinos to perform at a country club event for senior citizens, he put together a set list of country music and drilled his kids on what he assumed would be appropriate for a sedate, older crowd. "We played these songs, and nobody was dancing," A. B. laughs. "Someone gave us a check; they actually paid us to leave! Then this deejay rolls in. He starts playing KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer -- all this disco stuff that kids were listening to at the time. And these senior citizens were boogying down! I was so mad, because Dad made us learn a bunch of old songs." With that, a new direction opened for Los Dinos. Nurtured by a growing interest in their heritage, the Quintanillas began exploring Mexican-American genres in their first album, a mixture of original and cover songs, in 1984, and hunkered down into a life on the road, playing anywhere and everywhere they could find an opportunity. It seemed an endless grind, and after a while even the kids began to get discouraged. "I got tired of being broke," A. B. admits. "Half the time our equipment didn't work, because we were hauling it in a wooden trailer that leaked humidity into the power supply. When I wasn't on the road, I was sleeping on the floor in my uncle's house. To me, it was all headaches and no return, and to be honest I got to the point where I wanted to give up the family dream." "But then Dad took us down to Ocean Drive. He said to us, 'One day you guys are going to live in million-dollar homes. You're going to have tour buses and eighteen-wheelers. You're going to play the Astrodome. You're going to win Grammys.' I remember thinking, 'my dad's losing it! He's whack!' But he was actually a man with a vision, and somehow that was enough to keep us focused." The more they worked, the tighter a team they became. Selena, the youngest, was the headliner, already winning attention before she was ten years old. Suzette played drums and handled the marketing. A. B. wrote the songs, ran the show, and produced their studio sessions. Their father provided management and guidance. Hard times slowly gave way to success; all of it, the negative and the positive, drew them more tightly together. By the early Nineties Selena Y Los Dinos, augmented now by a band of blazing sidemen, were drawing rapturous support from fans throughout the southwestern United States and south through Mexico and into Central America. As the major architect of Selena's sound, A. B. was integrating an array of influences, from Latin Pop through tejano and cumbia, and writing most of their material with his sister. Finishing and recording a song with her, and then seeing audiences singing along with it at their concerts, proved both an inspiring and humbling experience, while watching, a step or two from the spotlight, as Selena became an international phenomenon taught A. B. invaluable lessons about fame. "I learned what to do and what not to do," he says, "even down to the simple things. Like, Selena always referred to 'the fans'; she never said 'my fans,' because that's like patting yourself on the back, and besides they're not your fans to own; they can also be fans of Garth Brooks, Aerosmith, or anyone else. Being a little bit on the outside allowed me to learn things like that from my little sister." This beautiful ride came to its end with Selena's passing in 1995. For a year A. B. reeled from the shock. Having to give loving support to his parents, deal with well-meaning messages from fans whose comments only kept the emotional wounds open, and battle against "pirates" attempting to exploit the tragedy for their own benefit, left him bruised and vulnerable. "I had nothing to fall back on," he remembers. "I won't lie to you: I was a little out of control. I was very angry. I went to see a psychiatrist. I did some drinking. It's very difficult up to this day, but back then I was having a very hard time. Eventually, music brought A. B. back from the abyss. "I'm not sure how much time had passed, but one day I finally shook myself and said, 'She wouldn't want me to be doing this.' I remembered that we had actually talked about this once, about how we would go on if any of us passed away. I never imagined it would be her, but I knew what I had to do. So I started writing again." His first effort was for the singer Thalía, who scored a hit with A. B.'s "Amandote." He followed this with "Te Quiero, Te Amo," written for David Lee Garza as belated repayment for his appearance on accordion nearly ten years before on an early Selena session. Other work came in quick sequence, for Cristian Castro, for Mexican pop star Verónica Castro and her son Cristian, for the Puerto Rican merengue chanteuse Olga Tañón. Though helpful in bringing him back to action, this work still left A. B. feeling unfulfilled. "For every ten cuts on any Selena album, I wrote maybe eight of them," he says. "I wasn't used to just taking nibbles, an occasional song for someone else, here and there. Also, I began to realize that I missed playing. Then one day, two ladies came up to me in a mall and said, 'What are you doing? You're songwriting is beautiful, but your sister would want you to get out there are represent the family.' And with that, I knew I had to put a band together again." For the next year and a half A. B. devoted himself to creating the Kumbia Kings, a razor-sharp eight-piece band that could play with authority in a number of styles. With A. B. writing and producing, the Kings released their debut album, Amor, Familia Y Respeto, in 2000. The feel is a mélange of Latin and other elements, with a multicultural array of guest artists that includes Sheila E, cumbia saxophonist Fito Olivares, R&B vocal harmonizers Nu Flavor, Puerto Rican rapper Vico-C, and, in one of his last performances, techno-funk innovator Roger Trautman. Sales of Amor, Familia Y Respeto were hot out of the gate; as of now, more than a million copies have sold throughout the U.S. and Mexico. A.B. Kumbia Kings followed in early 2001 with SHHH!, which broke out in its first week at Number 2 among Latin releases and refused to drop from the charts for nearly two years; All Mixed Up: The Remixes, a daring transplant of remix artistry into the Latin market, in 2002; and 4 in March 2003, another genre-juggling project that veered between Spanish and English, R&B balladry and electro-cumbia, and innovative fusions of pop, reggae, hip-hop, and vallenatos. All-star appearances by Aleks Syntek, El Gran Silencio, and the Grammy-winning group Ozomatli brought extra dimension to the Kings' already encompassing style; one track, a cover of the Mexican icon Juan Gabriel's "No Tengo Dinero," is an historic wrap of the classic and the cutting edge, with Gabriel and Monterrey's rock/rap powerhouse El Gran Silencio both backed by the Kings. Another track, “Don’t Wanna Try”, is an R&B hit. Along the way they broke attendance records at the San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo, duplicated Selena's feat of selling out the Astrodome three times, racked up four Billboard Awards, seventeen Tejano Music Awards, four Furia Musical Awards, two Ritmo Latino Award, a Premio Lo Nuestro Award . But as the Kings' star rose, A. B. was already looking beyond the horizons of their success. Relocating from Corpus Christi to McAllen, Texas, he founded King Of Bling as a label, talent agency, and recording company. Under the KOB umbrella, he has pursued plans as traditional as album production (recent clients include Paulina Rubio) and an upcoming television project. In the middle of 2006 the group was going through an aggressive line-up change, therefore A.B. decided to change the name of the group to Kumbia All Starz. The newly Kumbia King styled ensemble released their first album on October 3, 2006 appropriately titled, From Kumbia Kings to Kumbia All-Starz which immediately launched super hits such as "Chiquilla", "Parece Que Va A Llover", and "Speedy Gonzalez". Quintanilla continued to tour with "Kumbia All Starz", while the album would go on to sell near a half a million copies. In September of 2007, A.B. took the group back into the studio to accomplish one thing: to make the best album that he could possibly make. The group spent four months of hard dedication and long hours in studio in order to achieve Quintanilla’s goal. Quintanilla explained, “If we would run into a wall, and the vibe was not there, I just would just say ‘Pack it up. We will start again tomorrow.’ I’m not going create something that I am not absolutely in love with.” Taking on a very “futuristic” theme, the highly anticipated new album, Planeta Kumbia will be released on March 4, 2008. The band is currently promoting the album with the first club anthem single, “Por Ti Baby” which features collaboration with break out Panamanian sensation, Flex. A.B. describes this album as, “something that I have put every ounce of my mind, body, and soul into for the past four months. If this album does not make you move or touch your heart in some way, then I do not feel that I have done my job. Music is my job. That is what I do.” It all adds up to a portrait of an artist in transition, leaving a past spangled with darkness and light and moving toward a more varied career in service to the music he loves. "I'm very thankful and grateful to God that I'm here and my sister is not forgotten," he says. "There was only one Selena, just as there's only one Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, only one Quincy Jones, only one Babyface, only one Emilio Estefan … and there's only one A. B. Quintanilla. I'm here to stay."