February 3, 1959 – Ritchie Valens was born Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes on May 13, 1941 in Pacoima, California. Of Mexican decent he was brought up hearing traditional Mexican mariachi music, as well as flamenco guitar, R&B and jump blues. He expressed an interest in making music of his own by the age of 5.
Growing in Pacoima, Valens developed a love of music early on and learned to play a number of different instruments. But the guitar soon became his passion. And he found inspiration from various sources, ranging from traditional Mexican music to popular R&B acts to innovative rock performers like Little Richard.
At 16, Valens joined his first band, the Silhouettes. The group played local gigs, and Valens was spotted at one of these performances by Bob Keane, the head of the Del-Fi record label. With Keane’s help, the young performer was about to have a career breakthrough.