Charo serves up amazing guitar talent along with comic talent

Charo, famous flamenco guitarist and comedienne, brings her talent to the Phil next Wednesday.

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Charo, famous flamenco guitarist and comedienne, brings her talent to the Phil next Wednesday.

What: Charo, at the Daniels Pavilion at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts as part of the Cabaret Series

When: 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 14

Where: Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples

Tickets: Starting at $49

To purchase: 239-597-1900 or tor visit www.ThePhil.org.

— It may come as no surprise that Charo is a noisy neighbor.

The Spanish star is most famous for her big blonde bouffant, risqué clothes, outrageous accent and one very notable catchphrase, "cuchi-cuchi," which was actually a nickname for a childhood dog. What she's less known for, at least in America, is being an exceptionally talented musician.

And talented musicians like to throw parties, Charo explains.

In the Beverly Hills neighborhood she calls home when she's not touring, that habit often leads to a little official intervention. Charo's mariachi band and flamenco-filled soirees have prompted her neighbors to call the police on more than one occasion, she admits.

"Other than that, it's a nice neighborhood," she said in a recent phone interview.

Anyone wanting to get a taste of Charo's celebrated musical abilities will have the chance to do so when she performs in the Daniels Pavilion at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts on March 13 and 14. Each appearance has two performances, at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Charo called the show she is going to present "a knockout."

The first part of the program is high-energy and modern, ideal for attendees of all ages. The second part is more classical concert style, an opportunity for audiences to understand what she can truly do with a guitar.

Expect to leave amazed, Charo promises, because that's what always happens. Even after five decades performing in the United States, the most frequent comment she continues to hear from audiences is that they had no idea she could play guitar so well.

The other comment she hears most often is that no one can understand what she's saying, she jokes.

But there's no doubt that Charo earned her musical chops. Born Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza in Murcia, Spain, Charo started studying guitar when she was a child. Her teacher was the Flamenco guitarist Andres Segovia, regarded as one of the most important classical guitarists of the modern era.

The lessons she learned with Segovia remain with her today, she said; even now, she still doesn't use a guitar pick.

"If he ever catch us using the pick, he throw us out of school," Charo said of Segovia.

In her teenage years, Charo was already appearing in Spanish films and recording music. By the 1960s, she had hit America. Flamenco is well known now, but when she first arrived, no one had ever heard of the musical style. She remembers how on one of her early television appearances, she showed up on the set "with my guitar in my hand and asked the producer, 'Can I play flamenco?' And he said, 'Little girl, we don't have any flamingo birds for you to play. This is not a zoo.'

"I don't know if he was joking or if he was stupid," she recalled.

It hardly mattered. By the 1970s, Charo was a smash, headlining Las Vegas shows. In the 1970s and early 1980s, her television guest appearances became a regular fixture on programs such as "The Love Boat" and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."

By the mid-1980s, Charo was ready for a change. Seeking a quiet place to raise the son she had with her second husband, Kjell Rasten, she headed to Hawaii. The choice meant giving up millions of dollars, but the right answer was "loud and clear."

"I think I'm a hell of a good mother," she said, laughing.

For the next 10 years, she produced and starred in "Tropical Heat" at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort in Waikiki. During that time, she began working on "Guitar Passion," a flamenco album that went on to win Female Artist Album of the Year at the 1995 Billboard International Latin Music Conference. It's not the only accolade she's earned for her flamenco guitar playing: Guitar Magazine has twice voted her Best Classical Flamenco Guitarist in the World.

Working in Waikiki also gave her a chance to learn Japanese, since about 60 percent of the audience was visiting from that country. Still, when it comes to doing comedy, she prefers to deliver her zingers in English, she said.

"It's the greatest country in the world for a good comedienne," she said. "The mind of the American is fast, it's strong, it's quick."

In recent years, she has returned to television and to Las Vegas. And she's partnered with her son, Shel, now a musician and songwriter, to create new songs for her ever-expanding musical repertoire. One of Charo's most recent singles, a dance track called "Sexy, Sexy," was written by her son; originally, he intended the song for Britney Spears.

But when Charo heard the song, she had other ideas, and pulled rank as his mother.

"I said, screw Britney Spears. I like what I hear. This is mine," she said.

As much as she likes performing a dance track such as "Sexy, Sexy," there is nothing than can replace flamenco, she explains.

"When I pick up the guitar, I am perhaps 300 years back," she said. "This is no more techno. This is art and respect."

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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