Dr. Carlos Morales saw the man from a distance. Watching as he collapsed to the ground he did what he was trained to do — raced to help. As he neared the down man, ready to start CPR, the man’s wife jumped in and said, “Don’t worry, Doc. He’s just drunk.”
So the doc went back to work — on stage at an event on South Padre Island. He picked up his guitar and joined his fellow Renaissance Rockers and rocked on.
Dr. Carlos Cardenas (Dr. CC), Dr. Carlos Morales (Dr. Mo) and Dr. Noel Oliveira (Dr. No) began by jamming together around three years ago.
“Don Chilo (Don Chilo’s in Penitas) and I were talking guitars and he said, ‘You guys ought to come out sometime. We could have a really good time,’” said Dr. CC.
Talking up the gig to his other jammers, they weren’t sure it was such a good idea, being so close to the river. But they pushed on and found Cecilio Garza, who owns the bar, to be a world class musician who was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame.
“That gig provided the spark which helped us get together as a band,” Dr. CC said. “The next thing you know, we’re playing these gigs the first Thursday of every month at Don Chilo’s and friends and patients are showing up to watch.” Ron Yoder came on board as their bass player.
This is certainly not a new thing for these doctors first, musicians second.
Born and raised in McAllen, Dr. CC knew he was going to be a doctor at 8 years of age.
“I thought about what would happen if I didn’t get into med school,” he said. “But in my mind I was going to get in and do medicine. That’s what I was meant to do. It defines me. It’s what I am.”
Though a trombone player for the school band, he secretly played guitar since he was 14 years old.
“I never played outside my closet and didn’t ever think I would ever be on stage.”
Learning to read music was the good that came out of being forced to take piano lessons by his mom, a definite asset in developing his music. Then one day at a party, many years later, he was asked to get up and play.
“‘It only takes three chords to play this song,’ Dr. No said to me. He taught me the chords and said, ‘You can do it! You just have to stand up there and strum. Nobody will know the difference,’” Dr. CC said. That was the start of the Renaissance Rockers, but not until Don Chilo’s did they know this was going to be their band. “We really hit the ground running ever since.”
Dr. Mo knew at age 8 he wanted to be a cardiologist.
“It never crossed my mind to be anything else.” However, he did have other interests. “I had a garage band called the Black Jackets when I was 13 years old back in El Salvador. I also played guitar before I started medical school and then medical school interrupted my musical career,” he said, chuckling.
About seven years ago he was invited to play a gig when someone found out he used to play guitar.
“We played at Pepe’s on the River Bar and Grill,” said Dr. Mo. “Even though I was a little rusty in the beginning, I realized it was fun to do and I haven’t stopped doing it since then.”
Dr. No, born and raised in the Valley, played guitar for his church choir. Joining bands in college, he started A-Fib & the Arrythmics during med school. Yes, he too, knew at 8 years that medicine was in his future.
“My mom tells the story to everybody — ‘He came to me when he was in third grade and said, ‘I’m going to be a doctor,’”said Dr. No. “I never wavered off that. First, I became a registered pharmacist then I went to med school.”
He’s also a star — having played a bit role on ER and, after helping write an episode, they named the doctor in the episode Dr. Oliveira!
What thrills these doctors more than anything in their second passion of music is what has become their ability to help raise funds for worthy causes.
“We wanted to note that one of the mottos for our band is “Rocking for the Cause and a Cure,” said Dr. No.
Whether it’s Rocking for Diabetes for the Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association which is one of their favorite charities, Rocking for a Cure for Cancer for the Renaissance Cancer Foundation, Make A Wish, Haitian Relief Jam, Fishing for Hope — to name a few — the docs rock out and love every second of it.
“It’s definitely three or four hours of forgetting all else when you get up there,” said Dr. No. “It’s also an energizer — a lot of dancing and jamming.”
“My wife likes that I can relax and have a hobby which is actually pretty healthy and can make people happy, at least for a few hours,” Dr. Mo said.
“And raise a lot of money,” said Dr. No. “My wife likes that we raise a lot of money for the community.”
All told, the Renaissance Rockers have raised over a million dollars for local charities. Ironically, rockin’ out, they feel, has made them better doctors.
“It keeps me pretty close to my patients,” Dr. Mo said. “It’s very important they are not only my patients but they are my friends. I have a lot of Winter Texan friends who I’ve been seeing on a yearly basis for the past seven years who come to watch us play.”
“Being out front of a lot of these issues makes us better physicians because we’re supporting our community,” said Dr. CC, who, by the way, was one of the originators and is current Chairman of the Board of the Renaissance Hospital.
Unique from other bands because of their “cause,” they have become a stronghold in this community with different entities relying on them to ensure a successful event.
During the Winter Texan season they’ll play for different parks and never know what to expect.
“We never know who’s in the audience,” Dr. CC said. “Once there was a fellow sitting out there with a saxophone and he says, ‘You mind if I get up and play with ya’ll?’ We found out he was a band director for over 30 years and could play the saxophone like you never heard it. It took us to another level!”
Then there was the time a man offered to buy them a beer if they would let his wife sing. Sure, they said, game for anything. She asked if they could play Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” They said yes and she let it rip! She was fantastic.
Playing everything from oldies rock and roll, ‘70s, ‘80, even some ‘90s, country, blues, waltzes and polkas, the docs plan to keep on learning more songs and rockin’ on, rockin’ on.
“When I retire, my wife and I are going to buy a RV and travel around the country, playing at all the parks,” Dr. Mo said with glee. The only catch — each doc has to have their own rig to go play all those gigs. “She’s not letting them bunk in with us.”
For now, they’ll follow their two passions — helping people get well using their medical talents and their musical talents.
“Our music is never too far from us,” said Dr. Mo. “We have music when we are working every day.”
“Our employees are happy. I think our band is a manifestation of the energy that’s in this place,” said Dr. CC. “I’m happy every day I come to work here at the hospital.” And you can just bet, that keeps them all a rockin’!
To check their schedule go to www.rennroxx.blogspot.com