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Romance Singer Celebrates 100 Year Milestone

Monterey Park resident Martin Becerra fidgets with his newsboy cap in one hand and grasps his cane with another as he sits up in his armchair to answer questions with a dapper smile and the soothing voice of a former singer. On Monday the former Mexican romance singer and radio host celebrated his 100th birthday with close family and friends, marking a century full of accomplishments, including his greatest passion — music.

Last Saturday Becerra sat down with EGP to recollect his past endeavors.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Intérprete de Canciones Románticas Celebra 100 Años de Vida [1]

Though Becerra humbly says his accomplishments are few, the retired entertainer’s musical career feats range from singing in popular Mexican trio bands, to serving as the master of ceremonies at numerous musical performances at the historic Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

Martin Becerra, pictured, celebrated his 100th birthday at his home in Monterey Park. (EGP photo by Ileana Najarro)

“I must thank life for having put me in the places I was meant to be in,” he told EGP.

His century-long journey in music started in Ocotlán, Jalisco, in Mexico. Born to Casimiro Becerra and Virginia Ochoa in 1912, Becerra grew up with a love for all kinds of music, especially classic Mexican romance ballads.

“Ever since I was a young boy, I loved the romantic music’s melody because it knew how to say what human beings feel,” Becerra said in Spanish.

By the age of 20 Becerra had officially ventured into a musical career performing renditions of hit romantic ballads with various duets and trios in Mexico including Los Cancioneros del Sur and the Trio Guayacan, which he co-founded. Around the same time, under the guidance of the then artistic director of the music company Discos Peerless, Guillermo Kornhauser, Becerra formed the popular duet Martin y Eloísa with Eloísa Gomez, who due to illness was replaced by Magdalena Perez to form Martin y Malena. In his duet run Becerra produced some of his more popular songs including “Mi casita de paja,” “Paloma consentida,” and “Mi virgen Ranchera.”

Becerra, in his younger years as a singer.

Georgina Gregorio, the eldest of Becerra’s two daughters, recalls growing up listening to her father sing almost anywhere.

“He would be driving and then all of a sudden he would start singing,” Gregorio said nostalgically.

One of Gregorio’s fondest memories of her father’s singing was not on the radio, record, or on stage, but of him lovingly singing the song “Marta” to his younger daughter of the same name. To this day, her father’s singing career is still recognized, Gregorio said.

“Sometimes I hear people my age or younger say ‘oh my mother used to hear him all the time’” Georgina said.

In 1948 Becerra came to Los Angeles to pioneer a daytime radio show in Spanish on KWKW during which he served as a “housewife DJ,” said Gregorio, referring to the main demographic of his audience.

Becerra’s radio hosting spanned a great part of his life; he retired from the show at 90 years old. While music was his passion, and he interviewed many musical stars on his show, Becerra said working in radio is his proudest achievement.

“[Radio hosting] gave me the opportunity to reach the general public, especially the more sensitive ones,” Becerra said.

His granddaughter-in-law, Natalie Gregorio, said she admires Becerra’s accessibility to his radio audience and his daughter Georgina, compliments the way his audience would warmly receive him.

Becerra also often served as the master of ceremonies for shows at the Million Dollar Theatre until its closing in 1982. He introduced some of the biggest names of the Golden Age, such as Jose Alfred Jimenez, Pedro Infante, Dolores del Rio, Vicente Fernandez, and many others.
Now comfortably enjoying retirement, Becerra said he’s excited to have reached the 100-year milestone, but admits, “the years weigh heavily” on him these days.

Becerra said he has a wish for his fans: “A million dollars for everybody.”

As for his secret to living a long life, Becerra said: “There are no secrets, only efforts. You must dedicate yourself, have faith in yourself, and truly have a feel for what you want.”

Becerra’s family will hold a special mass in his honor at St. Thomas More Church in Alhambra on Friday July 6.