The celebration of Valentine’s Day February 12th is also known as St. Valentine’s Day of the Feast of Saint Valentine. I point out it is associated with romantic love and some of its historical significance. Well now that it is two days away, let’s weave a story about Westside music and Valentine’s Day!
Sunny and the Sunglows were formed by students at Burbank Vocational School in San Antonio, in 1959. The band members were lead singer Sunny Ozuna backed by Alfred Luna, Gilbert Fernandez, Tony Tostado, Jesse Oscar, and Ray Villanueva. I covered Sunny Ozuna a number of times at events where he and the band performed his music and watched him sing songs that are appropriate for Valentine’s Day.
Now according to historical data, the history of Valentine’s Day is obscure and further clouded by various fanciful legends. The holiday’s roots are in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that commemorated annually on February 15.
Pope Gelasius l recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day. What is confusing is that there were three early Christian saints by that name. Who knew? Rather astonishingly, all three Valentines were said to have been martyred on Feb. 14. What a coincidence!
Producer Huey Meaux produced the Sunglows’ cover of Little Willie John’s 1958 number five R&B hit “Talk to Me,” written by Joe Seneca. Issued on the Tear Drop label, “Talk to Me” is relevant, again appropriate for Valentine’s Day!
Every Month, “Every Year” hit number 11 pop and number 12 R&B on the Billboard charts in fall 1963 and on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. It sold over 250,000 copies and earned them a spot on — the first Tejano band to be featured on the popular TV show. After that appearance, personnel changes dictated that Ozuna change the band’s name to Sunny & the Sunliners.
Most scholars believe that the St. Valentine of the holiday was a priest who attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius ll around 270. At this stage, the factual ends and the mythical stories catch on in earnest.
According to one legend, Claudius II had prohibited marriage for young men, claiming that bachelors made better soldiers. Valentine continued to secretly perform marriage ceremonies.
Another legend has it that Valentine imprisoned by Claudius fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.”
Probably the most plausible story surrounding St. Valentine is one not focused on Eros (passionate love) but on Agape (Christian love): he was martyred for refusing to renounce his religion.
In 1969, the Catholic Church revised its liturgical calendar, removing the feast days of saints whose historical origins were questionable. St. Valentine was one of the casualties.
When I was Justice of the Peace I performed a few weddings on St. Valentine’s Day. The most memorable was one where I performed it at a flea market in the concession office on Fredericksburg Road where they met, fell in love and exchanged vows. We call that “True love.”
That was definitely a unique wedding.
As stated earlier, Valentine’s Day was first associated with romantic love in 18th-century England. That is where it evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, and sending greeting cards known as “Valentines.” Westside Sonny Ozuna’s music plays to that.
Those Valentine’s Day symbols are used today to include the heart-shaped, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
Let us not forget former Commissioner Paul Elizondo who I wrote a tribute to him after his recent untimely death. Not only did he have a band performing Valentine music around San Antonio, but he served for 17 years as a bandmaster at Burbank High School! Shout out to the Westside Musicians!