The charismatic conguero who gave the band its Latin sabor, Arturo (“Turo”) Lomas Garza (1950-2016) was an original member of the legendary Austin band Beto and the Fairlanes. For four decades, he charmed audiences with his big smile and captivating rhythms. His three wood gon bops congas (which he called “the kids”) were his signature. While he regularly played congas, timbal, bongos, cowbell and hand percussion, Turo could and did turn anything into an instrument: a plastic tabletop, an upturned bucket, and, if nothing else was available, his body. Music was his heartbeat, and for years he would work a full week and perform Thursday through Saturday nights.
With Beto and the Fairlanes, Turo was especially familiar to Texas audiences as a regular at
Austin’s Liberty Lunch, Houston Rockefeller’s, and Corpus Christi and San Antonio Jazz Festivals. He loved to play with the audience while on stage, directing attention to his bandmates’ solos and reacting to Beto’s stage chatter. An exceptional percussionist, Turo was also an exceptional performer, who never forgot the audience he was there to entertain.
Turo also performed and recorded with many other Austin musicians, notably his long-time friend Tomás Ramírez, “the Jazzmanian Devil,” and Tish Hinojosa, whom he called his “other sister.” Turo, who had a gift for making and sustaining lifelong friendships, gave generously of his time, talent and energy to support other musicians on and off the stage. A PCB layout designer by day, he also played in the Cirrus Logic corporate band, Logic 55, to raise money for Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).
As VP for Fable Records and a studio musician, Turo worked on countless productions for a variety of Austin musicians. He loved to be in the studio, not just as recording artist, but as a producer, listening and working for the perfect sound. His recording credits are many.
In recent years, Turo turned his talents to videography, producing the award-winning documentary Paper Cutouts to Steel; projects documenting the World War II experience of his father Mucio Garza and Gilberto Lorea; and many, many music videos with Infynit Media to support Austin musicians. Turo’s video projects also include a 2009 short for Austin Jazz Society, to promote the Austin Jazz Festival. This video features interviews with Tony Campise, Kat Edmondson, Gabriel Santiago, Stephen Summer, Brannen Temple, and Ephraim Owens.
In addition to playing, producing and promoting music and musicians, Turo was an avid and
accomplished dancer, well known in the Austin salsa dance community. He loved to move from floor to stage and back again, sitting in with the Brew between dances, or dancing with his wife Kat between Beto sets.
Turo was born into a family of artists in Kingsville, TX on September 12, 1950. He played piano, trumpet, and drums from a young age. When he was still a kid, he played percussion with one of the great Tejano bands, Conjunto Bernal. At Texas A & I in Kingsville, he studied pre-engineering and music. But, as he told the story, in 1971, he moved to Austin, seeking an eccentric drummer, Mambo Johnny Treanor. He found Mambo, along with Robert Skiles, Michael Mordecai, and artist Henry Gonzalez. For the next forty-five years, he wove his life into the city’s culture and iconic venues.
In the midst of an abundant life, Turo died unexpectedly, of a pulmonary embolism, at home in the arms of his wife Kat, May 2, 2016.
Turo’s video feature for the 2009 Austin Jazz Society:
Beto on Infynit Hour:
Tish on Infynit Hour: