Latin rock band Malo were formed in San Francisco by ex-members of the Malibus and Naked Lunch. Led by vocalist Arcelio Garcia and guitarist Jorge Santana (brother of Carlos Santana), the band signed to Warner Bros. in 1971 and recorded its debut with David Rubinson, producer of fellow California-based acts the Chambers Brothers and Moby Grape, and a future close associate of Herbie Hancock. The album, self-titled, was released in early 1972 and was successful due to "Suavecito," a mellow romantic groove written by members Richard Bean, Pablo Tellez, and Abel Zarate that peaked at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became a low-rider classic.
Malo shed several members, including Bean and Zarate, and were unable to sustain that level of popularity. Dos, released later in 1972, and Evolution, released in 1973, were also produced by Rubinson and appealed to a declining crop of listeners who appreciated bold fusions of soul, rock, jazz, and Latin music. Both albums charted but sold poorly compared to the debut. Ascención, the final release of the band's first phase, followed in 1974 and continued the downward commercial trend, despite co-production from Fred Catero, who was known most for his work on Santana's Abraxas.
Later incarnations of Malo recorded and performed on a sporadic basis for the next few decades. Six albums were released on as many labels during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Meanwhile, "Suavecito" remained alive, included on numerous compilations and referenced in Sugar Ray's Top Five pop hit "Every Morning." Additionally, Rhino Handmade released ¡Celebración!: The Warner Bros. Recordings — a four-CD box set that included all four Warner albums and single versions. Garcia continued to lead the band into the 2010s. ~ Andy Kellman