It’s been a rough decade for Gabby Gaborno, of the legendary SoCal bands Cadillac Tramps and Manic Hispanic.
He’s battled diabetes, liver problems and renal failure. He’s suffered a serious stroke and a heart attack. And shortly after his 50th birthday, late last year, he was told he has liver cancer.
To help the much-loved musician pay his medical bills, some friends have set up a GoFundMe campaign.
During a recent phone interview, Gaborno said doctors initially missed the cancer at the Orange County medical center where he was getting treatment. He’s now being treated at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.
“My stomach was getting jacked up, and I was puking for days at a time,” Gaborno said. “I had gotten CTs here in Orange County, and they missed (the cancer). They missed it for a while, and I went to Cedars-Sinai to start treatment—and they said I had a baseball sized tumor. I don’t know how they missed it here, but they caught it up there.
“You know, it’s a good thing that they found it, and we’re addressing it—but radiation sucks fucking ass, man. They put these radiation beads up in your liver. But I’ve been through worse in my time. I have to go in for an MRI, and they’ll tell me how it’s going from that point.”
While the Cadillac Tramps don’t have the mainstream rock legacy the band deserves, the Tramps are one of the best-known punk bands to come out of the Orange County scene. Later on, Tramps guitarist Jonny Wickersham (Jonny Two Bags—playing tonight, Friday, Feb. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s) went on to join Social Distortion, while Gaborno went on to start Manic Hispanic with Steve Soto of the Adolescents. During a recent interview with the Independent in January, Wickerham talked about how the Cadillac Tramps were formed while he and Gaborno were trying to get clean and kick their drug habits.
Gaborno elaborated on that time.
“I met Jonny many years ago, and we were both from this place called the Hampton House, and we were kicking dope and trying to get clean at the time. There was this beat-up guitar—like someone punched a hole in it—and Jonny picked that guitar up, and I was like, ‘Man, this kid can really play!’ We sat down and started writing songs at that recovery center, and the winos would look at us and go, ‘Ha ha! There goes the Cadillac Tramps!’ Friday night, we’d take our fucking beat-up jeans and try to iron them, and the old winos would start laughing. That’s how we got our name.”
Gaborno and Wickersham would have the last laugh: They soon found themselves on tour with Pearl Jam and traveling throughout the country. Gaborno expressed pride in what the Cadillac Tramps have managed to accomplish.
“If these are the end of days for me—which I don’t believe they are—but if they are: Wow! What a good life.”
Manic Hispanic, a group of Latino punk-rock musicians from various well-known bands such as Agent Orange and the Adolescents, performs Latino-themed spoofs of punk-rock hits. For instance, Rancid’s “Ruby Soho” is “Rudy Cholo,” and The Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away” is “The INS Took My Novia Away.”
“Me and Steve Soto were starving musicians, and we were working in the back of a warehouse at a record company,” Gaborno said. “We would laugh, because we would get the mail from a lot of different characters who wanted to get signed. We noticed the kids were starting to wear Pendleton shirts at that time and starting to grab on to that old neighborhood look. For us, it was the funniest and greatest thing to see. That’s how Manic Hispanic formed. Steve came up with the idea—because it was punk-rock kids dressing like cholos.”
Has any punk band ever been upset by the parodies of their songs?
“Not one band! As a matter of a fact, Social Distortion was like, ‘Hey, man, how about doing a Social D cover?’ That’s when we came out with ‘Mommy’s Little Cholo.’ If Manic does a cover, the band (being covered) goes, ‘OK, we’re in the book!’
“I’m working on one now called ‘Beso,’ which is basically ‘KISS’ in Spanish. Imagine KISS makeup and a mariachi outfit: ‘I Want to Tuck and Roll All Night and Metal Flake Every Day.’ Oh, and ‘T.J. RockC ity.’”
While Gaborno is a punk-rock wild-man onstage, he’s also a born-again Christian. He said his faith is even stronger since his cancer diagnosis.
“It was kind of like a backroom deal,” he said. “I was at UCLA and had a lot of health issues. The doctor back then said, ‘Hey, man, why don’t you just go and enjoy the rest of your life?’ He said it very bluntly and plainly. So I’m driving back, and I’m kind of in shock. My sister said, ‘I’ve been seeing some of your old (music) friends at my church.’ She goes, ‘I just really want you to come check this place out.’ The band was really kicking, and really good, and it just kind of hit me. Christian Hosoi, the professional skateboarder, was there, and I’ve spent a few lonely nights with him.
“The funny thing is since I started going to that church, I’ve lived three years beyond what the doctor told me. With my faith, I used to be a closeted believer, but when the homeboys are around, you don’t talk about it much. I’m still that way, and I’m not a pusher, but man, I do love God. I love what he’s done to the inside of me.”
Gaborno reiterated his intention to keep battling—hard—for his life.
“It’s a rough diagnosis to hear: Stage 3, baseball-sized tumor,” he said. “It’s not the easiest thing to hear, but the last time I heard news like that, it contributed to me becoming the kind of father I am. I live my life now thinking, ‘If I open my eyes, let’s live life to the fullest: Laugh, love, taste food, and grab your kid and hug him like it’s the last time, because you never know.’ … I’ve been fighting like that my whole life. The way I fight this is I put my dukes up—and fuck cancer! I love God, and I depend on him, and he’s pulling me through, and I’m lucky to be at Cedars-Sinai now. I’m also juicing like a fool, and I’m doing OK, man. I’m hanging in there.”
I asked Gaborno if there’s one thing he wants to be remembered for, should it be his time to go—and hopefully, it’s not. He was modest in his response.
“I just want to be remembered as a good father and a good front man who made a lot of people smile.”
The Gabby Gaborno Fund has been set up to assist Gaborno with his medical bills. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/ysbdz8xz.