Wally Gonzalez, Founding Member of Juan Dela Cruz, Passes Away


Wally Gonzalez, guitarist of seminal Filipino band Juan Dela Cruz, has passed away. His son John confirmed the news in a post on Facebook. He was 71. 

Gonzalez is perhaps best known as the guitarist of Juan Dela Cruz, which is widely considered to be the pioneer of Filipino rock in the 1970s. Together with Joey “Pepe” Smith and Mike Hanopol, the trio blazed new trails in original Filipino rock & roll and churned out hits like “HImig Natin,” Kahit Anong Mangyari,” “Balong Malalim,” “Titser’s Enemy No. 1” and “No Touch.”

Juan Dela Cruz split up in the 1980s and the members each found other pursuits. Gonzalez himself would release an album called Wally’s Blues in 1977. But the trio would often reunite over the years and play special shows here and abroad. 

In January this year, Gonzalez suffered a stroke that rendered him weak and unable to move. His son later confirmed that his father also tested positive for COVID-19 and had been fighting a blood infection.


Gonzalez had been playing guitar since he was a teenager and founded Juan dela Cruz band in 1968 with Edmond Fortuno, Sandy Tagarro, Bing Labrador and Alex Cruz. The lineup changed to include other members two years later. It was, however, the trio of Gonzalez, Hanopol and Smith that stuck when they got together in 1973.

In addition to his life of music, Gonzalez also reportedly worked for his brother’s shipping company.

“I’m really a musician. Making music for me is difficult, but it’s fun. With income from gigs, I’ve been able to raise a family and got my two kids through college,” he told Businessmirror.

Gonzalez’s son said he is arranging a short wake so his friends and fans can pay their respects. He said he will post updates on his Facebook page soon.




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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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