Martin Fierro: January 18, 1942 – March 13, 2008
Martin Fierro, famed saxaphonist for Legion of Mary and Zero died Thursday in Marin County, CA after a short battle with cancer.
A Native American of the Apache and Tarahumara tribes, “The Meester”, as many affectionately referred to him, has always been guided by the Great Spirit to bring his unique musical gift into peoples’ lives. Born in Mexico on January 18, 1942, Fierro’s family moved to El Paso, Texas in 1952. He taught himself to play the saxophone in order to join the high school band. However, marching on a football field was not what the Great Spirit had in mind. Before he could blow a note of “Stars and Stripes Forever” he was drafted by a rock and roll band playing in a local club six nights a week. Fifteen year-old Fierro developed his chops backing up musicians such as Chuck Berry.
In 1964 Fierro embraced jazz, performing in Mexico City with the Maxnava Jazz Four for audiences that included Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk. At the invitation of those musicians he planned to move to New York City to continue a career in jazz. However, in 1968, destiny guided him to the San Francisco Bay Area where he continued to play both jazz and rock, mesmerizing live audiences and embarking on a recording career with a variety of bands and musicians.
Fierro joined the band Mother Earth, recording with Michael Bloomfield, Mark Naftalin and Tracy Nelson. He also formed a lifelong musical alliance with Jerry Garcia, appearing on The Grateful Dead’s Wake of the Flood album and joining Garcia in The Legion of Mary. Among other groups and artists, The Meester has recorded with James Cotton, The Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Shades of Joy and Merle Saunders, and performed with Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs and Queen Ida. In 1970 Fierro composed the musical score for the cult film classic, El Topo.
Martin Fierro was a founding member of the jam band Zero and has also performed in recent years with The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dark Star Orchestra and New Monsoon.