Los Enanitos Verdes‘ frontman, Marciano Cantero, died on Sept. 8 at 62 years old. Days after his untimely death, Latin music executives, Manuel Moran, VP of Latin Touring at Live Nation Concerts and John Frias, president of Frias Entertainment — who worked with the Argentine band for decades promoting their tours in the U.S. — honor Marciano’s legacy and share moments from Marciano’s last tour.
Cantero, alongside Felipe Staiti (guitar) and Daniel Piccolo (drums), formed Enanitos Verdes in 1979. They became one of the biggest rock en español bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s, thanks to timeless hits such as “Lamento Boliviano,” “Luz De Dia,” and “La Muralla Verde,” which soundtracked multigenerational homes across Latin America. Over the summer, Enanitos kicked off their U.S. tour, produced by Frias Entertainment and Live Nation, in celebration of their more-than-40-year career. The tour officially wrapped on Aug. 13 at Orlando’s House of Blues.
Below, Billboard presents a conversation between the two executives, who are still processing the passing of their ultimate rock star.
Manuel Moran: Getting ready to go to school when I was a teenager growing up in Mexico, listening to “La Muralla Verde,” are memories that could never be erased. My friends and I just loved Enanitos so much. When I moved to Northern California in the late ’90s and became a club promoter, that’s when I met you John — because you were already the promoter for Enanitos Verdes in the States. In my early 20s, one of the very first concerts I produced was Enanitos at a club that was, at the time, playing rock en español hits. I remember thinking that working with someone you’re a big fan of was a really unique opportunity. And now the memories with him and the band just go beyond our shows, he became a friend.
John Frias: Yeah, we initially started doing clubs — but even then he was really motivated. He was a beautiful person. He was the real deal, and I was fascinated to have these big songs that were truly anthems come from a really nice, gentle and simple person. And I don’t mean simple in a bad way, because he truly was three-dimensional. Very intelligent. But because he was this guy that could be really relatable, he was able to write songs that just connected.
Moran: I agree. Everyone gets that same vibe. There’s always this expectation that an artist will be unapproachable or they won’t look you in the eye. Marciano was not like that. He’d ask “cómo estás?” every single time. It was like catching up with a friend. Because he was so humble and wonderful, he was a rock star and didn’t even know it. He was my rock star, and he had no clue.
Frias: And he just never changed, that’s how he was when he was performing earlier in his career and that’s how he was when he was performing sold-out theaters and arenas. I think [it was] because he loved touring and loved what he did, which was music. I remember when we were routing tours together, he’d wanted to work almost every single night, and he was always in a great mood right before performing. He didn’t need his big moment — we’d literally walk onstage together and he’d just say, “OK, see you in a little while” and he’d just start singing. He was a frontman in every sense of the word, but he was never the type of guy who would talk loud to his bandmates. He always wanted them to know they were equals. Whatever he had, they had.
Moran: John, you definitely spent more time with him, but he would always remember me when I’d go backstage. He’d always say he was agradecido (thankful). He would not only say “hi” but would say, “Hi, and thank you for everything.” John, you and I can agree that when we knew an Enanitos tour was coming, we were so happy — because we knew we’d have so much fun, and it’d become the best time of the year.
Frias: The plans we had for the next several years — and it’s difficult to have this conversation because we knew what was coming — he suddenly wanted to be super-involved in the production of the shows. Half of him wanted to be a garage band onstage, because he’s a true rock artist, but he realized that fans are now getting used to seeing more production, more high-tech, the glitz and glam in shows. And he wanted to give that to them. We talked about making sure fans were happy when leaving concerts. Deep down, he probably wanted to keep it simple onstage, but he also wanted his fans to be entertained.
Moran: I do remember, John, as we were going into larger venues that we had conversations about having more production, you came to me many years ago and you said, “Their shows are all about the music.” But these past few years, he definitely wanted more. The shows that were coming, man, we were getting to the point of him not only accepting having a bigger level of production, but for him to actually enjoy that creative process. Now we never get to do that with him.
Frias: His last show was a knockout. He went hard and toured all the way till the end of the tour. He got to do what he loved. That last show was the last time I saw him. He was happy. The whole band was. He looked at me right in the eye and said, “I can’t wait to do it again.” Those words stand out, because that’s what he always said — he was always excited to come back. Especially now, with the things that were coming. It was going to be almost like the beginning of a new phase of their career.
When I heard he had passed, it felt weird, pretty horrible. I knew what was going on but it was ten times more shocking. We figured we’d just wait for him to recover. We never expected him to die. We had clear words of what his path was. It was devastating and sad when I found out he had died.
Moran: That morning, on the day he died, we had just had a conversation with the team about his health and the plans for the future. And we were all on the same page, we’d wait for him to recover before announcing new dates. We were literally on the phone, like, “Yeah, I heard he’s sick but he’s gonna recover. Just wait a minute and he’ll be fine.” John, you were always in communication with the band, so I would hear in your voice that you believed he’d recover.
I was driving back home from the office later that day and someone from team sent me a text and all I read was, “My condolences.” I had no clue what was going on, but I kept driving for a few minutes. Then someone from my team called me and I wasn’t prepared. I became so emotional.
Frias: I’ll always remember him as a good person. He has given people so many great nights through his concerts and songs. He made people feel good. That’s his legacy.
Manuel Moran: People got married with his music. People went through amazing things with his music. He’ll live on forever through his songs. He sang about real people and that’s why we all connected [with it].