meet jose maldonado, the mexican morrissey
Front man of The Smiths tribute band Sweet and Tender Hooligans, Jose Maldonado is an LA county lifeguard by day and the world's greatest Morrissey impersonator by night. He's got the voice, the looks, and a level of dedication that proves that love isn't just a miserable lie. When he's not saving lives on the beach, Jose can be found hosting his weekly Smiths-themed radio show, impressing people with his moves at the Moz Disco, and giving his all during his full on arm-waving, torso-bearing performances. Turning the tables, Jose's life was made when his idol stole his identity in return - stepping out onto the stage one concert and introducing his band as The Sweet and Tender Hooligans, and himself as Jose. Widely acknowledged as Morrissey's all-time greatest fan and tribute act, we quiz him on the details of his obsession, learn the secret to his quiff, and quote lyrics to each other. We would go out tonight but we're going to stay in and get to know this guy instead.
What was it that first made you fall for Moz?
To put it simply, his voice and his lyrics. Up until then, no one I had ever heard sang like that and about such things. He was someone I could relate to and someone who could tell me a story I'd never heard before. A skinny, shy looking, son of a librarian lead singer in a sea of David Lee Roths and Simon Le Bons.
How many times have you seen him perform?
I stopped counting a long time ago. Regrettably, I never got to see The Smiths live, so I've seen Morrissey at every show he's ever done in Southern California and occasionally out of state. I've even been to see him in the UK.
How many times have you met him?
Seven times or so. They've always been brief and pleasant. He's always had something nice to say about my band.
I see from your Twitter that you just visited Manchester. What did you think?
It was probably about my fifth time, but I always make it a point to see the obligatory fan destinations like The Salford Lads Club, the iron bridge and his childhood home. This time around, I was invited to appear as a guest at the Moz Army Meet held at the World Famous Star and Garter. This was the very first place in Manchester that Sweet and Tender Hooligans played back in 2001. I was there to host the quiz and play an acoustic set. The organizers arranged for a group of very talented musicians from Leeds College of Music to back me up in the absence of my bandmates. I was even more thrilled when Andrew Paresi, who played drums on Morrissey's first three solo records, also played on our set. It was quite a thrill playing for an enthusiastic crowd in the city where it all began.
Do you ever feel a little bit like Clark Kent/Superman with your different identities?
Ha ha! Yes, I guess that's a good way of putting it, because when I'm on stage I feel as though I could bend steel and leap tall buildings.
Do people ever mistake you for Morrissey in everyday life?
Oh, for heaven's sake no! NO ONE is as handsome as he is, least of all me.
What's your all time favorite song of his and why?
Honestly, they're all my favorites. Speedway means a lot to me because of the closing line "in my own sick way, I'll always stay true to you". Boxers is a very beautiful song that I felt I could relate to. In it, the fighter suffers a defeat that makes him feel like it's time to hang it up. But then he realizes that the idea of never again entering the ring is worse than the defeat he just experienced. "Hell is the bell that will not ring again". I could honestly keep going.
How did you feel when The Smiths split up?
I felt sad that I never got to experience them as a band until it was too late, but at the same time I appreciate that those songs will be forever locked in that moment of time in a glass case hermetically sealed away. Perfect, pristine, and only to be looked at and admired for their historical significance.
How did you feel when Morrissey revealed he had been battling cancer?
I know he'll be fine. I just know it. He has the right attitude like the artist that he is. The show must go on, as it were.
Are you miserable now?
I'm the opposite of miserable. I host a weekly two-hour radio show dedicated to the music of the artist I love. I'm the lead singer of the greatest band that ever lived. I have an exciting day job and the most beautiful family anyone could ever ask for. I have NOTHING to be miserable about.
What rituals help prepare you for a show and get into character?
The sound check, the wardrobe, the sound of the audience mulling about is what helps me get into character. Seeing as I listen to his songs on a daily basis, it's quite automatic for me.
Do you have any quiff tips?
It's all in the blow-drying. As for product, I never buy any of the expensive stuff. Usually whatever I can get at the 99 cent store. Unless, of course, some company would like to offer me an endorsement deal… if that's the case I've been using that stuff EXCLUSIVELY for many many many many years.
Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?
It depends on the situation, but when I'm running a marathon the mind MUST rule the body.
With the world's fate resting on your shoulders - you're gonna need someone on your side… who do you choose?
My parents, I suppose. My father and mother taught me everything.
Text Francesca Dunn