Most people who knew the late David Salazar, aka "Huevo Dave," saw an inner light that seemed to transcend his sometimes rough exterior. Known as one of Taos's "characters," along with Parking Lot Lou, Rosemary Baca, and a host of others reaching far back into local history, their presence seemed to tilt the image of Taos from being just another tourist town.
They lent an indefinable and colorful quirkiness to the way things are in the Historic Plaza District, where image-makers like to see things neat and tidy and easy to describe in visitor pamphlets. But, they are gone now, even Huevo Dave -- who could often be seen in a red Northface jacket and shorts no matter the weather, long black hair flying in the wind and a smile as big as the sky, often bumming for change and offering, "Thanks, boss."
Now, those who knew him will have a chance to relive his memory in a heartfelt song by fellow Taoseño, Kirk Matthews.
Matthews, who now lives in Corrales, north of Albuquerque, knew Dave growing up in Taos. Recently, he decided it was time to memorialize him in a tune now available on Spotify and other music streaming services. Called "Huevo Dave," it recalls Salazar in a way that is both tragic and epic, bringing to mind songs by Johnny Cash that honor heroism of the common man.
Huevo Dave, 44, died Feb. 3, 2014, a few days after being struck by a car driven by an 87-year-old woman. Dave had been walking in the center lane of Paseo del Pueblo Sur waiting for a chance to cross to the other side near Walmart, according to his brother Leonard Salazar. He was the youngest child born to Lydia and the late Leo G. Salazar of Taos.
"Everybody knew him," his mother told the Taos News for a story about his passing in 2014. But, he could easily be misunderstood by others, which is one of the reasons Matthews wrote and recorded the song. It was his personality and outlook that endeared him to so many and that he became, in his own way, legendary.
"When I play that song to people from that same era it strikes, just like it strikes for me," Matthews said.
Sometime last year, Dave's name came up in conversation. Even after all this time, Matthews said he didn't know that he had passed away. Matthews had been busy out of state reshaping his musical career from working as hard-core hip hop artist Ceekay Jones to becoming an Americana singer-songwriter now known as Kirk Matthews (see "Hard choices fuel a musical transformation" in Tempo, Nov. 13, 2019).
He said the conversation "sparked memories" and as a songwriter he began making notes toward writing a song. "In the small town that we're from, Taos is a small tight-knit community and there are certain characters that play fundamental roles in time frames and obviously Dave was a part of my time frame in my childhood and many people. I think a lot of people who were around during his time pretty much knew who Dave was, purely because he was such a notable character."
The misunderstandings strangers had after cursory encounters with Dave often had to do with assuming he was just some homeless guy. Of those encounters, Matthews said, "Everybody walked their walk of life and Dave had his walk, but he was just one of those characters. And, Taos has a beautiful plethora of characters, but he was one of the ones to stand out for me growing up."
Matthews said he was "such an interesting guy and I think a lot of people didn't take the time to actually speak with Dave, or take the time because he was so far-out a lot of the time. A lot of people don't know the story and so I wanted to make sure he's remembered. When you say his name, y'know, people know."
Leonard Salazar, David's brother, was initially suspicious about a song being written about his close relative. "Someone else did something like that on David and my mother contacted (a local attorney) right away and put a cease and desist. The thing is David's whole life is such a tragedy, the way he lived it. If you were an outsider looking in, but looking out through his own eyes it was not a tragedy. David suffered from schizophrenia for many years."
He added, "When someone writes a song, does this character even know my brother? Did he talk to him? Did he have coffee with him? Did he have lunch with him? Or, did he say, oh this guy's brilliant because -- or is this guy a sad, tragic figure. Who knows?"
A local santero and artist like his dad, who himself was a student of famed sculptor Patrociño Barela, Leonard said that when Dave was 13 he was deemed a genius by teachers at his school. His family was told he could "go one way (and) be a genius" or "lose it and end up living a tragic life like David did in the streets, although he wasn't homeless. He preferred to live that way."
Of his nickname, "Huevo Dave," Leo said it came about because Dave was the baby of the family. "He's number six. I'm number five. So, we grew up with four brothers and one sister and all my neighbors were all boys. When David was little I started to call him 'Egg,' because he was so smart. He was like that little kid in the Bugs Bunny-Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, the little egg who wears a little propeller hat with round glasses. He was real smart, so I used to call him Egg. From there it turned to 'Huev.' But, he used to spell it, 'Wev.'"
Dave also had a strong connection to Taos Pueblo as recounted in a Facebook comment from Donna Concha.
'He was my late-son's uncle," Concha wrote. "The late-Michael Salazar was my late-son's father. I guess you can say he was my little brother too. I have so many fond memories of him and also memories of him and Sul. I first met him at Taos High School when I was a senior and he was a sophomore. Very stylish an handsome. This is very hard for me to write this, but I really want to share what I knew about him. Very respectable, loving, kind, funny, talented young man. My granddaughter Haleigh Concha is family with them too. When we would see him he'd ask for his nephew, 'Hey Donna! How are you? How's my nephew Nick! Is he behaving? Are you behaving?' Then we would laugh. He had a strong accent and loved it! I miss him dearly. Always told us to wear our seat belts. I loved him and always talked to him. They weren't long convos, but at least he acknowledged us. He loved the Pueblo and the people … They're all together now. Michael, David and Nicholas aka Sul."
Leo recently had a chance to finally hear the song Matthews recorded and said, "I like it. It's a pretty good song."
In an article for Artes, the 2020 Taos News special Tradiciones magazine, Salazar recalled his brother Michael's passing, which had a profound effect on young Dave. Michael, he said was the "real artist among my siblings and me." But, Michael was killed at age 20 in a motorcycle accident, an incident recalled in Matthews' song.
"He was David's mentor," Leo said. "He loved David. When he died, a part of David could not accept that … The day of his funeral, I saw David slipping into mental illness. The family was grieving, waiting to accept people to eat. I was sitting in my room and David came in. I was sitting on the corner of my bed looking out the window, thinking where do people go when they die? Why does it have to be this way? You know, contemplating it." Then, he said David blurted out, "I'm going to Santa Fe." Leo asked him, "For what?" David replied, "Because Michael's not dead. He's in Santa Fe."
David never accepted the fact that his brother died, and from age 16 to 20 "he went through a really bad mental depression," Leo said. "He stayed in the streets, not that he was homeless because he had family that cared about him. He just … you can't tie a person up, you know?"
From then on, it was like David's mental illness gave him access to a whole new set of friends and acquaintances. "He had a whole collection of vagabonds and street characters and even celebrities that liked him because he had a different insight into an ethereal part of his humanity vs. the universe and trying to come to grips with a greater cosmic force … He trekked on through life, whether it was adversity, sadness, happiness, but he marched on through like a soldier in life until his time came."
Leo said he appreciates the song Matthews wrote and the way it captures his spirit. "It's a little sad in a way, but that was his life."
Additional personnel on "Huevo Dave" include Dee Brown on piano, Emily Anslover on violin, Dave and Laura Devlin on pedal steel and bass guitar, and co-producer-engineer Kenny Riley. It was recorded at Rio Grande Studios in Albuquerque.
The song can be found here and on other streaming services: https://open.spotify.com/track/3YFibSbUEGjeIRMw4B8y2D?si=PBa2x2nPQharRFeDcoU-oQ.