Who Was Bob Morales? The Life and Death of Ritchie Valens’ Brother

Bob Morales was an American substance abuse counselor and car mechanic famous as the elder brother of Ritchie Valens, the popular Chicano rock star who tragically died at the age of 17.

Morales and Valens were raised by their mom alongside other half-siblings in the San Fernando Valley. Valens pursued a music career early on while Morales was a natural hell-raiser.

Valens would later become famous for his music and Morales was often jealous of his more successful young brother. He caused all sorts of troubles for him but later they patched up things. Morales was, therefore, devastated when his brother died in a helicopter crash on the 3rd of February 1959.

The death caused him to go on a downward spiral involving alcohol abuse and other distasteful habits. He later cleaned up his act and became a substance abuse counselor. He was also involved with several charities. Bob Morales also was a good father to his children and grandchildren. He died at the age of 81 in Watsonville, California, in 2018.

Summary of Bob Morales’ Biography

  • Full name: Roberto Morales
  • Nickname: Bob Morales
  • Gender: Male
  • Date of birth: 9th of March 1937
  • Died: 15th of September 2018; age – 81
  • Ethnicity: Latina
  • Nationality: American
  • Sexual Orientation: straight
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Marital Status: married
  • Bob Morales’ Wife: Joanie Morales (1979 – 2018)
  • Bob Morales’ Children: Brenda, Robert Jr., Nora, Richard, Jerry, Barbara, Conception, Gennie Diamond, and Brandon Morales (late)
  • Bob Morales’ Parents: Conception Valenzuela (late) and Louis Morales (late)
  • Siblings: Connie Valens and Irma Norton (half-sisters), Mario Ramirez, and the Ritchie Valens (half-brothers).
  • Bob Morales’ Height in Inches: 5 feet 8
  • Bob Morales’ Height in Centimetres: 173
  • Bob Morales’ Weight: 70 kg
  • Bob Morales’ Net worth: $100,000
  • Famous for: Ritchie Valens elder brother

Bob Morales Was the Elder Half-Brother of Ritchie Valens, The Late Chicano Rock Star

Roberto Bob Morales was born on the 9th of March 1937 in Los Angeles, California. He has American nationality and Latina ethnicity. His mother’s name was Concepción “Concha” Reyes while his biological father’s name is Louis Morales. Morales’ parents broke up when he was still small and his mother remarried to a man named José Esteban Valenzuela. The man became his stepfather and raised him from age 2 to 14.

Bob Morales had a total of four siblings namely; two half-brothers, Ritchie Valens (real surname – Valenzuela) and Mario Ramirez, and two half-sisters named Connie Valens and Irma Norton. Morales’ younger half-brother, the late Ritchie Valens, was a popular musician during his lifetime. Though his life was tragically cut short at the age of 17 in a helicopter crash, he still made a name for himself during a professional career that spanned eight months.

Ritchie Valens released hit songs such as Donna, La Bamba, and Come On, Let’s Go and his records sold over a million copies. He also performed all over America and was an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Ritchie Valens is now regarded as a pioneer of the Chicano rock music genre and was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 2001.

The late Ritchie Valens Image Source

He Had a Troubled Youth and Spent Three Years in Juvenile Detention

Bob Morales grew up alongside his younger half-brother, his mother, and his stepfather in San Fernando Valley, California. He attended school like any other kid. He also enjoyed a close relationship with his younger brother. Morales had a normal childhood by all accounts but things turned awry after his parents split when he was 14.

Morales discovered that the father that raised him was actually his stepfather and he was devastated. He was further broken when he realized that he had to live apart from his younger brother as a result of the custody-sharing agreement (he had to live with his mother while his younger half-brother had to live with his dad). This broke Morales’ heart and things further got even worse when he was bullied at a new school; the San Fernando High School. He started cutting classes as a result. He also took to drinking at the age of 14.

The school authorities eventually discovered what Morales was up to and his school vice principal tried to punish him. He got into a physical altercation with the VP and was apprehended by the authorities. A 17-year-old Bob Morales was brought before the court and was sentenced to a juvenile home or a group home named Rancho San Antonio’s Boys Home. He spent about three years there and got out at the age of 20. This was in 1957.

Bob Morales
Childhood picture of Bob Morales and Ritchie Valens

Bob Often Clashed With His Younger Brother, Ritchie, but They Reconciled Before the Singer Died in 1959

Upon being released from juvenile hall, Bob Morales returned to San Fernando Valley and lived with his mother, his half-brother as well as the younger half-siblings that his mother had while he was away.

He joined the family, temporarily working in agricultural camps in San Jose; picking produce and loading them onto trucks. He later found more steady work as a car mechanic. As Bob Morales was trying to eke out a living, his younger brother, Ritchie was pursuing his musical career and was getting more successful at it with each passing day.

Bob Morales was initially supportive of Ritchie’s career and protective of him. He, however, became envious as his younger brother grew more successful. This envy, coupled with his drinking problems, made him act out. Morales picked fights with his brother on more than one occasion. He also brawled at his brother’s local performances.

All this led to a strained relationship between him and his beloved younger brother for several months. Ritchie later reached out to him and they reconciled. They took steps to build a healthy relationship but this was cut short after Ritchie died in a helicopter crash on the 3rd of February 1959.

Bob Morales’ mother – Concepcion Valenzuela Image Source

Ritchie Valen’s Death Sent Bob Morales Back to Addiction but He Later Cleaned up His Act

Bob Morales was 21 years old when his younger half-brother died. The death devastated him and made him angry at the whole world. He, therefore, took to drinking heavily. This dulled his senses and pain but it negatively affected his work as well as his relationship with his family.

He became abusive towards his longtime girlfriend, Rosie. He also couldn’t meet up with his responsibility to his grieving mother and half-siblings. It was a tough couple of years for Bob Morales and his loved ones but he later went to rehab and cleaned up his act.

Bob Morales
Bob Morales with his surviving half-siblings Image Source

Bob Spent Several Years Working as a Substance Abuse Counselor in Watsonville, Santa Cruz, California

By the early 70s, Bob Morales returned to the rehab center he had previously stayed in at Santa Cruz, California, to visit some friends. While there, he was offered the job of a substance abuse counselor. He initially doubted his abilities to do the work but nevertheless, accepted the task.

Bob Morales spent several years working as a substance abuse counselor at the Janus of Santa Cruz Rehab Center. He ran a methadone program and had beds for 20 alcoholics and 20 addicts. He helped many people get clean. He also assisted people that needed help and this made him quite a beloved figure in his local community.

Bob Morales
Another picture of Bob Morales with his half-siblings Image Source

He Was Also a Well-Known Motorcycle and Car Enthusiast

Bob Morales was also an avid motorcycle and car enthusiast during his lifetime. His love for cars came about when he was a mechanic. His love for motorcycles, however, dates back to the time when he got out of juvenile detention. He had been walking home when the president of a local M.C. club rode up to him and offered him a ride.

It was a wonderful experience and Morales was soon able to get a motorcycle of his own after performing a series of tasks for the president. Bob Morales remained an avid rider throughout his lifetime and was often spotted wearing leather jackets and pants. He also loved speeding down California roads and never got a ticket.

Bob Morales with his 1974 Shovelhead bike Image Source

Bob Morales’ First Marriage Was to Longtime Girlfriend, Rosie Caballero

Bob Morales was married twice in his lifetime. His first marriage was to a fellow American-Latino lady named Rosie Caballero. Morales first met Rosie in southern California in the 50s. They dated for several years during which they lived together. It is generally assumed that the couple got married due to the longevity of their relationship but some sources have it that they never got married. Whichever it is, their relationship was a turbulent one.

Bob Morales was physically abusive towards Rosie on several occasions. She stuck with him though and they had a total of seven children before they finally split in the early 70s. Morales had cleaned up his drinking habit then, but realized that the life he had with Rosie wasn’t a happy one any longer. He informed her as much and this marked the end of their relationship. He then moved away from where they made their home, San Fernando Valley, to the city of Watsonville.

He Married His Second Wife, Joanie Morales, in 1979 and They Remained Together Until His Demise in 2018

While working at the rehabilitation center, Bob Morales struck up a friendship with the counselor who had previously admitted him to the center named Joanie. They eventually started dating in 1975. The couple dated for four years before getting married on the 24th of February 1979.

Their wedding ceremony took place at the rehab center they had both worked, Janus of Santa Cruz, and they were wedded by a reverend. Morales and Joanie made their home in Watsonville and their marriage lasted for 49 years during which they welcomed about two kids. The two remained married until Morales passed away in 2018.

Bob Morales
Bob Morales with his wife, Joanie, and daughters Image Source

The Late Substance Abuse Counsellor Had a Total of Ten Children and Over 30 Grand Children

Bob Morales had a total of ten children out of which nine survived him. From his first marriage to Rosie caballero, he had seven children consisting of four daughters namely; Brenda, Nora, Barbara, and Conception (Connie) Morales, and three sons, Robert Jr., Richard, and Jerry Morales.

From his second marriage to Joanie, Bob Morales had two daughters namely Gennie Diamond and Bly Morales. The drug counselor also had about 30 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

Due to his long years of drinking and being abusive towards Rosie, Bob Morales didn’t have the best of relationships with his children while they were growing up. He was, however, able to mend fences with them after going to rehab and was, thus, able to have a great relationship with them. For instance, when his daughters had tough times, he helped them look after their kids. This made his children and grandchildren love him very much.

Bob Morales with some of his children and grandchildren Image Source

Bob Morales Died on the 15th of September 2018

Bob Morales died as a result of complications arising from prostate cancer on the 15th of September 2018. He had earlier been diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and underwent multiple radiations and other treatments for it. The treatments initially left him depressed and unmotivated but he felt better along the way. He became even happier when he went into remission.

Bob Morales battled cancer for six years during which he went into multiple recessions. He later passed away in 2018. His family announced his death and paid him glowing tributes. His wife Joanie stated that he was so sweet and had a spirit like no other. She also stated that they were lucky to have him for as long as they did and paid tribute to the fact that he was able to overcome his demons and change for the better.

Morales’ children also paid him tribute. His daughter, Gennie Diamond ,pointed out that he never judged them, but rather loved them and guided them to rise above. Another daughter named Connie described Bob Morales as a wonderful and humble man who gave everyone a chance because he had been given a chance in life and wanted to pay it forward.

The former drug counselor was later buried after a party-like funeral was held for him. Multiple motorcycle clubs also came together at Watsonville Plaza in Santa Cruz County for a last ride as a tribute to Morales.

Esai Morales (as Bob) and Lou Diamond Phillips (as Ritchie) in the 1987 biopic, La Bamba Image Source

Bob Morales Story is Featured in La Bamba, a Biopic About His Famous Brother

Bob Morales’ early life is a major story arch in La Bamba, the 1987 biopic about his famous younger brother. The film covered the family struggles as Valens pursued his music career. It also covered the turbulent relationship that Morales had with his family as well as his girlfriend.

La Bamba featured American actor Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens while Esai Morales played the role of Bob Morales. The movie was a critical and commercial hit and grossed more than $50 million at the U.S. box office.

In 2017, it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and added to the National Film Registry of the US Library of Congress. When Bob Morales passed away in 2018, Esai Morales paid him tribute on Facebook writing: Farewell, my big brother. You gave me so much to work with and be grateful for…

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