“Recently, the phone rang and I saw it was a strange number — there were just too many numbers,” says the Los Lobos bandleader, whose proficiency on guitar, banjo, accordion, violin and other stringed instruments has earned him a booming session-player side business.
“I answered it and this polite British voice goes, ‘Hello, David. This is Robert Plant,’” Hidalgo says. “I laughed and said ‘Yeah, right. Who is this?’ But it really was Robert Plant!”
The Led Zeppelin legend wanted Hidalgo’s approval of his version of the Los Lobos chestnut “Angel Dance.” And one more thing: Would the group — which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with an acoustic live album, “Disconnected in New York City,” and two gigs at the Fillmore this weekend — fly out to film the track’s video with him?
“So we wound up in this old Mexican neighborhood in Chicago that he knew about called Little Village, shooting a clip for ‘Angel Dance.’” he says. “And all these little kids were coming up to him — he was just a really nice person.”
Hidalgo should install a Batphone for all his requests. A few months back, his longtime employer Tom Waits invited him to play guitar and accordion behind him for Neil Young’s annual Bridge School benefit. He and Marc Ribot also just toured together.
“It’s something we started about four years ago, when he was curating a show for this cultural center in Germany,” he says. “He came up with this idea for ‘Border Music,’ fusing Latin cultures with whatever else you wanted to play. Since then, we’ve done quite a few shows, either as a band or as a duo.”
To date, Hidalgo has backed stars such as Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and Crowded House.
How does a reclusive artist like Bob Dylan find him to, say, play violin on his latest disc, “Tempest”? Hidalgo laughs, “Well, it’s Dylan, you know — he could get a hold of whoever he wants to, so it’s always a surprise to hear from him. But with everybody else, it’s just through the usual contacts — agents, or somebody knows somebody that knows somebody else.”
Additionally, Hidalgo maintains two spinoff combos — The Latin Playboys and Los Super Seven. In 2014, he hopes to tour with his sons, drummer David Jr. and guitarron player Vincent (of Social Distortion and Mariachi El Bronx, respectively).
Will the trio call itself The Hidalgos? He replies, “The ‘family band’ thing? That’s almost like a kiss of death, you know!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com