By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Torres family hitting right note as Lathrops 1st family of music
Julie Torres listens to some of the American Idol singers that recorded at her husband’s studio. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
LATHROP – Mike Torres, Jr. is very selective about who he lets on his Lathrop ranch.

While security is undoubtedly an issue, it’s also the home where he cut his teeth on the 14 instruments that he can play fluently and where he spends the majority of his time working on new music, refining old tunes, and helping young and aspiring artists cut their first tracks.

And for the past three years his wife Julie has been a Manteca Idol judge. It has allowed her to keep an eye on the up-and-coming singers that are appearing more and more plentiful each and every year.

While the organizing committee handed out awards to each of the participants when the 2009 Manteca Idol concluded in November, Julie wanted to do something special by awarding a singer in each of the age groups three hours of recording time. It was a fitting gesture for both Shellie Hoyt and Kaylie Dotson who had won the hearts of not only the judges but everyone who came to support the singers.

The Torres family has been a local institution for more than 40 years. Each of the children grew up around music of all sorts – sneaking into the studio to jam on the equipment of other musicians when they weren’t around because the family’s humble origins didn’t allow them to have their own.

From touring all over the United States, Mike Jr. quickly cut his teeth on what it meant to be a musician. He learned quickly that there wasn’t a whole lot else he’d rather be doing with his time.

“If it wasn’t for her, this is something that I’d do for free,” he said laughingly while looking at Julie. “Regardless of the type, music has a way of uniting us, and that’s really one of the things that I love so much about it.”

The studio that is currently nearing the end of its run (a new state-of-the-art facility is being built not far behind it) has the charm and the unique appeal of what you’d expect from a lifelong musician.

One entire wall is lined with hanging guitars – each tuned differently for a specific sounds on a specific song.

Pictures and awards hang on the wall, and equipment ranging from amplifiers to Latin drums is everywhere.

But vacuuming and organizing interferes with the creative process – a place that too has its own home in the quaint quarters.

Behind a glass door that includes various mixing equipment, computers, and a handful of CDs and DVDs, Mike Torres, Jr. spends the majority of his time inside of the four walls – listening closely through his Sennheiser headphones to make sure that everything is alright.

And through her work with Manteca Idol, Julie has been able to link parents with ambitions for their children with her husband – who offers rates below what other studios would charge and without the ridiculous mandates that some tack on to contracts.

Just before Christmas, former Idol singer Lucia Barragan recorded the track “Old Grandpa” and eventually released it for sale on iTunes.
Local favorite Brieanne Jansen recorded an entire CD inside of the studio where she found less-traditional Christmas songs by singers like Amy Grant to mix things up a little bit.

And when Dotson got sick during one of her scheduled recording times, Mike just let her go home and reschedule when common practice among corporate outfits is to charge even for the time that isn’t used.

“What I’m doing here is really all about the music and to see the look on the kids’ faces when they hear themselves after its mastered,” he said. “I’m not getting rich off of this, but I’m rich in other ways – I love what I do, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Torres Jr. also hosts two jam sessions in Lathrop for aspiring musicians, singers, and guitarists. On Sunday night he welcomes all takers at The Fireside Inn on Lathrop Road. He co-hosts an event at Haven Acres with Butch O’Neill on Tuesday’s.

To hear samples of his music or to contact him, visit his MySpace page at He can also be reached at (209) 609-1473.