Guys to Know: Rick Cavender: Cars and Music

If you ever find yourself humming along to the commercial jingle Confidence is Cavender… confidence is Cavender, then Rick Cavender may already feel like a trusted friend. Rick has managed to do what most people only dream of doing: merging a hugely successful family business, Cavender Auto Family of dealerships, with his passion, making music and entertaining. Often referred to as the voice and personality behind the Cavender Auto Family, by day Rick serves as vice president of the Cavender Auto Family and president of Cavender Audi. But by night, it’s his band, the Rick Cavender Band, and his music that bring the recognizable sparkle to his eye and the warmth to his voice.

Married for 32 years to his beautiful wife, Suzanne, he is the father of two grown daughters, Courtney (25) and Claire (21). The Cavenders have called San Antonio home for as many years. I sat down with Rick to find out a little more about this self-proclaimed entertainer who has a lifetime of experience in the car business and over 20 years in the music industry.

Q: The car business is in your blood. How is the business different now than when you first became involved in your father’s business over 30 years ago?

A: More than anything, this business allows me to continue and expand on the customer relationships that our family and valued employees have created. Since I began working as a service department porter in my high school summer jobs back in the mid-‘70s, I learned that when family leads with good example and hard work, your coworkers will respond with high standards and enthusiasm.

That has not changed through four generations of family member involvement since we began, when my grandfather bought out an Oldsmobile dealer in 1939 downtown on Broadway at the same location where our Cadillac store still operates.

What has changed is the measurement to which we are now held accountable. The bar is much higher for all automotive services, whether it is our response time to interests posted online, our ability to create a successful buying and service experience, or even the facilities that greet our guests each day. Higher standards are not only demanded and expected, they are consistently met and many times exceeded.

Q: When did you become interested in music?

A: After I first saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show back in 1964, my mother couldn’t get me to quit singing. When my dad brought home the Beatles orange and yellow Capitol 45 record, we wore the grooves down listening to I Want to Hold Your Hand. I was too young to play the guitar, so I taped paper on a tennis racquet, drew six guitar strings on it, and pretended to play. I sang All My Loving and I Saw Her Standing There to the kids in my kindergarten class!

At age 10, my mom bought me my first guitar at the Junior League Rummage Sale and called the great Harry Pack to teach me to play. We became close friends, and I will always remember him as my mentor. He played at our wedding 12 years later.

Q: What inspires you to keep entertaining after 20 years?

A: It’s great fun to play music with good friends and to entertain at so many different and wonderful receptions, galas and special celebrations. It never gets old because we change and tailor the songs we play for each event.

Q: You released your last album, New Sunrise, in 2010. Any plans for a new album?

A: I am writing new material once again, and a fifth CD is forthcoming. Folks can find all my songs on iTunes.

Q: What inspires your original songs?

A: It’s funny, but I seem to be writing about a guy who is always in trouble or looking to apologize for something. Before I write a song, I find a melody on the guitar. I mumble some lyrics and then come back with a story to put on paper.

Q: As a cover band, you play a variety of music from country to vintage rock. What musical genres do you enjoy singing most, and what musicians have inspired you?

A: All genres inspire us. That makes it a little more challenging for our band because we need to adapt to so many different styles. It also makes it fun because we never get bored with the material. My band members are extremely talented, and they put in a lot of time and energy to prepare and rehearse. They are also patient with the songs I introduce. They adjust and play just about anything. In fact, we played the Muppets’ Rainbow Connection recently for a bride and groom’s first dance. I sang the Kermit part, and our drummer, Tammy Frost, sang the Miss Piggy part.

Q: You are very active in the San Antonio Rotary Club. How did you become involved in Rotary, and what do you enjoy about it?

A: My late grandfather, Bishop Harold Gosnell, introduced me to Rotary and saved me a chair every Wednesday at the lunch meetings. He always taught me to serve others with good deeds and compassion. Rotary truly embodies his teaching with its Service Above Self motto, and its famous 4-Way Test of fairness and ethics. When I was president in the late ‘90s, we began our Kingdom for Kids outreach. I am very happy and proud that 11 state-of-the-art playgrounds have been completed by Rotarians and community volunteers at inner city schools, public libraries and at the Autism Treatment Center. Future projects are scheduled for the Winston School and St. PJ’s Children’s Home.

I value the wonderful recognition that fellow Rotarians gave me last year with the Service Above Self award presented by Rotary, and I was very proud to share honors with my dear friend and current president of Texas A&M San Antonio, Dr. Maria Ferrier, at the City Year Ripples of Hope Gala this year.

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