“Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American
Music in Los Angeles” by Steven Loza was published by
the University of Illinois Press in 1993. Loza, a professor
of ethnomusicology at UCLA, gives us a scholarly survey of
the history of Mexican and Mexican-American music in L.A.
The book begins with a chronicle of the social and musical
history of Mexican Los Angeles from the founding of the pueblo
in 1781 up to the end of World War II. This section
illuminates us on the styles of music, kind of groups, and
instruments used by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans of this
period. It also tells of the earliest recordings of
Mexican folk songs, recorded on wax cylinders between 1904
and 1912 by writer/photographer Charles Lummis. The postwar
period covers a lot of information including the recording
industry and nightclub circuit of the 40s and 50s, the Chicano
Movement of the 60s, and the new wave and punk scene of the
80s. Much of the information on the artists profiled
in the book was taken from video taped interviews conducted
by Steven Loza with the artists themselves. Postwar
artists such as Andy Russell (born Andres Rábago Perez), Vikki
Carr (born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona),
Eddie Cano, Don Tosti, and my dad, Lalo Guerrero, are featured.
Loza also describes the East L.A. riots of the late 60s and
the Eastside Sound, which developed during the musical explosion
that occurred in East Los Angeles in the 1960s. The
“Eastside Sound” section touches on The Premiers,
Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Blendells, and Little
Ray. Special attention is given to Thee Midniters, El
Chicano, Tierra, and Ruben Guevara. In a chapter entitled,
“Papas Got a Brand New Bag,” Loza profiles salsero
Poncho Sanchez, 80s artists Teresa Covarrubias of The Brat
and Los Illegals,
and Los Lobos in some detail.
The book has plenty of photos, lyrics,
and even musical notation of relevant songs. The excellent
cover artwork was done by artist/musician Willie Herrón of
who’s featured prominently in the book. There’s
also an "Appendix: Jazz and Fusion Musicians," which
lists Chicano musicians with information on each one, an extensive
bibliography, and a discography. I’m mentioned
briefly in the chapter on my dad, Lalo Guerrero, on page 165,
and my teenage band, Mark & the Escorts, are mentioned
on page 102 in relation to the "West Coast Eastside Review"
album on which we appeared. Lalo Guerrero gets the most
attention in this book, and deservedly so, since he’s
widely considered to be the Father of Chicano Music.
He’s mentioned and quoted all over the book and has
a section of 26 pages dedicated to his life and career.
That includes the lyrics and notated music to three of his
songs: the ranchera standard, “Canción Mexicana,”
a pachuco swing classic, “Los Chucos Suaves,”
and a satirical song about immigration, “No Way Jose.”
“Barrio Rhythm” is an essential book for anyone
interested in Mexican or Chicano music, as well as those interested
in the “Eastside Sound” of the 60s in East L.A.
For the Record
There are some minor errors in my dad’s (Lalo Guerrero's)
section of the book that I would like to address for the historical
record. These are small academic points that do not
detract from the value or importance of the book. These
errors could be a result of the students who transcribed the
interviews or perhaps typos, but they should be corrected
since it’s a history book which is used in some colleges
and universities. The following corrections are based
on my own recollections and from double checking with my dad,
the first time several years ago when I first read the book,
and then again in 2003 while writing this article.
Page 71- My dad’s song is referred to as “Chuco
suave” instead of “Los Chucos Suaves.”
On pages 165, 178 and 180, the same song is called “Chucos
suaves,” but the “Los” is still missing
and the “s” is not capitalized.
The nightclub my dad purchased was previously known as Torrey’s
Inn and not “Tony’s Inn” as it appears in
the book. The name Torrey was an Anglicizing of the
previous owners name, Torivio Reza. Also on page 74,
my dad’s trumpet player’s last name is misspelled.
It appears as Tony Fashudo. The correct spelling is “Facciuto.”
My dad is quoted speaking about various musicians on the scene.
Part of the quote says, “And of course, Issi Morales,
Lalo’s brother, and many others.” Issi spelled
his name “Izzy” and my dad didn’t have a
brother who was a professional musician. At the bottom
of the same page he’s quoted saying “I made it
from my recording WITH Pancho Lopez,” rather than OF
Pancho Lopez, who was a fictional character in the song.
At the top of the page, it refers to my dad making two VERSES
of Pancho Lopez, one in English and one in Spanish. It should
be two VERSIONS. At the end of the same paragraph, my
dad says his cut of his hit record “Pancho Lopez”
was $98,000. It’s possible that my dad forgot
at the time of the interview, but his cut was 1/3 of the $98,000,
with the other thirds going to the owner of the recording
studio, Jimmy Jones, and my dad’s partner at the time,
It says that my dad bought the building that housed his nightclub,
Lalo’s. He never bought it or owned it. He owned
the business and paid rent for the building. In the
same sentence it refers to Torri Reza as Tony Reza.
My dad told me today (2003) that Torri spelled his name with
an “i,” but on the nightclub he used “ey”
as the last syllable of his name.
It says that Tito Puente confirmed “Guevara’s”
estimate that during the 50s his audiences were 90% Mexican.
In the context of the paragraph where my dad is mentioned
in the previous sentence, it looks like it was supposed to
be “Guerrero’s” estimate.
The owner of Imperial Records, for whom my dad recorded, is
referred to as “Lutte Chat.” His name was
actually Lew Chudd.