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Experience Music Project 2007

by Mark Guerrero

     In April of 2007, I was pleased and honored to be asked to be a consultant and be on the advisory board for a museum exhibit called "Sabor Latino: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music."  The exhibit will run from October 13, 2007 to September 7, 2008 at the Experience Music Project- Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, Washington.  After it's eleven month run at the museum, the exhibit will travel to various cities around the United States.  "American Sabor" presents the music of Latinos in an interpretive and interactive museum exhibit that focuses on five major centers of Latino popular music production in the post-World War II United States- New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, and San Francisco, which represent the diversity of Latino music.  It will be a 5,000 square foot exhibit.  Among the exhibition's 100 artifacts will be instruments, costumes, and photographs that document the cultural history of U.S. Latinos, as well as records the have changed the course of U.S. music history.  There will also be hands-on music making, critical listening, and three original films created by the EMP/University of Washington curatorial team.  These elements are designed to deepen visitors' understanding of Latino music, rhythms, and dance.  All exhibit texts will be presented in both English and Spanish.  I was hired as a consultant for the Los Angeles part of the exhibit.  The L.A. section will include a space devoted to my dad (Lalo Guerrero), Ritchie Valens, Don Tosti, Los Lobos, Trini Lopez, El Chicano, Tierra, Chan Romero, and others.

     As part of the exhibit development, filmed interviews of the artists are being conducted for use in the exhibit films and in oral history kiosks in each city section that allows visitors to select and hear firsthand accounts of the music scenes in the various geographical areas.  The filmed interviews will also become a part of the museum's oral history program, which was launched in 1993 and now includes more than 500 filmed interviews with everyone from Les Paul, Rambin' Jack Elliot and Ahmet Ertegun to Clive Davis, Robbie Robertson and Al Green.  It was agreed that I would conduct the interviews for the Los Angeles section.  I was given a list of people to contact to be interviewed.  The initial list included Chan Romero, Cannibal & the Headhunters, Los Lobos, Tierra, El Chicano and Thee Midniters.  I suggested many other possible interviewees.  Some that I suggested were added to the list, others were not.  The final decisions were made by the curatorial team.  The first round of interviews took place in Palm Springs, California, where I reside.  Since the interviews were designed to stand alone, I was not on camera nor were my questions recorded for the interview.  My questions were for the purpose of guiding the direction of the interviews.  On May 8, 2007, I interviewed Trini Lopez, who sold millions of records in the 1960s.  The interview took place at a local photographic studio near downtown Palm Springs.  The Director of Curatorial Affairs, Jasen Emmons, could not get to Palm Springs that day so I was entrusted to conduct the interview on my own.  An excellent local video crew filmed the interview.  The interview went very well and lasted about 45 minutes.  I had interviewed Trini before and knew what to ask him about his life and career.  I was also given some questions to ask, such as how does your Latin heritage affect your music?  Also, how did the Chicano movement affect your music?  The next day, May 9th, I conducted two interviews with the same crew at the same location.  First was the leader, bassist, and founder of El Chicano, Fred Sanchez.  The second was with rock & roll pioneer, Chan Romero.

     The second round of interviews took place in the Los Angeles area on May 29th and 30th.  The first day of interviews were conducted at Studio 2425 in Monterey Park, California.  It's the home studio of the band Tierra.  The curator did fly down from Seattle for the L.A. interviews.  The artists I interviewed that day were George Delgado and Lawrence & John Perez of The Premiers, Steve & Rudy Salas of Tierra, Willie Herrón of Los Illegals.  I was interviewed by the aforementioned Director of Curatorial Affairs, Jasen Emmons.  These interviews represented a diversity of musical styles and each had a unique and interesting story.  The second day of interviews took place in a suite at the Garden Hilton Inn in Montebello, California.  The interviewees that day were Hirth Martinez, Little Ray Jimenez, legendary Eastside Sound record producer Billy Cardenas, Ersi Arvizu, and Mickey Lespron.  Ersi and Mickey were members of El Chicano in the 70s.  I was interviewed once again on this day.  In my interviews I talked about the early days of the East L.A. music scene of which I was a part.  I also talked about my musical career from the 60s to the present and the lives and careers of my dad and Don Tosti, who are to be represented in the exhibit but had passed away.  I had interviewed everyone before, with the exception of Mickey Lespron, for my website or radio show.  This afforded me a familiarity with their stories and career highlights and made the interviews go easily and smoothly.

     For the record, the two surviving members of Cannibal & the Headhunters, Robert "Rabbit" Jaramillo and Richard "Scar" Lopez, were invited to be interviewed, but did not make it.  Scar could not be located and Rabbit, who had agreed to do the interview, had a job come up he had to do.  Little Willie G. of Thee Midniters was also invited and scheduled, but cancelled the day of the interview due to an unforeseen personal issue.  Pat Vegas of Redbone was invited, but due to a personal issue couldn't make it to Monterey Park for the interview that day.  Chris Montez was going to be invited, but was performing in Branson, Missourri at the time.  Lastly, Rosie Hamlin of Rosie & the Originals was asked, but was in New Mexico and couldn't make the trip to California due to a minor illness.  There are many other Chicano artists who were worthy of being included, but there's only so much room in the exhibit.  Due to their touring schedule, Los Lobos is providing their own interview that will be included in the exhibit and oral history archive.

     In addition to conducting interviews, I loaned some of my memorabilia to the exhibit.  Included were ten flyers from the 1960s era of the East L.A. music scene, known as the Eastside Sound.  These flyers announced dances and shows that included bands such as Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Premiers, Thee Midniters, The Jaguars with the Salas Brothers, my teenage bands Mark & the Escorts and The Men From S.O.U.N.D., and many others.  Some of the flyers had lineups featuring Eastside bands performing along side mainstream artists such as The Righteous Brothers, Bobby Day, and Jackie DeShannon.  I also provided a music hit parade chart from the local Los Angeles rock station of the 60s, KRLA.  It included Cannibal & the Headhunters, Thee Midniters, and Trini Lopez on the charts with the likes of the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Sam Cooke, and The Temptations.  I also loaned the museum an album cover of the "West Coast Eastside Revue" album which had recordings of most of the top East L.A. bands of the era, including Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Premiers, The Blendells, my band Mark & the Escorts, and many more.  Finally, I provided five band cards from the era, including cards of Thee Midniters, The Blendells, The Jaguars with the Salas Brothers, Mark & the Escorts, and an early Los Lobos card when they were called Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles.  This very important exhibit will show the vast contributions Latino/Chicano artists have made to popular music throughout the decades.  A contribution that has often gone unrecognized and uncelebrated.  Let the celebration begin!  For my article on the opening of the exhibit on October 12, 2007 with a photo gallery, click here.  For more information on the artists I interviewed, you can find their stories on my website on my Chicano Music Articles page.  For more information on the Experience Music Project go to emplive.org.  Click on the link below to see photographs taken at the interview sessions.


Click here for Experience Music Project Photo Gallery
 

 

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