The Men from
S.O.U.N.D.: My East L.A. Band 1966-68
by Mark Guerrero
My first band, Mark & the Escorts, changed its name in
1966 because, in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they were
a-changin'. Names like The Escorts, The Playboys, and
The Sensations were no longer in vogue. The swingin'
sixties were now in full bloom with the British Invasion,
Motown, Stax-Volt, teeny boppers, mini skirts, and long hair
on men. So in the spirit of the times, Mark & the
Escorts became The Men from S.O.U.N.D. The name was
a play on the name of a popular spy television show of the
time, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The "Sound"
part came from a British horn band called Sounds Incorporated,
who were one of the opening acts for The Beatles on on their
1965 U.S. tour. I attended the show at the Hollywood
Bowl that year, a concert that also included my hometown musical
compatriots, Cannibal & the Headhunters. The letters
in S.O.U.N.D. didn't really stand for anything, but of course
we made up some raunchy ones for our own amusement, which
shall remain classified in the interest of good taste.
The Men from S.O.U.N.D. had at least three incarnations as
far as band members and sound. At this time we were
all between fifteen and seventeen years of age. Richard
Rosas on bass and Ernie Hernandez on drums, were a fixture
in all my bands in the 60s and all the way through 1974.
The first version of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. was made up of
the members of the final version of Mark & the Escorts.
Aside from the core members of myself, Richard and Ernie,
we had Rick Mojarro on guitar, vocals, and harmonica, Richard
Morin on guitar and vocals, and Joe Cabral on Farfisa organ.
The gig that stands out for this first version of The Men
From S.O.U.N.D. was when we backed up singer Dobie Gray, who
was riding the crest of his first hit record "In Crowd."
It was a dance and show at the Big Union Hall in the city
of Vernon. He even came to a rehearsal with us during
the day. We were pretty excited, being a band in our
mid-teens, that we got to back up a singer with a major hit
The first big change for the better for The Men From S.O.U.N.D.
was the addition of vocalist George Ochoa. By this time,
I was already singing lead vocals, as was Ernie and Rick Mojarro,
but I felt we needed an up front, stand alone, lead singer
to add to the mix. George was already well-known on
the Eastside as one of the Slauson Brothers vocal group.
George and his brother John would perform around the circuit,
usually backed by a band called The Impalas. They also
had a record out called "Rosalie," which later found
its way onto the now classic "West Coast Eastside Revue"
album, first released in 1967. At fifteen years of age,
George was already a very good singer with some good chops.
I was particularly impressed by the way he sang r&b tunes
such as The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg."
After Joe Cabral, Richard Morin, and Rick Mojarro left the
band (over a period of a few months and I don't remember how
or why), we added Tony Rodas on Farfisa organ. We met
Tony through our drummer, the aforementioned Ernie Hernandez.
Tony was a talented keyboard player, who had some formal training
on the instrument. This second version of the Men From
S.O.U.N.D. with a line up of myself, George Ochoa, Tony Rodas,
Ernie Hernandez, and Richard Rosas, became the best band I
had in the 60s. We had three strong lead singers, lots
of harmony, and a solid rhythm section. We did everything
from British Invasion and Motown to r&b and doo wop.
We played virtually every weekend on the Eastside circuit
and were very popular. Our most memorable performance
was at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, where I was
then a junior. It was for a two-part assembly, which
accommodated the entire student body. There were four
bands on the bill, The Men From S.O.U.N.D., our chief rivals
The Exotics, Euphoria (led by Conrad Lozano, later to be bassist
of Los Lobos), and another band, whose name I can't remember.
We played a set that included "C.C. Rider" by The
Animals, "96 Tears" by ? & the Mysterions, the
doo wop classic "I Only Have Eyes For You," the
aforementioned "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by The Temptations,
and "Taxman" by The Beatles. We were gigging
every weekend and battle tested, so we burned through the
set and played and sang very well. Perhaps it's a testament
to how memorable the experience was that I remember what songs
we did forty years later. We received an overwhelming
response from the audience, which included girls screaming
as if for a British Invasion band. To perform and get
that kind of reaction at ones own high school was very meaningful
and satisfying. We went over so well that the school's
boy's vice principal, who was feared by the male student body
since he was not beyond using corporal punishment in the form
of a solid wooden paddle, carried my amp across the lunch
area in full view of my fellow students, as I walked behind
him carrying my guitar. It was definitely a triumphant
day for me and the band.
The third incarnation of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. was composed
of myself, Ernie Hernandez, Richard Rosas, Steve Verdugo,
and Richard Morin, who returned for his second stint with
the band. Steve Verdugo played keyboard, guitar, and
was a lead vocalist. He was a talented singer and songwriter,
who later made at least one solo record for Eddie Davis' Gordo
Records and subsequently was a member of Olde Tyme Religion,
who recorded two singles for Warner Brothers Records in the
early 70s. Interestingly enough, George Ochoa, our former
singer, was also a member of Olde Tyme Religion and on those
recordings. In fact, George wrote and sang one side
of each of the 45 rpm singles and Steve wrote and sang the
flip sides. This last version of The Men From S.O.U.N.D.
lasted about six months to a year, ending in late 1968.
We did songs like "Magical Mystery Tour" by The
Beatles and songs by Cream, Steppenwolf, and The Buffalo Springfield.
The psychedelic period was in full swing and we were caught
up in it. We played a lot of gigs, but the most
significant was a concert at Alhambra High School on the bill
with The Standells, who had a big hit with "Dirty Water,"
and The Second Helping, whose lead singer was Kenny Loggins.
Unfortunately, none of the versions of The Men From S.O.U.N.D.
made a record, however we did do one demo in 1968, after Steve
Verdugo left the band, composed of two of my songs, "The
Peddler" and "Lovely People." "The
Peddler" was about a drug dealer and was influenced musically
by Steppenwolf and Cream. "Lovely People"
had an acoustic guitar and was influenced by The Beatles and
The Lovin' Spoonful. Ernie Hernandez sang lead on "The
Peddler" and I did the lead vocal on "Lovely People."
I still have the acetate. After the departure of Richard
Morin, Richard Rosas, Ernie Hernandez, and I played as a trio
for a while before adding Tony Rodas back into the band.
By this time we had changed our name to Nineteen Eighty Four,
based on the title of the classic novel by George Orwell.
The story of Nineteen Eighty Four will be told in it's own
upcoming article, with a photo gallery.
The Men From S.O.U.N.D. (1966-68)
Mark Guerrero- lead
vocals, lead guitar
Richard Rosas- bass
Ernie Hernandez- drums, lead and harmony vocals
Tony Rodas- Farfisa organ
George Ochoa- lead vocals
Richard Mojarro- lead vocals, guitar, harmonica (1966)
Richard Morin- lead vocals, guitar (1968)
Steve Verdugo- lead vocals, electric piano (1968)