On February 21, 2009, my first band, Mark & the Escorts,
performed together publicly for the first time since 1966!
The event was "Blowout 2009," a garage rock bash
which included thirteen bands. Of the thirteen, only
two were Chicano bands, Mark & the Escorts and Thee Ambertones..
The other thing both bands had in common was we both originated
in East L.A. in the 1960s. We were also the only two
bands with members in their 50s and 60s. The other bands
all looked to be in their twenties. The audience was
composed of about 90% white hip young people in their early
20s and 10% middle aged Chicanos, an interesting mix.
The event was held at the Elk's Lodge in Van Nuys, California.
I would estimate the crowd to be between three and four hundred
people. Given the demographics of the audience and the
other bands on the bill with names such as the The Troublemakers,
The Phantom Surfers, and the Tuff Titties, I was a little
concerned about how we would be received. As it turned
out they responded to us enthusiastically. Thee Ambertones
were also well received.
You might ask how this unusual reunion show came about.
I had been contacted by the promoter, Jorge Ojeda, in 2007
wondering if I could help him secure The Premiers for his
show in 2008. I hooked him up with The Premiers, but
at the time they weren't interested in reuniting for a performance.
In late 2008, he contacted me again wondering if I could reunite
Mark & the Escorts for the 2009 show. I thought
about it for a few minutes and realized I could get the original
band together and wanted to do so. Within a couple of
days, I contacted and got commitments from original
members Robert Warren (guitar), Trini Basulto (sax), Ernie
Hernandez (drums), and Richard Rosas (bass). With me,
that made five of the original six members. (The sixth
member was Ricky Almaraz, our singer, who passed away in 1971.)
To fill the spot of our Farfisa organist who I'd lost track
of, John Valenzuela, the guitarist from my 70s band Tango
volunteered to play keyboard with us. Our original bassist
Richard Rosas couldn't rehearse do our first two rehearsals
because he was on the road with a guy named Neil Young.
In his place at those rehearsals was John Valenzuela's younger
brother Leo. Richard was able to make our final rehearsal
where we decided that Leo and Richard would split the show,
each playing half the set. As it spontaneously turned
out at the show, they both played the whole set together.
Two bass players is unusual, but not unheard of. In
this case it worked fine. Jorge and I started thinking
about having a second East L.A. band of the '60s for the show.
I first called one of The Premiers, who once again declined
the offer. Thee Ambertones were arrived at through circumstances.
I had performed in a show at the Million Dollar Theater in
Los Angeles in October of 2008 for the premiere of the documentary
"Chicano Rock: The Sounds of East Los Angeles,"
where the lead singer of Thee Ambertones, Charlie Muñoz, was
singing with Frankie Garcia's Cannibal & the Headhunters.
In the audience was the lead guitarist of Thee Ambertones,
Henry Hernandez, who I met that night. A month later
I was at the retirement party for Bob Hernandez (no relation
to Henry), a former guitarist of another East L.A. band of
the 60s, the Romancers. Lo and behold, sitting across
from me at the party were Henry Hernandez and Charlie Muñoz.
I knew that Jorge had heard of Thee Ambertones because he
had seen a web page about them on a garage rock website, so
I asked them right there if they would be interested in reuniting
for "Blowout 2009." They were interested and
were able to get the band back together and start rehearsing
within a couple of weeks. As it turned out Charlie didn't
do the show for personal reasons so he was replaced by Art
Hernandez, a singer/guitarist from a band called the In Crowd.
The evening of Blowout 2009, I arrived early while the first
band was performing. There were very people there so
I was a little concerned about the turnout. By the time
we went on around 11 p.m. there was a good crowd a lot of
whom gathered right in front of the band. We started
our set with "Rock & Roll Music" by Chuck Berry
(the Beatles version), on which I sang lead. Next we
did "I Wanna Do the Jerk" by another Eastside band
of the 60s, Ronnie & the Casuals. Our drummer Ernie
Hernandez sang lead on that one as he did back in 1964.
We followed that with "La La La La La" by our old
friends The Blendells, who scored a hit with the song in 1965.
I sang lead on that one. Next we did "Drive My
Car" by The Beatles. I chose that song because
Ernie and I used to sing it back in 1966 and I wanted to have
at least one Beatle song in our set to represent the British
Invasion, which was part of what we did in Mark & the
Escorts in the 60s. Next we did three songs in succession
that we recorded back in 1965 on GNP Crescendo Records, "Dance
with Me," "Silly Putty," and "Get Your
Baby." I sang lead on "Dance with Me"
and the other two songs were instrumentals. Our recording
of "Get Your Baby" has appeared on several CD compilations
in recent years. We followed the Mark & the Escorts
trilogy with "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by
The Animals. Ernie sang lead on that one as he did in
the mid-60s. He always sang the heck out of the song
and did so again on this night so many years later.
I sang lead on the last two songs we did, "Nadine"
by Chuck Berry, which we did with a new and funky groove that
we all enjoyed, and "Land of a Thousand Dances"
by East L.A.'s Cannibal & the Headhunters. Their
version of the song was a big national hit in 1965, which
led to them touring with none other than The Beatles.
It was a good song to close our set with because of its uptempo
groove and familiar sing along chorus of na na na na na.
The people responded very well to our set, by clapping
along, dancing, and shouting their approval between songs.
Thee Ambertones followed us with a good set of covers from
the mid-60s era and some of their recordings from that time.
The crowd responded favorably to them as well and enjoyed
their set. After our set we signed a lot of autographs,
mostly on our Mark & the Escorts vinyl albums and CDs
which were on sale. The album/CD I'm referring to is
"Eastside Sound, Vol. 2 on Dionysus Records, which features
four Mark & the Escorts recordings from 1965 and
features us on the cover.
The experience was really like stepping into a time machine
not only because we were playing songs we were playing some
35 years ago, but the p.a. system had no monitors and our
drums and amplifiers were not miked. Back then bands
showed up at gigs, plugged in and played. Monitors weren't
even thought of in those days. Even The Beatles didn't
have monitors when they were touring in the mid-60s.
Some friends and relatives of ours videotaped our performance
albeit not with great quality, most of the video came out
distorted as far as the audio was concerned. However,
the videos served the purpose of documenting the memorable
event for posterity. Another great thing about the experience
is the reunion aspect of the event. I hadn't seen Ed
Delgado, the bassist for Thee Ambertones in many years.
Ed's younger brothers Bobby, Steve, and Joey showed up to
catch the show as well. They have their own great band
called the Delgado Brothers. Joe McSweyn, bassist for
two great East L.A. bands The Evergreen Blues of the 60s and
Elijah of the 70s, also showed up to check out the show.
Also in attendance was Joe Wissert who produced some of the
recordings of my 70s band, Tango, of which John Valenzuela,
Richard Rosas, and Ernie Hernandez were also members.
A week or so later I spoke with Henry Hernandez of Thee Ambertones
on the phone. According to Henry, they enjoyed the experience
as much as we did. It was great getting our old bands
back together and we enjoyed playing and doing the songs we
did back when we were teenagers. We also enjoyed the
camaraderie with the band members, some of whom we hadn't
hung out with since the 60s. Since we've played together
again and are back in touch, who knows, Mark & the Escorts
may play again sometime.
Since "Blowout 2009," Mark & the
Escorts have played four other reunion shows: Paramount Ballroom- March 20, 2011, benefit concert with
other reunited East L.A. bands of the '60s.
Crown Plaza Hotel-
August 19, 2011, "Tiki Oasis 11," San Diego,
California. Viva Cantina-
March 31, 2013, "Real Boss Hoss Blowout," Burbank, California
April 13, 2013, "Norton Records Benefit," Los Angeles,
Mark Guerrero Interview by Jorge Ojeda for the “Blowout
Who were your biggest influences?
No question, The Beatles were the biggest. To this day
they're an influence and inspiration. I was also influenced
by Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, Steely Dan, CSNY, and of
course Lalo Guerrero. As a guitarist I was influenced
by Chuck Berry, Freddy King, Eric Clapton, George Harrison,
Neil Young, and Stephen Stills. As a teenage guitarist
with a band growing up in East L.A. I was also influenced
by East L.A. guitarists such as Rudy Valona of The Blendells
and Andy Tesso of The Romancers.
The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? The Kinks? Who's the best
in your opinion?
Beatles of course hands down. One can prefer the Stones
or the Kinks better because that's a matter of taste, but
those bands can't touch The Beatles in terms of talent, creativity,
originality, versatility, vocal and songwriting ability, world
cultural influence, etc.
What is your favorite band of all time?
Did your Dad approve of "your music" in the 60s
and 70s or did he not like it?
he did. My dad was always very hip to new music.
He loved rock & roll, particularly Elvis Presley, Chuck
Berry, and The Beatles. He liked my bands and hired
us for many of his recordings throughout his entire career.
My first band Mark & the Escorts made several records
with my dad starting in 1964. He also liked my songwriting
and we co-wrote many songs over the years.
Did Mark & the Escorts ever tour?
were so young that we couldn't go out on tour on our own.
However, we did tour a few times with my dad's band.
We played around California and some in Arizona.
Places that come to mind in California are Indio, Bakersfield,
Stockton, and San Jose. In Arizona, we played Yuma,
Chandler, and Tucson. It was great experience for us.
We were about 14 years old at the time!
What have some of The Escorts done after the band split up
in the 60s?
drummer, Ernie Hernandez and bass player Richard Rosas, played
with me thoughout the 60s and into the mid-70s with my bands
The Men From S.O.U.N.D., Nineteen Eighty Four, and Tango.
Richard Rosas, now known as Rick Rosas, went on to play extensively
with Joe Walsh and Neil Young. Most of the members went
on to jobs and careers that were not musically related.
Our original lead singer, Ricky Almaraz, unfortunately died
of a drug overdose at the age of 21. I went on to record
for Capitol, Ode, and A&M Records and have made a living
as a musician and singer/songwriter.
Was there ever any serious rivalries between the East LA bands
in the 60s?
there was. The chief rivals of Mark & the Escorts
were The Exotics, The Impalas, and The Emeralds. We
were once unplugged in the middle of our performance by a
rival band. Another time there was a band that was hired
to play our breaks at a high school dance. They asked
us if they could equally share the gig, meaning they wanted
to alternate sets with us. We said no, that we were
hired to play the main sets and that's what we were going
to do. When the gig was over, two of their biggest members
were waiting outside to get physical with us. Luckily
we had a couple of big roadies with us that night so
they backed off.
Which East LA band was your favorite band to play with?
the golden age of the "Eastside Sound," c. 1964-'66,
the favorite bands Mark & the Escorts liked to play with
were The Blendells, Ronnie & the Casuals, Little Ray &
the Progressions, and Thee Midniters. We also liked
playing with The Exotics, eventhough it was an emotionally
charged rivalry. I think we made each other better with
Any wisdom or advice for the kids?
If you mean musically, I would say play as much as you can
and keep on learning, i.e. take lessons, major in music, learn
from records and other musicians. Play with a lot of
different musicians and record as much as you can even if
it's just on home recording equipment. You can grow
a lot listening to what you sound like. I would also
say stay off of hard drugs and don't abuse alcohol.
If you mean advice for kids in general, I would say make an
honest living, get an education, and once again stay off of
hard drugs and don't abuse alcohol.