Al Guerrero (no relation) a.k.a. AlDesmadre for LAeastside.com
interview was done by telephone in May 2009. Introductory
paragraphs by Al Guerrero.)
of the Eastside-Mark Guerrero Part 1
Once upon a time, during the late 50’s to the 60’s
and beyond, weekend nights at Eastside gyms, halls, and youth
centers were taken over by dances featuring a young breed
of musicians who got on stage and beat out the rhythms of
Soul, Blues and Rock & Roll to frenzied crowds of teens
making the scene. That era and that music that became
known as “The Eastside Sound” is woven into the
historical and cultural fabric of Eastsiders. It has an identity,
and a flavor that comes through in a rich shade of brown better
heard while cruising in a car, or by spinning some scratchy
45s and dancing with your Haina.
There have been recent noteworthy chronicles about this Eastside
musical heritage such as the book “Land of a Thousand
Dances” and the recent video documentary “Chicano
Rock! The Sounds of East Los Angeles”. Nevertheless,
I have always felt that the Eastside scene was worthy and
deserving of something much more in depth. There were overlooked
people, places and details that I wanted to help discover,
chronicle and preserve for posterity. And, since it doesn’t
look like Ken Burns will be undertaking that project anytime
soon, I decided to take some steps in that direction on my
I sought someone from that era who could tell me more about
it from a front lines, first-hand perspective. “Who
could paint a mental picture for me of what those times were
like? I asked myself. Then, I recently came in contact with
Mr. Mark Guerrero.
a great joy and privilege to have the opportunity to interview
First, I’d like to thank you for the amazing work you’ve
done in preserving all of those artifacts from those old days
of the Eastside music scene.
You know what amazes me? How many Chicano music artists that
had popular bands back in those days, they don’t have
ANYTHING. They didn’t save a flyer, they didn’t
even save their own records! How could you make a record and
not save at least one? It blows me away. I saved virtually
all of the flyers of gigs I did because I had a sense that
I wanted to preserve all of this for the future. Thank God
I saved everything, little did I know that some of it would
wind up in museums and exhibits one day.
You just may be the one individual from that era that owns
the definitive collection of ELA music scene memorabilia.
I was blown away by your website. Thank you for having the
forethought to save and preserve these artifacts of ELA music
When I thought of doing this piece, I knew that I could find
no better spokesman for that era than you. We’ve all
seen the documentaries and books on the ELA music scene, but
I wanted someone that was there and could paint a visual picture
for us and give us a first hand perspective of what it was
really like to be a part of those days. I was personally too
young to have participated. But you can tell us what it was
like to be a teen on the ELA scene in those days?
I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of something
like that. It was like a little mini renaissance that exploded.
I can’t really explain why some things happen in a specific
geographical area and why there are so many bands and so much
art that pops up at a certain point. But it was one of those
magical times and places. One of the key elements was that
there were all of these teenage dances. We don’t really
get that in other eras. For some reason in the 60’s
there were all of these teenage dances.
That was popularized on TV shows like “Bandstand”….
Yeah. If it weren’t for that big dance scene and all
of these venues that were putting on weekly teenage dance
events, where would the bands have played? The band scene
got more talent to start coming out and the scene just grew
on itself. My band, MARK & THE ESCORTS, we were only 14.
15, 16 years old during that period, ‘63 to ’66,
we played virtually EVERY Friday and Saturday. We were just
kids! 9th graders, 10th graders, you know. And
we’d play gigs every weekend and get paid $50, we’d
get like $5 or $10 bucks a piece, which at that age was pretty
good! As we went on, we started making $40-$50 bucks apiece.
How’d you guys get gigs booked? Did you have a manager
or just network yourselves?
At first, it was just word of mouth. We’d get around,
give out our cards and people would call us. Luckily we got
into the cool circuit, and somewhere along the line we got
picked up by Billy Cardenas as our manager. He also managed
THE BLENDELLS, THE PREMIERS, CANNIBAL AND THE HEADHUNTERS,
THE ATLANTICS, THE RHYTHM PLAYBOYS. He probably managed 15
or 20 of the best bands in East L.A. Pretty soon other promoters
started calling us and we started working all the venues.
Did you play all over L.A.?
We’d go out and play in Pomona or Claremont, but most
of the time it was in ELA. There were certain clubs that we
all played like the MONTEBELLO BALLROOM, THE BIG UNION HALL
IN L.A., LITTLE UNION HALL IN East L.A., KENNEDY HALL, ST.
ALPHONSUS AUDITORIUM. Also places like THE HUNTINGTON PARK
BALLROOM, THE ROGER YOUNG AUDITORIUM and THE ALEXANDRIA HOTEL
lot of those places at first used to have Mexican & Latin
music, then some of the Eastside bands started to come out
there and that was a lot of fun.
Can you give me a mental picture of what it was like inside
some of these venues on a typical gig night with all the kids
and the bands?
Every night there would be 4, 5 or 6 bands booked per night
per venue. Each band would play like 40 minutes or so, pack
up and leave and maybe go do another gig somewhere else. The
kids that would come to the shows had their own style. Before
the British Invasion, the two main styles were the “Cholo”
or “Chuco” look and what was called the “Continental"
Tell me about the “Continental” style.
HA! HA! Continental that word means European and we took it
that some of these styles originated over there. The way WE
dressed at Griffith Jr. High and Garfield High School when
I was there, the “Continental” kids would wear
tight slacks, usually with little slit pockets and we would
sometimes make them so fricken’ tight that you could
barely get your foot through them! That’s the total
antithesis of today’s look with the baggy, oversized
clothes. Back then, tight was cool. We’d get these suede
shoes with a buckle in green, blue or gray colors. Then we’d
have these really cool collarless shirts, very stylish coats
with a belt in the back. So people were either “Continental”,
or “Cholos" with the khakis and the “Sir
Guys”, the “Pendletons” and all that. Those
were the two opposing styles, and then there were the “Nerds.”
At the dances you’d get a mix of those styles, but with
the British Invasion you started getting the look with the
mini-skirts and wide belts, bell bottoms, real colorful striped
& polka-dot shirts, girls with bangs and guys growing
their hair longer. Guys started getting rid of the grease
and pomade. About ’65, ’66 the British invasion
was in full swing and that influenced the teenagers in East
L.A. and the bands. Most of us bands were doing a lot of the
typical r&b, soul & doo-wop, but we’d throw
in Beatles, Kinks, Animals and the Rolling Stones.
the Beatles were the most popular band in the world at the
time, but not all Chicanos in East L.A. embraced them. I did,
and as of today they’re still my favorite. But there
were a few bands that played Beatles tunes. Our band did,
also THE EMERALDS, THE AMBERTONES, THE BLENDELLS and even
THEE MIDNITERS did some.
So the band sets consisted of mostly covers then?
It was virtually all covers. In the ‘60s, most of the
bands were not writing their own songs. Even the ones recording
were given songs. Billy Cardenas gave THE PREMIERS “Farmer
John” to record, which was a song by Don & Dewey.
THE BLENDELLS recorded LA LA LA LA LA by Stevie Wonder. Land
of 1000 dances was written by Chris Kenner and Fats Domino
and was recorded by CANNIBAL & THE HEADHUNTERS and THEE
MIDNITERS. One exception was THE ROMANCERS, Max Uballez and
those guys wrote some of their own instrumentals on the “Do
The Slauson” and “Do The Swim” albums. Mario
Panaqua of THE JAGUARS wrote “Where Lovers Go”,
so there was some writing going on, but it was mostly cover
material at the gigs. It wasn’t until the late ‘60s
and early ‘70s that more artists started writing.
So most of the guys in these bands were locals from East L.A.?
Like CANNIBAL & THE HEADHUNTERS were from the projects.
I think it was Ramona Gardens. The Salas Brothers who fronted
THE JAGUARS and later formed TIERRA were from Lincoln Heights.
I think they went to Lincoln High School.
What’s your experience with THEE MIDNITERS?
interviewed Li’l Willy G. a few years ago. It’s
funny, the original name of their group was THE GENTILES,
which is hilarious.
You mean like a “non-Jewish” person?
Yeah! Can you imagine? I don’t know if they even knew
what it meant. But it sounded cool. We’re the “GENTILES”.
Li’l Willie G was in it and the Ceballos brothers and
that group evolved into what became Thee Midniters. Their
peak was about ’65 or ’66. They were like “The
Beatles of East L.A.” in terms of popularity. They even
wore the Beatle haircuts and the cool suits and girls would
scream. Willie G. put it this way; “We kind of looked
like the Beatles, but sounded like the Stones.” They
were more r&b.
It seemed like the Eastside sound had more in common with
the soul and r&b sound than other styles.
Thee Midniters have a song “Never Knew I Had It So Bad”
that sounds more British invasion than most of the stuff they
did. Also their recording of “Everybody Needs Someone
To Love” they did more like the Stones version than
the original r&b version. Also, they weren’t much
of a “harmony” band. It was mostly Li’l
Willie G on vocals. For a little while, Li’l Ray Jimenez
was in the band at the same time and that was pretty awesome.
I remember seeing them perform with both Willie and Ray. They
were the two best singer/performers around.
How did the kids in the audience act at these shows you did?
It was a combination of dancing and rushing the stage when
their favorite bands came on. Of course, once in a while a
fight would break out! (Ha-ha!)
Was there much of a hard core fan base or even a “Groupies”
Well,.. there was always a kind of groupie scene. We didn’t
call them groupies in those days, that word didn’t exist
in the early to mid-sixties that we knew of. We all knew that
if you were in a band you had a good shot at picking up on
somebody. And we all had our share. That was part of the appeal
of being a musician. In those days when we were younger, it
was more of a thing about making out in the parking lot or
out in the car. But, uh,….it was very nice and um,…we
did very well!
Something I’ve always wanted to know.
Did you ever hear of the term: “Jetters”?
Around ’65, there was a certain look girls had and they
were called “Jetters”. I don’t know where
that came from. If you ever interview another guy from my
era, they’ll know what that is and they’ll probably
laugh. The Jetters usually had bangs, straight hair almost
like a bowl cut, and they wore mini skirts with a big wide
black belt with a big buckle and a little tight top and that
was the look of a “Jetter”. They were the “hip”
girls of that era.
How would it go down? Would these girls hang out and approach
you guys or go backstage?
Sometimes they’d approach you or sometimes you’d
approach them. It was a pretty cool thing to be in a band
in those days.
Any wild scenes ever break out at these gigs?
Have you heard of the CYO Hall? We used to play there a lot
too. It was on Brooklyn & Gage. Have you ever seen the
building? If you ever get a chance, go around the back and
go up the metal fire escape type stairs. It’s EXACTLY
like it was then, even now. The stage is still there too.
I was there in 2002 for a lecture/performance and I could
not believe it. A couple of times recently, I’ve gone
to East L.A. to visit the old venues. I took a friend of mine
who was in the band THE EMERALDS in the 60s. We drove around
and we actually got into St. Alphonsus, we walked in and looked
around and that stage is still the same. Then we went to the
Montebello Ballroom and we told a guy that was opening up,
“Hey, you won’t believe it but we used to play
here about 40 years ago! He let us in, and that was the same
too. There was a stage downstairs and a little stage upstairs.
During the shows the band downstairs would finish a set and
the band upstairs would start up. They’d alternate so
that there was no dead time. So physically everything is the
same except that now they have all kinds of stuff on the wall
and it’s now more of a Mexican music venue.
Some things never change.
Yeah. But at the CYO, I do remember a couple of fights. It’s
kind of ironic, you know, CYO, Catholic Youth Organization?
But there were at least two or three times where we’d
be playing, and then suddenly you’d see a chair fly
by and you’d see a fight break out and get bigger and
bigger. You’d keep playing usually, but sometimes we’d
have to like, go behind the amps and hide back there to avoid
getting hit! (Laughs) But I remember hearing about some big
fights there. There was a rumor that somebody once got thrown
out of the window and landed on a car or something. I didn’t
see that myself. It got to a point sometimes where we’d
say “Oh, it’s eleven o’clock- a fight’s
gonna break out soon!”
Did you personally ever get physical?
No, not at any of the dances or with any of the customers.
There were a couple of times where I got physical with some
of my band members. Like, there’d be some jerk in the
band who would freak out. There were a few weird incidents
like that. If you had young, hot headed, irrational people
in a band, sometimes there’d be fights within the bands.
What was the drug culture like within the band scene in those
Well, some bands drank a lot, and getting into the late 60’s,
pot started to come around for sure. There were pills; reds,
bennies, uppers & downers. Back in those days it was mainly
booze and uppers and downers. But it all depended you know?
Some bands were freakin’ raving alcoholics (laughs).
Our band wasn’t. We started out so young doing the circuit,
most of our guys weren’t drinking or doing anything
at all. We just wanted to play.
was also an interesting scene in terms of rivalries among
the various bands. There was a lot of competition. It wasn’t
all peaches & cream. Some bands were friendly with each
other and had camaraderie. Especially us. We had the same
manager as say, THE BLENDELLS and we got along great with
them. I went to high school with a couple of those guys. We
played with RONNIE & THE CASUALS, they were real cool.
But there were also other bands around which we didn’t
really even speak to or meet. It was all a matter of competition.
Our main rivals were THE EMERALDS, because they were really
good too and also did BEATLES stuff. Then there was a group
called THE EXOTICS. They were real interesting. They went
to Garfield High, we were the two biggest bands out of Garfield
at the time. We’d play at the Garfield High School Sports
Night, also assemblies, shows out on the field, and local
dances. We were both really great bands but our styles were
different. THE EXOTICS were the quintessential ROLLING STONES,
KINKS, ANIMALS, and YARDBIRDS type of band. They were very
good at the blues-based type of stuff. There were two Delgado
brothers in it, Danny & Bobby. Their brother Eddie was
the bass player for THE AMBERTONES. To this day there’s
a Delgado Brothers Band. So we had a rivalry with them where
they’d see us play and do a certain song, then they’d
go out and learn it, and vice-versa. I ran into one of them
recently and he remembered how one time they saw us and said
“Wow! They learned “Day Tripper” by THE
BEATLES! What are we going to do now?” THE IMPALAS were
also a little bit of a rival. These rivalries would usually
drive you as musicians to get better and it kept everybody
sharp. BUT, once in a while it went over the line…..
time we were playing at St. Alphonsus. At that time we were
called THE MEN FROM S.O.U.N.D. We were in the middle of a
set and everyone’s dancing, it’s all great and
BOOM, our power went off and there was just drums playing.
It turned out that one of our rival bands pulled the plug
on us from behind the stage. The word was that THE IMPALAS
were responsible. Another time, we played with THE EMERALDS
at Garfield’s Sports Night and we were the band hired
for it, playing four sets. It was our gig. But, unbeknownst
to me, THE EMERALDS had been hired to play our breaks. So
at one point, one of THE EMERALDS came up to us and said “Hey
man, let’s share the playing time equally”. We
declined because we’d been hired and paid to play four
sets, so we were going to do that. So at the end of the night,
their two biggest and baddest guys, these two tough looking
guys, were waiting outside to jump us! Luckily, we had our
own two huge guys that had just hung out to roadie for us
that night. They happened to be African-American guys and
they were HUGE. So these two rival guys were waiting for us
when we walked out with these two big roadies. They took one
look at the roadies and just walked away. That sort of neutralized
the situation. That’s how emotional and passionate it
was, to where they wanted to "kick our asses."
of Part 1
Legends of the Eastside-Mark Guerrero Part
Were there many girl bands at that time?
Mark: The only girl band I can think of is The Four Queens.
In fact, Billy Cardenas managed them. Billy also managed my
band, Mark & the Escorts, as well as The Premiers, The
Blendells, and many other Eastside bands. I don’t
think The Four Queens made any records, but they used to play
shows on the Eastside circuit. We played on the bill with
them at St. Alphonsus Auditorium in 1965. The Sisters
weren’t a band, but a three part vocal group like The
Supremes, the Arvizu sisters. Ersi Arvizu later became lead
singer for El Chicano for a time and has a solo album out
now produced by Ry Cooder. She was also on Cooder’s
2005 album, “Chavez Ravine,” which also featured
a couple of tracks by my dad. There were other female vocalists
in East L.A. back in the 60s, but I can’t recall any
other girl bands.
LAE: So how did your dad feel about you and your music and
playing in bands?
He was proud and happy about what I was doing, but was pretty
much hands off because he was so busy performing. He had his
own nightclub in the 60’s and was sometimes out of town
playing shows. However, he did like my band. In fact, when
we were about 14 years old he used us in the studio on some
of his records and we played at his nightclub a few times
for Sunday tardeadas. He also took us on the road a couple
of times during that time. We played San Jose, Stockton, Bakersfield,
and Indio. We’d open for him and were somewhat of a
novelty because we were so young. It was amazing because we
were doing rock & roll and surf tunes and the audiences
were mostly Mexican, not Chicano! A Spanish speaking kind
of audience, but they liked us.
Did your dad like your music?
He always praised my songwriting and musicianship. He’d
say: “You’re just like me all over again.”
We wrote a lot of songs together. I also participated with
him in writing a lot of his “Ardillita” children’s
songs and arrangements and we recorded and played live events
together. In the late 90’s, I formed a band to back
him up which we called Lalo Guerrero with Mark Guerrero and
the Second Generation Band. We played a bunch of shows and
I’m so glad we had a chance to do that. He was already
in his early 80’s and we both wondered why we didn’t
do it earlier. You can see a lot of those performances
on you tube. My you tube page is youtube.com/markguerrero49.
What was life like at home? Was there much family jamming
Not so much jamming because when I was younger I was into
rock & roll and he was doing his thing, which was totally
different. I was doing English language music and his was
mostly Spanish. But in the early 70’s, as I got more
culturally “Chicano” and wrote songs like “I’m
Brown”, pretty soon it all started coming together and
we began playing together more and became closer musically.
But growing up I did see him around the house writing songs
and things like that.
So did you get started musically by the example of having
a musical dad around the house?
I’m sure it had an effect and an influence on me.
But what really got me started was that in East L.A. in the
early 60s, many 12 year olds had guitars. Usually cheap Mexican
acoustic guitars you could buy in Tijuana, but it was cool.
They’d be out on the porch learning Honky Tonk and La
Bamba. I had friends who had guitars like that so I asked
my dad to buy me a guitar in Tijuana. On our next trip down
there he bought me this little guitar for $8 and showed me
a few chords. If you read my dad’s book, “Lalo
My Life and Music,” he says that by the time we were
driving back home, I was playing and singing “La Bamba.”
That’s a true story.
want to point out that back in the Mark & The Escorts
and Men From S.O.U.N.D. days, I never mentioned who my dad
was. I kind of hid from it because I didn’t want to
use it or benefit from his name. Once in a while a show flyer
would read “Mark Guerrero, son of famous orchestra leader
Lalo Guerrero” and I’d be mortified, real embarrassed.
I just wanted to make my own way and be one of the guys, not
the son of a celebrity. When I started recording on major
labels in the late 60’s and early 70’s, none of
the people at the record companies even knew who my dad was
so it wouldn’t have been of any benefit to me anyway
in that scene. It was during the late 70’s that my dad
started to become more popular with college students and better
known in the mainstream. He was also starting to be looked
upon as a Chicano icon. By that time I was doing more
Chicano music so our music started to come together to where
we could perform “live” together. I was
also more secure about my own work and career that I could
embrace it when his name came up in an interview or in publicity
in relation to me. I also realized by then there was
no escaping it anyway. I once heard Ziggy Marley say
when asked about his father, the great Bob Marley, that they
are one and “it’s all the same man.”
I loved that.
You definitely proved that you were your own guy musically.
Thanks. I’ve worked hard and done my best.
I noticed that in your background, you spoke of attending
Griffith Jr. High and Garfield High. That indicates that you
must have lived and grown up in the East L.A. area. I point
this out because typically, many Eastside Chicano families
who find some measure of success tend to move out of the barrio
to places like Montebello, Monterey Park, and beyond.
Like the Jefferson’s, “movin’ on up?”
Yeah, it’s seems that your dad kept it ‘real”
and maintained his home & family in the old neighborhood.
There are two reasons for that. One was that we loved it and
were comfortable there. It was home and we were happy in the
barrio. The second was that as famous as my dad was, he was
never wealthy. The Chicano music business was, and still is,
pretty limited as to how much money you could make. He wasn’t
a mainstream artist like Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra. Also,
my dad was never a businessman. He was always an artist. A
genius with his head in the clouds who only cared about making
music and earning a living. He was never out there trying
to make millions and he wouldn’t have known how to do
it anyway. Amazingly, he never had an agent or a manager.
He simply took opportunities that came to him. His whole career
was like that and he got ripped off a lot, by record companies,
business associates, even family members. For example, when
he had a huge hit with “Pancho Lopez” in the 50’s,
it was also a hit in Spanish in Mexico, where they even made
a movie about it that generated all kinds of money. My dad
gave power of attorney to a relative down in Mexico City to
collect his money down there and this guy just bought an apartment
building and made a nice living off of it. My dad didn’t
notice because he trusted his family and was just so busy
up here doing his thing that he never thought about it. Ten
or fifteen years later my dad discovered that this relative
had used the money and never forwarded any of it.
When he was with Imperial Records, he made about 200 recordings
for them and helped make the company successful that went
on to later sign Ricky Nelson and Fats Domino. My dad used
to get $50 a side from them and no royalties. So he’d
record four songs at a time, which earned him $200 bucks,
which was relatively good money for the late 40’s and
he was thrilled to get it. But the company would be selling
50,000 of his records or more and cleaning up. So he got no
royalties and they got the publishing rights too. When my
dad had his first major success with “Pancho Lopez,”
he had two partners who would fly to Europe on an expense
account and live it up with the proceeds. I think my dad wound
up with $30,000 off of the hit song, with which he bought
his nightclub. But he got ripped off left and right because
he was not a good businessman and he was trusting. So he never
got wealthy, but we were always comfortable. He always made
a good living. I would say we were middle class. We
could have moved to a little nicer suburb, but didn’t
Where exactly did you guys live in ELA?
It was on McDonnell Avenue between Whittier Blvd. and 3rd
Street, north of 6th Street.
Your dad was obviously a local hero in the community. What
was it like for you guys?
I don’t remember a lot of fans showing up at the door,
but I do remember that a lot of people would come over to
visit. We also had a lot of celebrity guests come to see my
dad, Chicano and Mexican actors and boxers. My Godfather was
Enrique Bolanos, the #1 lightweight contender in the world.
He always gave me a dollar when he came over, which was a
lot of money back then, especially for a 7 year old. He was
a really nice guy.
What’s the status of the house now?
It’s still there. I was just over there recently. The
house is still the same except that the owners grew a hedge
that covers the entire front of the house and they put bars
on the porch. In the late 80’s, my brother Dan and I
went back there to see it and actually had the guts to knock
on the door. A lady answered and we told her we grew up in
the house and our dad was Lalo Guerrero. She invited us in
and we walked through. What a mind blower that was! I lived
there from birth to 16 years old and to walk through those
rooms we grew up in was pretty profound. The rooms were
the same, but seemed smaller. They didn’t seem so small
in our memories. When we were kids, our backyard was big and
had a little above ground cement swimming pool, a patio with
ivy trellises, an iron framed swing set, and an old incinerator
made from a World War II bomb! That’s when it was legal
to burn trash. Growing up, that backyard was for me a huge
wonderland, even though it was un-landscaped and wild. When
my dad made some money with his night club, he had some apartments
built in the back, so that was pretty big-time for East L.A.!
The building had two units upstairs, two garages downstairs,
and a small room also downstairs that my dad used as an office
and sometimes a place to escape and write songs.
LAE: What were your favorite neighborhood hangouts growing
up? Where’d you go to grab a snack or just go for fun?
Remember the Hat? The original Hat? And then there was the
The original Hat was on 3rd Street and Ford. Right
up the street from Humphreys Avenue School. I used to go there
as a kid and you could buy 12 hamburgers for a dollar! They
were about the size of today’s small McDonald’s
burgers. I loved the Hat but the Monkey-Uddle was my favorite!
I loved those burgers! It was just north of Whittier Blvd.
Yeah, I remember that little shack just north of Whittier
Blvd. on Kern Avenue.
They used to have Delaware Punch! Did you ever have that?
Oh my God, that was my favorite soda man! It was purple and
non-carbonated. I would have a hamburger with a Delaware Punch.
Man, I was in Heaven. The guy who used to make the burgers
there was a real old white man named “Pops”. He
was in his 70’s or 80’s, white hair. There he
was in his white apron at the grill. I can still picture him.
He was a really nice guy.
fast food favorite of mine was Bea’s El Burrito on 3rd
Street as it dips down, between McDonnell Ave. and Arizona
Street. My thing was their taquitos de guacamole. Man, you’d
get six for a dollar. I’d go there all the time. My
family did all of our shopping in ELA. I’d go with my
mom to Kress, J.C. Penny, and Jonson’s Market.
To answer the other part of your question about where I went
for fun, when we were kids my friends and I would go to the
“plunge,” the public swimming pool by St. Alphonsus
church on Atlantic Blvd. I also played little league
baseball at Belvedere Park and Rosewood Park. My dad would
also take me and a bunch of my friends to play football and
baseball at Garfield High School on weekends. Of course as
we got into our teens we went to house parties and local dances.
LAE: Also, the Center Theater had a snack bar & grill
that you could access from the street.
Yeah, the Center Theater was the funkiest of the three theaters
on Whittier Boulevard. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest.
But we still went there. Of course, the other two theaters
were the Boulevard Theater and the Golden Gate Theater on
the corner of Whittier & Atlantic, which was the nicest
one. I remember seeing The Beatles movie, “A Hard Days
Night,” at the Boulevard Theater. I also played
there with Mark & the Escorts on the bill with Little
Ray & the Progressions in front of the screen before the
movie. Another fast food favorite of mine was Bea’s
El Burrito on 3rd Street as it dips down, between
McDonnell Ave. and Arizona Street. My thing was their taquitos
de guacamole. Man, you’d get six for a dollar. I’d
go there all the time. My family did all of our shopping in
ELA. I’d go with my mom to Kress, J.C. Penny, and Jonson’s
Market. To answer the other part of your question about
where I went for fun, when we were kids my friends and I would
go to the “plunge,” the public swimming pool by
St. Alphonsus church on Atlantic Blvd. I also played
little league baseball at Belvedere Park and Rosewood Park.
My dad would also take me and a bunch of my friends to play
football and baseball at Garfield High School on weekends.
Of course as we got into our teens we went to house parties
and local dances.
Where’d you buy all of your hip clothes?
The clothing stores that were real hip when I was in junior
high were Kirby’s, Gold’s, and Roberts. I’d
sometimes go downtown to Flagg Bros. to get the latest shoe
styles. The record stores were the Record Rack, Record Inn,
and Story Music. Story music was the most conservative, a
traditional music store with instruments for sale, records,
and music lessons in the back rooms. The Record Inn was all
records. I remember the owner Mike Carcano. He was the guy
you went to because he got joy out of having the rare records
that nobody else had. You could order anything and he’d
get it for you. The Record Rack had Tony Valdez behind the
counter. He had a lot of the Eastside sound records over there
too. Tony went on to be a popular newsman and television personality.
I patronized all three record stores.
What about the Sound of Music store?
That record store didn’t come into being until after
I moved out of East L.A. I go there now whenever I visit East
Los Angeles. They have a great selection of CDs and
vinyl and a lot of “Eastside Sound” recordings.
Did you ever participate in the cruising scene on Whittier
Yes, I did. The height of it was around ‘64 to ’67.
In the mid 60’s it was just jammin’. I was the
perfect age to go cruising in my own car. Sometimes I’d
go with my bass player Richard Rosas, who is now Neil Young’s
bass player. He had a cool ’57 Chevy. I had a ’62
Impala, two tone turqouise and white. We’d cruise up
& down, usually in his car, with the music blaring. The
guys were mainly there to meet girls and show off their cars
of course. By ’67 we were getting into the hippie phase,
growing our hair long, starting to smoke pot, and listen to
the Doors and Buffalo Springfield. So, one night we went cruising
down there and the cops stopped us and started harassing us
mainly because we had long hair. I remember the cop shouting
to one of the guys in our car, “you look like an animal”.
That was pretty scary. Luckily they didn’t beat us or
arrest us, but they did verbally abuse us. That was the only
bad experience I ever had cruising the boulevard. Overall
it was a great experience, which I tried to capture years
later with my song “On the Boulevard.”
Tell me about the “Eastside Sound” as it moved
into the 70’s and 80’s.
With me, I was part of the Eastside sound starting about ’63
with Mark & The Escorts and then we became The Men From
S.O.U.N.D. in ’66. By the late 60’s, we started
going west and playing at clubs like Gazzarri’s and
other Hollywood venues away from the Eastside scene. Then
we recorded for Kapp Records (MCA) in 1969. What happened
in the early 70s was many of the bands and musicians with
roots in the 60s “Eastside Sound” evolved into
bands like El Chicano, Tierra, Macondo, Yaqui, and my band,
Tango. The late 60s/ early 70s was the period when many
bands from East L.A. began to “Latinize,” bringing
in Latin percussion, starting to sing some songs in Spanish,
and having names that reflected our heritage. All the bands
I just mentioned also secured major label record deals.
In the late 70s/early 80s, bands like Los Illegals, Los Lobos,
The Brat, The Plugs, and Odd Squad emerged. I knew some of
the guys from Los Lobos and played with Los Illegals in 1985,
but only heard about the other bands.
LAE: I’ve always felt that arts
& culture from the Eastside is worthy and deserving of
its own shrine here in Los Angeles. Hopefully we’ll
see it happen in our lifetime.
Hopefully, there will be a museum in East L.A. someday.
Meanwhile on the music side, documentaries like “Chicano
Rock: The Sounds of East Los Angeles” are good even
though they’re somewhat limited. They can only give
so much information in an hour or whatever allotted time they’re
given. The same with books such as “Land of a Thousand
Dances,” which have space limitations in regards to
number of pages and number of photos. There are so many people
that are truly deserving of recognition who should not be
forgotten. That’s one of the reasons I try to write
about as many deserving artists as I can on my website, markguerrero.com. I’m doing my best to keep
Chicano music and the “Eastside Sound” flame burning.