Keeping It Alive Forever
The West Coast East Side Sound Story premieres at CSUN
Ahhh, the music of Mi Gente. It's available on records, tapes, books, CD's and now film. I have always said that music is a fountain of youth we should all drink deep from, and music is one of the best keepers of history in our society.
Published on LatinoLA: March 16, 2004
So it was, on a recent beautiful Saturday afternoon in Southern Califas, that a screening of the "West Coast East Side Sound Story" movie premiered at Cal State Northridge for a fortunate, invited few. Still at mid production point, the movie pleasantly raised some eyebrows for those in attendance, who prior to the movie, had a slightly less than informed idea of the West Coast Chicano contribution to American music.
The same week end, an international record convention was being held at the Wilshire-Grand Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, sponsored by a London,England based music group that let me know how envious they were not to have been invited, their hunger for West Coast American classic Rock n Roll music now enlarged by the knowlege that it is not purely a "Black thing".
No offense to my Black brothers, but my Gente did give music a certain influence & twist that has gone too long unaknowleged. Asi no mas!
An effort of love by 2 time Emmy Award winner Hector Gonzalez, his wife Miroslava, (both beneficiaries of a generous inheritance of the Eddie Davis legacy), and 11 time Emmy Award winner Jimmy Velarde, the film historically captures the excitement, the drama and the true musical talents of East L.A. musical greats & pioneers Cannibal & the Headhunters (pictured), The Premiers, The Blendells, and The Romancers, among others, during the early years of rock n roll in Los Angeles in the 1960's.
This historically based film is initially shown in 5 chapters, starting out by giving credit & recognition to the late, great, Eddie Davis, a Caucasian record executive who recognized the musical talent of young, English speaking/singing Chicano artists who were being left out of the American music scene, and sought to record them when nobody else would take the chance. The rest, shall we say..... is history!
A little publicized fact today is that one of the greatest rock n roll groups in music history, the Beatles, gave a little known Chicano group from East Los Angeles the nod to be their opening act through their 14 city American tour in 1964. That group, Cannibal & The Headhunters, showed the World that Mexican-American musicians played more than rancheras and corridos, without the cowboy hats & accordians, and were sophisticated & "cool" in English! Those Brits knew what was up then!
The film is a kaleidescope of film clips from classic 1960's music shows such as "American Bandstand", "Hullabaloo" and "Murray the K" , showing early groups such as the Premiers performing & being interviewed. There are also interview clips with music greats Lawrence & Johnny Perez, Rudy Salas, Andy Tesso, Art Hernandez, Jimmy Meza, Rudy Valona, Bobby Jaramillo, Max Uballez and Dick "Huggie Boy" Hugg, giving long overdue credit to Eddie Davis and the early Chicano Artists that opened doors for us all.
Sadly, the Viet Nam War is depicted as one of the reasons the music was somehow stopped in it's prime, as the "..whatever happened..." question is finally answered, as the film progresses, taking a bold turn many music documentaries avoid for fear of controversy.
I saw many music dignataries among the audience, most notably Steven & Janie Chavez of the East L.A. Revue(who served as unofficial host & hostess), Mark Guerrero, Johnny & Lawrence Perez, Art Hernandez of the East L.A. Revue(who set up an impressive array of vintage posters & photographs outside the theater), Anthony Carrol of the East L.A. Revue, Richard "Scar" Lopez, Andy Tesso, Del Franklin, Jimmy Meza and Max Uballez, among others. Music promoters like the Lakewood Hop's Steven Caudillo, and East Valle Production's Chuck Herrera were also in attendance, giving support to the film.
The film rivals, if not surpasses, another film of the same effort of love, "Land of 1000 Dances", in documenting the Chicano contribution to the American music scene. Both films strive to present and archive what present day Latino musicians either have no clue about, or no respect for, as they simply have to get past being talented when trying to join the music world. Not knowing the doors that took pain, tears, sacrifice and struggle to open, the new guys swagger through like they have something coming , and make comments mocking early music & lyrics as if THEY were original or something....
Still, I couldn't help but feel proud of Mi Gente that day. Good, bad, or ignorant, we have made a significant contribution to the music world, and the entire world, as a people worthy of recognition. The film "The West Coast East Side Sound Story" clearly and faithfully documents the musical contribution, and I feel ever so honored to have been invited.
Thank you, Hector and Miroslava. Thank you, Jimmy. Si se puede, Mi Gente! We got it, man.... We got it!
...who knows where Frankie Firme will show up next?......
note: Hector & Miroslava Gonzalez, along with Jimmy Velarde, can be reached through their new web magazine http://www.Xispas.com - check it out, and tell 'em you heard it from Frankie Firme!
Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano style Oldies but Goodies on the World Wide Web , live, every Thursday at 6:00pm (West Coast time), only on www.KCLAFM.com