The Eastside Sound

And its contribution to Chicano culture

By Steven Chavez
Published on LatinoLA: October 25, 2004

The Eastside Sound

I am writing of the historical and significant events in our American music culture that transpired in North East Los Angeles during the early 1960s. Specifically about, Chicano Rock and Roll music and the beginnings of the Eastside Sound style.

The Eastside Sound is a distinct blend that has it's origins in the Boyle/Lincoln Heights area. The barrio bands, such as The Romancers, The Blendells, The Jaguars and Salas Brothers, The Premiers, and the Rhythm Playboys were developing music and much more. They were the early bands with Rock & Roll band alignment.

Their contributions went beyond the music culture and straight into the life line of the community. Without a role model or predecessors, except for the legendary Richie Valens(uela), the bands created an awareness of our Chicano origins as it combined Norteno, R&B, and Surf music into the Eastside Sound style. These bands were managed and promoted by early entrepreneurs and they staged dances and shows throughout the Los Angeles area. The first generation, of English-speaking Mexicans, were now paying to see our own bands as apposed to the mainstream (White) Surf, (Mexican National) Norte?o, or (Black) R&B groups and shows.

Songs that were written and/or performed by these bands were on 45 rpm and LP vinyl records. Songs, such as "Where Lovers Go" by Mario Panagua: "Duffys Blues" by Joe Whiteman, Jr.; and "Huggies Bunnies" by Andy Tesso were early examples of their work. A movement started! A movement "of a unique indetification via music, an innovation for it's time". We had discovered ourselves and we had the music to prove it!

It was Forty years ago, in 1964, that 3 songs were written and charted on the national billboards and helped introduce the rest of the world to the Eastside Sound. These songs were "Farmer John" by The Premeirs; "La La La La La" by The Blendells; and "Land of 1000 Dances" by Cannibal and the Headhunters. Please keep in mind that these American kids of Mexican decent were still in their teenage years. The next year, The Premiers opened for The Rolling Stones in Birmingham, Alabama; The Blendells for The Dave Clark Five in San Diego; and Cannibal and the Headhunters for The Beatles in New York. They had contracts and interest for Motown, Murray the K, and the Dick Clark organization.

But something happened that changed it all. The United States government called on these young men to serve in the military. The Vietnam War was building up and most of these musicians were drafted or volunteered for military service.

I am not a musician but I was hooked and infected with a deep passion for The Eastside Sound at an early age (http://latinola.com/story.php?story=2000 by Frankie Firme). I was 15 years old and personally enjoyed the West Coast Eastside Revue Concert and Show at the Shrine Auditoriumin LA, 1965, and several of the Battle of the Bands and Salesian Rock & Roll Shows.

I volunteered and was in South Vietnam for the Tet and Arch-light Campaigns. When I returned, I experienced a changed barrio and tempo. Brown Pride and Chicanismo were on a high note. The anti-war sentiment and the Chicano anti-war Moritorium were in full swing. The Brown Beret had organized and we had a Raza Unida Political Party.

But the musicians that came back, for the most part, did not want to play music any longer. The music had also changed. It was coming from a new breed, with deep roots in the Eastside Sound but with a Latin beat and a larger array of instruments. The music had transformed and reflected the new sentiments of the community. Groups like Los Lobos, Tierra, War, El Chicano, Ruben and the Jets, and Thee Midniters, were filling the streets with some great musica. Meanwhile, Carlos Santana: Tower of Power; and Malo were demanding much attention in the San Francisco Bay area with their powerful presentation and song.

Presently, with the recent books and treatments for cinema/documentaries; the reemergence of several of these bands in local concerts; several great web sites on the subject; and internet TV/Internet Radio (The Second Time Around on KCLAFM, I have joined this movement for the past two plus years in demanding a rightful place in American Music Culture and History for our very own Eastside Sound.

I have formed a band that is dedicated to raising the awareness of The Eastside Sound. The East LA Revue Band is drawn from the 1960 bands and they are perfoming in the Los Angeles area. We have showcased our revue with a screening of the short documentary treatment, "The Wast Coast Eastside Story" produced by Hector and Miroslava Gonzalez, with a live concert/performance with original members of The Premeirs, The Blendells, and Cannibal and the Headhunters.

The documentary has historical facts and vintage film on the legendary musicians of a good time in Chicano and American Music history. And these musicians can still raise the heat with that Eastside Sound. If you get the chance to see the Revue, you will be pleased and proud of our very own. Gracias.

About Steven Chavez:
Steven Chavez is a promoter and manager of The East LA Revue All-Star Band. For more information on the band and documentary, contact; stevenchavez68@hotmail.com or check out the web site www.eastlarevue.com. 951 653-7777.

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