A Dream Come True in Aztlan
Ruben Molina's Kings of Soul concert a down home dream come true
As I have been known to proclaim, if Chicano music were a drug, then I'm hopelessly strung out. This Summer of 2005, I'm as close to a blissful overdose as I can get!
Published on LatinoLA: September 1, 2005
The Musica de Aztlan mellows and soothes my soul like nothing else. ('cept maybe my beautiful Brown woman!)
The marvelous shows, concerts, plays, parties, and other events I have been to this Summer have simply taken me to another level of appreciation of the performing arts like never before.
One of the wonderous benefits of the exciting Brown entertainment world I have delved myself into has been the meeting & making of friends with the sponsors,artists, writers, comedians, actors, promoters, publishers, and of course...the beautiful, loyal, and dedicated members of the Chicano audience that make it so.
One of the friends I have been fortunate to make, is someone I proudly like to describe as "..a firme vato on the same trip as me". We started out about the same time, come from the same place, share some familiar experiences, and can relate like true camaradas about Chicano music, and the L.A. Chicano barrio experience...and we're both educated and have good jobs outside of the entertainment industry.
That is none other than one of East L.A.'s favorite sons, Author-music producer Ruben Molina , aka "Flaco de Frogtown", founder of Mictlan Publishers, and publisher of the now legendary "Old Barrio Guide to Lowrider Music, 1954-1975".
A walking encyclopedia of West Coast Oldies but Goodies and the L.A. lowriding Chicanada, and an energetic promoter, I asked Ruben about 2 years ago, "Where would you like to see your efforts culminate?". He smiled and easily said "I would like to bring back some of the original Soul~oldies performers of the 1960's, and stage a concert without all the usual commercial hoopla, hype, and bullshit...and just put on a show that the Raza could kick back to and enjoy...and remember!". He also said at the time "I know it's just a dream right now Frankie, but it's a dream I know I can make come true". I knew at the time by the serious look in his eyes, that that day was coming.
The World needs dreamers like Ruben Molina. Orale, homie!
So it was, on August 13th, 2005, Ruben Molina's dream came true with his "Kings of Soul" concert at the Riverside Municiple Auditorium in Riverside, California.
Over 2 years in the planning, the show's music foundation was firmly placed in the hands of music director Mr. Rocky Padilla, a well known veteran Chicano artist and performer from Hacienda Heights, Califas, who proved he was more than up to the task of backing a hand picked, all star line up personally picked by Ruben Molina. The assembled band included legendary L.A. horn men Bobby Loya and John Burrola, among others.
About 500 well dressed, good looking, and ready-to-party Chicanos and their Ladies showed up for a show on a warm, beautiful Southern Califas evening, that could simply be described as "A toda madre, firme, y mas de aquellas". (Those who don't get this...probably never will)
Starting off the show was Comedian Emilio Rivera, who was introduced by Master of Ceremonies Radio Personality "Mr. Blue" of Riverside's KUCR FM. Coming from the 'hood himself, Emilio warmed up the crowd and had them cracking up in the aisles with his "barrio-me & my-old-lady- humor" routine, which was a little risque, but just what the crowd wanted! I could hear the crowd moan when his act was over, as Emilio was hitting all the corners with his jokes & one liners. Kiki Esquivel once told me he was impressed with this young man, and now I know why!
Next, Tommy Turner came on stage and crooned his way back into people's hearts with some long forgotten, but familiar tunes from back in the day. Tommy hasn't lost a thing, and judging by the smiles coming from the audience and band members, this legend is back !
Then came Frankie Karl, singing his trademark tunes "I'm so glad" and "Don't be afraid", which had the whole audience (yours truly included) singing along. Man, more than 35 years later, I love those jams still! Frankie's moist eyed smile of appreciation at the crowd's enthusiastic warm response was evident, as he danced off stage to the undulating sounds of a warmed up, veterano band that wasn't going anywhere. From 10 rows back, you could see Rocky Padilla's smile, as he and the band came into "da zone", and were having just as good a time as the crowd.
Then to the utmost delight of the crowd, the fabulous Younghearts danced their way on stage, opening up with their all time smash hit "I've got love for my baby", which inspired a dance floor in front of the stage, and dancing couples in the aisles. They cruised through a string of their hits and other favorite Oldies, which was just what the crowd wanted...and the Younghearts gave them what they wanted! Looking absolutely resplendent & reminiscent of their 1960's performing heyday, the guys looked hot & deadly in red zoot suits, and the girls turned heads in matching sequined 2 piece outfits. On stage, they were in step! In an impromptu rythmic tribute fitting the mood & frenzy of the moment, which by now had people on their feet, the Younghearts gave full thanks & credit to Ruben Molina, and introduced members of the band, one by one, before introducing themselves. I thought that was very classy of the Younghearts...as did the crowd. The Younghearts always were a classy act to begin with!
Next, Jimmy Conwell (pictured) came on stage , singing his trademark tunes "Second hand happiness" and "I'm so glad", among others, as the first part of the show ended in standing ovations, as Jimmy, singing his heart out in perfect rhapsody and melody, also gave props to Ruben Molina ,Rocky Padilla, and the band in mid-song, something only a seasoned pro like Jimmy Conwell can do, while finishing his song with a cool vocal roll.
I don't know what Ruben fed these guys leading up to the show, but as an avid fan since the 1960's of all these guys, it seemed to me that Tommy, Frankie, The Younghearts and Jimmy haven't aged a bit since 1968, when I last remember seeing these great artists
perform at the Teen Age Fair at the Hollywood Paladium, The Little Union Hall, and on the TV Shows "Shindig", "Shebang", and the "Lloyd Thaxton show". (wow! Am I dating myself or what?) Judging by their outstanding performances(and "outstanding" is putting it mildly), they felt just as good and young as we all felt at the moment.
Talk about being on a good "trip"!
A short break found me & my Lady in the lobby looking for a cold drink and meeting some great Gente. I ran into music producer Steven Chavez and his lovely wife Janie, M.A.S. Records Producer Antonio Perez, KUCR FM's Pablo "Tripp" Trevino, radio personality Erik "Chico" Manqueros,and Ruben Molina himself, who looked jubilant that so many people were there enjoying his show. "Man!" Ruben exclaimed, "This is like a dream come true"
His big smile was infectuous. I had to tell the homie "You deserve this one, carnal", as he truly, truly did!
After the break, Rocky Padilla took center stage for the hometown crowd and crooned a couple of Oldies "Rocky style",to the delight of the audience who love him so, before introducing Joe Bataan, who came on stage and thanked Ruben Molina, Rocky Padilla, the band, and the loving Chicano audience who he aknowleged has kept him & his music alive for so manny years. Singing some of his trademark tunes, the highlight of Joe's performance of the night came as he called back on stage Jimmy Conwell, acknowleging that one of his biggest and most popular tunes "Under the streetlamp" was actually written and originally performed by Jimmy Conwell a few years before he ever sang it.
I, along with the amazed audience, stood enlightened with this information, as Joe drove home the point by inviting Jimmy to sing the song , duet style, with him, as the crowd got on their feet and gave them a standing ovation, as the show loudly came to a pleasant close.
...a perfect close, on a perfect evening, to a perfect event...
....Ruben Molina's dream coming true! (can you ever be so lucky?)
Thanks, Carnal! Glad I was there on your night...and IT WAS YOUR NIGHT!
...and LatinoLA was there with you!
Frankie Firme spins the finest Chicano Oldies on www.kclafm.com and www.chicanoexpress.com