A West Coast Chicano Music fantasy

My take on the ultimate L.A. band...and other things

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: February 21, 2006

A West Coast Chicano Music fantasy

The Land of 1000 Dances...The City of Angels...The Brown Sound of Aztlan...Chicano Music...The Eastside Sound...West Coast Latin Soul...cruising Oldies but Goodies...

All these wonderful concepts and viable properties that I have been writing about and promoting for almost 7 years, and have enjoyed for over 40, still enthrall me.

They have also have helped put L.A. and California on the International music map for keeps, for their own unique reasons.

CHICANOS!...not "Latin"...not "Spanish"...not "Hispanic"...not "Mexican", or "South of the border"...not just "Latino"...but CHICANOS!

You know, the kind of Gente that gabachos in the U.S. don't trust... and stereotype. CHICANOS! (We speak spanish)

You know, the kind of Gente that Mexicans south of the border don't trust... and stereotype. CHICANOS! (we speak english)

You know, Americans...of Mexican decent. BROWN people! Born and raised in the good old U.S. of A....Gente de Aztlan...West Coast dudes & babes...we fly the red, white, & blue...
we love our baseball, basketball, and football games...we habla ingles y espanol...

...not putting ANYBODY down...just putting my people up!

CHICANOS! Why does that word, that very concept, chap so many people's chonies in (outwardly denied) envy? What's wrong with being non-white, good looking, talented, BROWN, and able to talk and sing fluently in 2 languages, English being the primary?

We are better than just "good enough!" Quote me, Hermanos y Hermanas!

We dance and sing better than a lot of people, know what I mean?

When I first started out in my endeavor to "bring it back, and keep it alive", I was told by 2 Los Angeles FM radio stations that a substantial, English speaking, Chicano music audience simply "did not exist in marketable numbers worth programming for"....(of course, I was asked by the receptionists "do you speak english?" before any interviews ever got off the ground.)

... I beg your pardon?...what are you smoking?...( I thought!)

Since then, I have met this audience, on a personal level in 4 different states, and on a virtual level (via Internet radio) across the Country, and I'm glad to say that short of being amazingly stupid and out of touch, these 2 stations were WRONG! (which explains why they're somewhere on the bottom of the commercial radio food chain in L.A. today)

That being said, when I was recently contacted by a Spanish language media group, stating that that they were NOW interested in the English speaking Latino population of L.A. (more than a couple of years behind the African American media groups), and the musical tastes of this segment (i.e., working, educated, capable, and successful in the English language world--wow, what a concept!) I was almost tickeled when they asked me to give them my idea of a West Coast Chicano Music fantasy band. The varied groups from which these artists hail pretty much define the music I've been talking about.

Here's my take: (you may not agree, but it's MY fantasy!)


~Steve Salas (TIERRA fame)
~Pepe Marquez (The FLASHBACKS)
~Robert Benavides (SATISFACTION)
Besides great voices, these 3 gentlemen have great stage presence, vocal range, and a mastery of different genres in 2 languages.

~Bertha Oropeza (CHICO, Eastside Connection)
~Lava Gonzalez (Lava & The Hotrocks, The Blues Straight Up Band)
~Eileeen Benavides (SATISFACTION)
Again, great stage presence, bi-lingual abilities, great vocal ranges, and most importantly (for me, at least), an attitude of success a a CHICANA! These ladies would also make a powerful chorus as well.

~Aaron Ballesteros (APB, TIERRA, THEE MIDNITERS, EL CHICANO, Willie Bobo, Tito Puente, PRINCE, James Brown)
Without a doubt, probably one of the finest drummers in the World, Aaron gets the nod here. Also an accomplished singer and musician in other instruments, he also writes and arranges music.

Bass Guitar:
~ Hector Gonzalez (Eastside Connection,Lava & The Hot Rocks, Gilbert Esquivel's Old School Joker Band) A Grammy award winning singer, arranger, and sound engineer.

~ Rudy Salas (TIERRA)
~ Chris Reserva (SATISFACTION)
Be it lead or rhythm, 2 of the best in L.A. today are Chris (Lil' Santana) Reserva and Rudy Salas. These guys can sing, dance, play, and effortlessly make ANY band look and sound good, and can perform some of the most stunning and complicated live guitar solos on the club circuit today.

~Bobby Loya (Blue Satins, TIERRA, Angel Sabroso & Friends)
~ Bobby Navarrette (TIERRA, THEE MIDNITERS)
~ Johnny Burrola (Gilbert Esquivel's Old School Joker Band)
~ Romeo Prado (Thee Midniters)

~ Karl Carrasco (Lava & The Hotrocks)
~ Joey Guerra (TIERRA, SOTO)

~ Poncho Sanchez (need I say more?)
~ Dale Villavicencio (TIERRA, SOTO)
~ Sal Rodriguez (WAR, Gilbert Esquivel's Old School Joker Band, Eastside Connection)

And there it is! A 13-piece CHICANO monster band with 5 of the best singers in L.A., and one from Santa Barbara, that I will probably never see in my lifetime...but that's what makes fantasies fun...they're just a fantasy!

...and ya never know who could be reading this!

With so much of today's focus and attention on Latino music being mostly Spanish language, every commercial on TV depicting salsa or mariachi music and somebody with an accent as representative of the people BROWN (ad nauseum!), I must state that the true West Coast sound of Chicano music, going as far back as Lalo Guerrero and Richie Valens, is mostly in English!

There! Somebody has finally said it! Quote me, CNN & the BCC! Hate me, TELEMUNDO & UNIVISION! Everything else is subsequent now...but at least somebody said it.

Don't get me wrong, I can dig an occassional Mariachi, TEJANO, Ranchera, Cumbia, or Salsa tune. My Lady and I can dance to it all, and every artist named in this piece can hold their own nicely in all these genres, I have personally seen them all. It's just not what you'd call the classic West Coast Chicano sound. I love it all, believe me.

I just don't wear crooked baseball hats or cowboy hats, I didn't grow up on a ranch or an island, I don't like the smell of horse poop, I enjoy a formal atmosphere, I don't speak english with an accent, these idiosyncracies do not represent me, and I take pride in my education and mastery of the written and spoken English language, as well as my cultural heritage from Mexican roots.

And... I'm from L.A....the Land of 1000 Dances!

As my good friend Steven Chavez always says: "...Just let the music play, homie...they'll get it sooner or later..."

About Frankie Firme:
Frankie Firme's website: www.frankiefirme.50megs.com

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