Tejano and Grupero News
Corpus Christy, Texas
February 6, 2009
story below ran in Tejano and Grupero News, a Corpus
Christy, Texas newspaper, on www.ramiroburr.com,
and in the San Antonio Express News.
Friday, 06 February 2009
Mark Guerrero Enshrined in the Grammy
may not be a household name but he follows
a legacy established by his late father,
In this report, our correspondent
Ramon Hernandez outlines Guerrero's musical
The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles was officially
opened on December 6th and among those honored
with an exhibit is Mark Guerrero.
Not only is this an honor, but a great
accomplishment for the singer-songwriter-musician,
who is the youngest son of the legendary Lalo
Guerrero, the acknowledged “Father of
The display features the 59-year-old’s
controversial 45 rpm single “I’m
Brown,” a photo of his band at that
time, and the original manuscript of his lyric
in “Songs of Conscience, Songs of Freedom,”
the first major museum exhibit to explore
the full 200-year history of music and politics
in America. Guerrero’s artifacts can
be seen on the second floor of the four-floor
facility where his peers are Woody Guthrie,
Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne plus many other
“I wrote ‘I’m Brown’
when I was 21 and in 1972, I recorded it as
a solo artist,” Guerrero said during
an interview at his home in Cathedral City,
“It was sort of a protest
song, but the chorus says, ‘Don’t
you know I’m brown, Can’t you
see my face, but I’m first a member
of the human race.’ I’m proud
of that song because it expresses Chicano
pride, but also says, ‘hey, I’m
first a human being.’ I also love the
music and the magical atmosphere of the recording.
“It came out on Capitol Records,
but they didn’t promote it for probably
a lot of reasons. One reason is that it was
almost five minutes long at a time when records
were normally three minutes. But who knows,
there might have been some other things behind
the scenes, like, ‘Oh, it’s kind
of radical and who’s going to buy that.
So they may have just buried it.
“The next year, when I had a sort
of country-rock group call Tango, I was signed
to A&M Records, ‘I’m Brown’
was included on our album as well, so it came
out twice. However, we didn’t get to
tour, so the album sort of died on the vine.
Nobody knows about that record because it
kind of got buried in these two situations,”
the 59-year-old composer revealed.
In spite of the lack of exposure, airplay
or touring to promote the record, the single
which was practically shelved did not go unnoticed
since it was selected by the Grammy Museum
as an important part of musical history.
For Texans not familiar with Guerrero,
he grew up in East Los Angeles. At 13, he
formed Mark & the Escorts, who often shared
the bill with hit bands such as Cannibal and
the Headhunters, The Premiers, and Thee Midniters.
Mark & the Escorts were also included
on the 1965 album “West Coast Eastside
Revue,” which featured all the top East
L.A. bands of the era.
He was a student at Garfield High School
when at 15, he recorded his first two singles,
“Dance With Me” and “Get
Your Baby.” Many of the popular
musicians who were part of the East L.A. music
scene at the time went to Garfield, including
The Blendells and a couple of future members
of Los Lobos. This is also the high
school that a decade later had on its faculty
the phenomenal math teacher, Jaimé Escalane
on whom the movie “Stand and Deliver”
Next he led “The Men
from S.O.U.N.D.” and at 21, he wrote
and recorded the Chicano equivalent of James
Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m
Proud” and Helen Reddy’s “I
Am Woman,” and which became his most
Guerrero is a musician because he plays
guitar, bass and keyboards, but along the
way, he also became a radio personality as
the host of “Chicano Music Chronicles,”
on crnlive.com based out of Phoenix, Arizona.
“The idea of the show is that I would
pick about a dozen of my favorite songs by
the guest artist and we’d talk about
them, each song and about their career,”
Guerrero explained. “Some of my guests
were Trini Lopez, Chan Romero, Tierra, and
El Chicano.” “Each show
ranged from about an hour to two hours and
you can still hear them on my website.”
That brings us to the living legend’s
latest feather in his cap, that of being webmaster
of his own website. At
www.markguerrero.net, he chronicles
the history of Chicano music. And without
realizing it, he also became a musicologist
and writer since his site features in-depth
interviews with a ‘who’s who in
Chicano music. It is also here that La Prensa’s
readers can receive a detailed crash course
on Guerrero’s illustrious musical career.
Fast forwarding all the way to the present,
the singer-songwriter-musician is also featured
in “Chicano Rock: The Sounds of East
Los Angeles,” a PBS documentary that
aired on December 14, 2008 and will continue
to be intermittently aired throughout the
remainder of this year. Check
www.pbs.org or your local TV Guide
for future airings.
“It’s a great one-hour documentary
that tells the story of particularly the Chicano
rock & rollers out of East L.A. and I’m
in a couple of interview spots and a performance
“The graphics, the way it’s
put together, the way the story is told –
it touches on the discrimination that we’ve
gone through and it talks about the Chicano
Movement and the radicalization of the music,
the riots in East L.A., the Viet Nam War,
etc.,” Guerrero raved. “It touches
on not just the music, but the sociology and
the history around it. It’s really inspiring.
“I also want to tell you about the
Trini López television special that we just
taped on November 11 at the Orpheum Theater
in downtown Los Angeles. It was a seven high-definition
camera shoot for PBS and it is called ‘Trini
López Presents Latin Music Legends.’
Tierra backed me up on my dad’s ‘Los
Chucos Suaves,’ then Trini came out
and did a few songs with a big band.”
As we were talking, his cell phone rang
and it was Trini López, who almost lives next-door
to Guerrero in Palm Springs. Excusing his
self, without losing his excited state and
without skipping a beat he continued, adding
the other performers on the special; Little
Willie G. & Thee Midniters, El Chicano,
Tierra, and the Gregg Rolie Band. Also, Los
Lobos, Julio Iglesias, and José José provided
videos which will be inserted into the show.
While Guerrero’s noteworthy achievements
have brought him national recognition and
high prestige, he still has to make a living.
So as he says, “I perform five nights
a week at Las Casuelas Terraza, an outdoor
nightclub in Palm Springs. (Not to be mistaken
with Las Casuelas Nuevas in Rancho Mirage
where his father performed for many years.)
“This is my ‘meat and potatoes,’
‘pay the bills’ gig and we (Hot
Rox) are a great cover band. So I don’t
do any original material because it’s
really a ‘top 40’ kind of gig.
As for the future, Guerrero said, “Chan
Romero and I are planning to go Liverpool
(England) this summer and perform together.
“On February 21st, I’m doing
a re-union concert with Mark and the Escorts.
We haven’t played together since 1966.
I got five of the original members and we’re
going to perform in Van Nuys at a garage rock
’n’ roll blow out kind of concert.
There’s going to be 13 bands and out
of the thirteen, there are two Chicano sixties
bands from East L.A., that’s us and
Thee Ambertones. I’m pretty excited
about the show and am going to video tape
our performance and put it up on ‘you
This is a ‘don’t miss’
event and as long as you’re in Los Angeles,
go check out his exhibit in the Grammy Museum.
For its hours and exact location, go to
If this article has sparked your interest
in Guerrero’s repertoire, his recordings
are available at
www.markguerrero.net. In addition,
you may view seventy videos of the Grammy
Museum honoree in action at
about twenty of those are with his father
Fans can also meet Mark when he comes to
San Antonio for the “American Sabor”
exhibit that will run at Museo Alameda from
June 17 to September 20.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.
In 2008, the
Grammy Museum featured singer-songwriter Mark
Guerrero’s 1972 watershed Capitol Records single, “I’m Brown”,
in an exhibit called Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom.
A Chicano-pride song with a humanist heart, the song
acknowledges pride in one’s background/ethnicity while also
recognizing, to quote the lyric, “I’m first a member of the
human race.” The nod from the Grammy Museum regarding this
philosophically inclusive song is a fitting crowning achievement
for Guerrero, a unique artist who has largely gone unnoticed by
the masses, though he has been making music, both on major
labels and DIY style, for five decades.
The son of the late, legendary Chicano songwriter
Lalo Guerrero, Mark Guerrero began his career at age
13 with Mark & the Escorts, an East LA band who shared bills
with “Eastside Sound” legends like Cannibal & the Headhunters
and Thee Midniters. After a stint leading a group called The Men
From S.O.U.N.D., Guerrero went on to record two singles for
Capitol (the aforementioned “I’m Brown”, and “Rock & Roll
Queen”) Later, he signed with
A&M Records and released one album in 1973 with his
group Tango (check out the dramatic back-story about Tango,
written by Guerrero himself,
Herb Alpert , the “A” in A&M, Records, would go on to
record Guerrero’s song “Pre-Columbian Dream” on his 1983 album,
Noche de Amor. Guerrero has remained active and prolific
over the past three decades as well, releasing several albums,
lecturing and consulting on various Latino-focused exhibits,
shows, and concerts, and performing regularly with various
groups, including his own.
Listening for the first time to Mark Guerrero’s earlier songs,
especially the stuff from the ‘70s, is like tapping into a
parallel reality; a reality where this East-LA bred Chicano
artist found ready acceptance in the music industry and topped
the charts with his confident, effortless songcraft and vocals.
Mix some Mark Guerrero songs up in your digital player’s shuffle
and I guarantee you’ll end up running to check the artist name
when one of his songs pops up and something about it seems
strangely familiar, yet altogether new at the same time. It’s a
blast from the past you never heard.
My personal favorites of Guerrero’s early work is the B-side to
“I’m Brown”, “Livin’ Off the Land”, a feel-good rocker that
sounds just like the AM radio classic it should have been, and
“Hang On”, a poppy, keyboard-driven tune that was left off of
the Tango album. Both songs are available on the compilation CD
Mark Guerrero Solo and with Tango 1972-1974, which is a
great way to get acquainted with Guerrero’s work (it’s available
Guerrero’s website). From there, interested folks can
easily jump back to his rarer earlier recordings and forward to
his more recent work.
What was the first song you fell in love with, and what is your
current relationship to the piece?
“I Want You I Need You I Love You” by Elvis Presley.
When I was about five years old, I had access to my teenage
brother’s record collection. I remember hearing this one over
and over again on my little children’s 45 rpm record player with
Alice and Wonderland characters emblazoned on it. The 6/8
romantic doo-wop ballad is a great sounding record, with
fantastic background vocals (a trio with a pre-Jordanaires
Gordon Stoker), great band (Elvis regulars Scotty Moore on
guitar, DJ Fontana on drums, and Bill Black on bass, along with
Marvin Hughes on piano and Chet Atkins on guitar), and Elvis at
his best on lead vocal, run through a cavernous echo chamber.
The sound and emotion of the music coming off the grooves was
nothing short of magical. I did play the song in a band in
recent years. It was fun playing it and it brought back the
memory of hearing it as a child. Whenever I hear the record now,
it still has the magic.
Who is your favorite “unsung” artist or songwriter, someone who
you feel never gets their due? Talk a little bit about him/her.
Hirth Martinez, a singer/songwriter who happens to be
a friend of mine. He recorded two albums for Warner Brothers in
the mid-‘70s. Hirth got his record deal as a result of Bob Dylan
hearing his songs and hooking him up with Robbie Robertson of
the Band. Robbie took him to Warner Brothers (Records) and
produced his first album
Hirth from Earth,using
the best musicians L.A. had to offer. Hirth’s a phenomenal
songwriter and guitarist. His lyrics are unique, poetic, and
often have humor in them. His songs are in different genres,
ranging from sambas to jazz, blues, and rock, and the melodies
and chord structures can be very sophisticated, yet totally
accessible. In the late ‘90s, he recorded a great album for
release in Japan called I’m Not Like I Was Before, which
is more on the jazzy side, but also still accessible to the pop
listener. I would also put (the author of this column) PC Muñoz
on the list and with all due modesty, yours truly.
Is there an artist, genre, author, filmmaker, etc. who/which has
had a significant impact/influence on you, but that influence
can’t be directly heard in your music?
The late great author
Kurt Vonnegut. His books and short stories are very
imaginative and funny, but at their core very profound and
moralistic. Because of this, he’s been compared to Mark Twain,
even considered by many to be the Mark Twain of the 20th
century. Songs can also get some profound messages across using
humor and other devices that candy-coat them, making the good
medicine go down easy.
Do you view songwriting as a calling, a gig, a hobby, other…?
It’s a calling. It’s also in my DNA since my dad,
Lalo Guerrero (considered the “Father of Chicano
Music”), was a great and prolific songwriter. I’ve been writing
songs since I was 16 years old and continue to do so. I’m a
singer and musician, but I’ve always considered myself
fundamentally a songwriter.
Name one contemporary song that encourages you about the future
of songwriting/pop music.
I don’t think I can name one song that stands out that
dramatically by itself. There are some contemporary artists that
have talent as singer/songwriters such as Norah Jones, Jason
Mraz, John Mayer, and Alicia Keys, but I don’t see talents now
that are in the same class as the greats of the ‘60s and ‘70s;
Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Ray
Charles, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Joni
Mitchell, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Elton John, Sting, Carole
King, Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, etc. I don’t see
that kind of genius and innovation today, but there’s always
hope for the future.
In addition to his work as a songwriter and musician, Mark
Guerrero maintains an extensive collection of information,
memorabilia, and writings on Chicano music and musicians on his
website (including lots of information about his father),
featuring photos, links, reviews, and interviews. Check out
Mark’s music and much more at
Friday night, June 11,War, Zoot Suits and brass reigned
at Spotlight 29 Casino in Indio, California. It was
another one of those rare nights were everything came
together to create a perfect evening, at least for
Coachella Valley music fans. Three legendary groups took
the stage and the music was terrific.
El Chicano opened the
evening, and they opened it with a bang. Within minutes,
they brought the audience to a fevered pitch and kept
them there through their entire set. Audience members
came to their feet and were dancing in the isles,
cheering, shouting and singing to the music. The crowd
loved El Chicano, and El Chicano immediately responded
showing that they loved the crowd back. They gave their
performance everything they had, and the people loved
them even more. Special guest singer Mark Guerrero, son
of the late, great Lalo Guerrero, “The Father of Chicano
Music,” came out and sang “Brown Eyed Girl” with El
Chicano and the audience went crazy. The group dedicated
their music to keyboard player Bobby Espinosa, one of
founding members of El Chicano who unfortunately died
Sitting next to me during the performance were two
friends from Indio, Cathy Garcia and Rita Soriano. Cathy
told me that El Chicano was one of her favorite groups
and that she loved their music. After the set was over,
she confided that she especially loved their rendition
of “Sabor A Mi.” Rita told me that her favorite from the set
was, “Tell Her She’s Lovely.” I agreed with both of
Also in the audience were War fans Rick and Sylvia
Sambrano and Carmen and Filipe Beccerra and dancing in
the isles, were our old Laker Fan buddies, Bonggo and
Next up was Tierra, and they took the stage like a line
of musical assassins. They lined up across the stage
and,like a firing squad, blasted out at the crowd
already revved up and made ready to go by El Chicano.
The crowd responded and once again took to their feet,
dancing, singing, shouted and reveling in the isles.
Tierra belted out a list of their greatest hits
including, “Lady in the Moonlight,” “Memories,”
“Together,” “Gonna Find Her” and “Zoot Suit Boogie.” The
music and the energy they created were altogether
shameless, brazen and marvelous. Their Zoot Suited
drummer pranced across the stage and the crowd went
wild. He loved the reaction and bowed and recognized the
adoration of the crowd, and the music deepened and the
crowd loosened up a bit more, and the world was about
By the time War was declared and took the stage, the
audience was ready to rumble and rumble they did when
War opened with their blockbuster hit “Cisco Kid.” What
had been an audience became a mob, and there was
standing room only as a battalion of singing, dancing
and merry makers moved forward, crowed the stage,
danced, sang and simply had a great time. War showed
they still had it as they played their “War Hit List!”
No one was in the least bit unhappy that War had been
unleashed upon the Coachella Valley.
All in all, it was an amazing night. Groups come and go.
Great groups have played at Spotlight 29 before, but
tonight there was music nirvana as three great groups
declared music on the residents and visitors to the
Coachella Valley. There were no survivors, there were
only revelers and the joyful as War, El Chicano and
Tierra were never better.
Thank you, Spotlight29! Just when it gets quiet in the
Coachella Valley, you know how to loose the Dogs of War
and bring our spirits up. I, for one, am looking forward
to next month at 8 p.m., Friday, July 2, when Old School
#5 takes to the stage and the music returns.