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The Mixtures:  Stompin' At the Rainbow / Breakin' Down Racial Barriers

by Mark Guerrero

     The Mixtures were a racially mixed r&b band of the '60s from Ventura County, California, sixty miles north of Los Angeles.  However, they are considered part of the Eastside Sound because they were managed by Eddie Davis, who was involved with many East Los Angeles bands, and played many of the Eastside venues, such as Rainbow Gardens in Pomona and El Monte Legion Stadium.  The Mixtures recorded one album and seven singles and were the house band at both Rainbow Gardens and on a popular Los Angeles television show.  To devotees of the Eastside Sound, they are best known for two of their recordings, "Olive Oyl" and "Stompin' At the Rainbow."  These tracks and others have been featured on various Eastside Sound CD and vinyl album compilations.

     The seeds of The Mixtures were planted at Oxnard High School in 1957.  The Playboys, who would evolve into the Mixtures, were started by Steve Mendoza, Del Franklin, and Jess Porras.  Steve, Del, and Jess were all in the high school band, Steve on trumpet and Del and Jess on tenor sax.  They would get together after school and jam off campus, sometimes with an upright bass player.  Steve would also play piano at the jams.  Eventually, they were invited to play at an assembly at their high school.  For their first gig, Steve played piano, Jess, alto sax, Del, tenor sax, Johnny Trueblood, drums, and a bass player.  One of the songs they played that day was a jazzed up version of "The Bunny Hop."  It went over very well with the student body.  Encouraged by the experience, they kept rehearsing.  Jess Porras came from a musical family.  His uncles on his mother's side of the family were professional musicians.  Jess' mom and uncles grew up in Garden City, Kansas.  They were part of a Mexican migration to work in the fields.  Jess' dad played guitar and sang, but never went professional.  He taught Jess some guitar and some classic Mexican songs.  Jess played violin from age nine to twelve, before switching to sax.  Jess would also sit in with his uncles' bands on percussion and got the bug to be in a band.  Getting back to the Playboys, their next opportunity was to play at their high school prom.  By this time, they had added Dick Halstead on guitar and Autry Joe Johnson on baritone sax, augmenting the alto and tenor saxes which gave them a fat sound.  The Playboys began playing local gigs and were off and running.  Meanwhile Dan Pollock had a band at Hueneme High School called the Hysterics.  The other band members were Doug Phillips, Dave Nuñez, and later Dick Burns.  When Dan left the band to join the Playboys, the Hysterics went on to have a hit record as the Dartells called "Hot Pastrami."  Dan, who's true leanings were toward r&b music, really admired the Playboys and wanted to become a member.  Eventually, he was able to do so by trading his 1956 Fender Telecaster for a Fender Precision Bass and joining as their bass player.  He'd never played the bass before, but at the time Fender basses were a rarity so it got him into the band.  Dan also knew their guitarist, Dick Halstead, was a Navy brat and that his dad would eventually be transferred away.  When that did happen, Dan moved into the guitar slot in the band, Leroy "Zag" Soto took over on bass, and Eddie DeRobles came in on drums.  In 1960, The Playboys changed their name to the Mixtures.  The name came from the obvious fact that the band was a mixture of races made up of two Chicanos, a Puerto Rican-American, an African-American, a half black-half Chicano, and Dan, an r&b loving white kid.

     Leroy "Zag" Soto was born in Hawaii, where many Puerto Ricans went at the turn of the century to work on the plantations.  Zag's grandparents were part of that migration.  Zag's grandfather gave him his nickname, which he made up because he didn't like the name Leroy.  Zag's father joined the military and the family moved to Maryland.  While back east in the late 50s, Zag saw Little Richard with the Upsetters, Ike & Tina Turner, and other r&b greats.  He started to play r&b music while still in high school.  The drummer in his band for at least a year was one Bernard Purdie, who went on to become one of the world's great drummers.  Zag's father was transferred to Port Hueneme in the Oxnard area.  It was there that he would see the Mixtures play.  It was his kind of music they were playing.  He first joined the Mixtures as a drummer, before moving over to bass.  The Mixtures felt they needed more vocal help so Del Franklin brought in a black singer from the projects named Phillip Tucker.  The ladies loved him because he had blue-green eyes and was well built.  Phil brought in another singer, who was also African-American, by the name of Willis Junior Harvey.  Phil and Harv would be featured singers with the Mixtures for a couple of years.  However, Phil and Harv would often get into trouble with the law and would sometimes miss gigs because they were in jail.  Ironically, Harv is now a probation officer in Oxnard.  The members of the Mixtures at this time were Del Franklin (sax and vocals), Leroy "Zag" Soto (bass), Dan Pollock (guitar), Jess Porras (sax), Eddie DeRobles (drums), Johnny Wells (congas), and Steve Mendoza (piano).  Phil and Harv were their featured vocalists.

     The Mixtures were introduced to Eddie Davis by Ventura disc jockey Dick Moreland, who would go on to become a big time DJ at KRLA in Los Angeles.  Eddie loved the band and became their promoter and producer.  Davis took the Mixtures into the studio and began booking the band at high school dances, ballrooms, and quincenieras.  On one memorable high school assembly gig, the Mixtures backed up Lou Rawls, who was still scufflin' around at the time.  The first record the Mixtures did was as a backup band for a female singer named Cookie Comp.  The song was "I Won't Cry," a song written by Cookie.  The "B" side was an instrumental version of "I Won't Cry," the same track with a sax in place of the lead vocal.  It was released on one of Eddie Davis' record labels, First President Records.  The next Mixtures record was "Darling (Please Bring Your Love)."  However, the Mixtures' lead singers, Phil and Harv, were the only band members on the record.  Because the Mixtures didn't have studio experience, Eddie brought in some experienced studio musicians for this session.  Two of them were Bobby Gross (of the Olympics) on drums and Gaynell Hodge (a doo wop veteran who had played with the Penguins of "Earth Angel" fame) on piano.  The record was released on Eddie Davis' Rampart Records on March 10, 1961 and, according to Dan, sold 200,000 copies.  The "B" side of the record was "Friendship," which was a song from the '30s given a rocked up treatment.  "Darling (Please Bring Your Love)" was later recorded by The Salas Brothers on Eddie Davis' Faro label and sold well again.  (The Salas Brothers went on to form the legendary Chicano band Tierra in the early 70s.)

     The success of the Mixtures record led to better gigs, such as the aforementioned Rainbow Gardens, El Monte Legion Stadium, the Cinnamon Cinder in Studio City, and the popular Santa Monica amusement park, Pacific Ocean Park.  Another venue they often played was Pop Leuder's Park in Compton, where they were often on the bill with the Beach Boys.  At the time Compton had a large white population.  The Beach Boys also played at Rainbow Gardens with the Mixtures, but didn't go over a well there because it was a Chicano rock & roll venue at the time.  Surf music wasn't the thing there.  The Mixtures repertoire consisted of r&b and doo wop covers with some originals mixed in.  Some of the artists they covered were James Brown, Little Richard, King Curtis, Bobby Blue Bland, and Joey Dee & the Starlighters.  In 1961, the Mixtures became the house band on Friday nights at Rainbow Gardens in Pomona.  Rainbow Gardens had been a venue for major big bands of the 40s such as Harry James, Les Brown, and Count Basie.  It later became a hot spot for top Latin big bands including Beto Villa, Rene Touzet, Tito Puente, Tin Tan, and Perez Prado.  By the early 60s it became a rock & roll venue.  The Mixtures would pack 'em in at the Rainbow, which held up to 800 people.  Soon many East L.A. bands started to play at  Rainbow Gardens.  My teenage East L.A. band, Mark & the Escorts played there several times in 1964 on their Sunday afternoon (tardeada) shows, which would run from around 4 pm to 10 pm.  We were on the bill with bands such as the Romancers, the Desires, and the Jaguars with the Salas Brothers.  The Mixtures got the idea for their song and record "Rainbow Stomp" from the experience that when there was any small lull between songs at Rainbow Gardens, the dancers would stomp their feet showing their impatience for the next song.  The Mixtures also were the house band on a television show called "Parade of Hits" on KCOP- Los Angeles.  On the show they would back up the hit artists of the day, including Roy Orbison, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Gene McDaniels, Bobby Day, Paul Anka, Freddy Cannon, the Letterman, April and Nino Tempo, and Ketty Lester of "Love Letters" fame.  With all this success, the Mixtures still couldn't get into certain venues because of their racial mixture.  Bigotry was alive and well in Los Angeles in the early 60s.  Sometimes after the taping of the television show, the Mixtures would go to see Pat & Lolly Vegas play down on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.  Still in their television make up, they would dig the music Pat & Lolly were putting out and marvel at Lolly's guitar playing.  Pat & Lolly had to change their names from Vasquez to Vegas to open doors for their own careers in Hollywood.

     On February 12, 1962 the Mixtures recorded a "live" album called "Stompin' At the Rainbow."  It included covers such as "Peter Gunn," "Peppermint Twist," "So Fine," "Besame Mucho," and "St. James Infirmary," along with some originals.  Most of the album was in fact recorded "live" at Rainbow Gardens, however, "Rainbow Stomp (Pt. 1)," "Rainbow Stomp (Pt. 2)," and "Turkey Time," were studio recordings added in.  (Larry Tamblyn, later to be a member of the Standells of "Dirty Water" fame, played guitar on "Turkey Time," with Dan Pollock on banjo.)  On the studio cuts, band friends and relatives, along with people literally brought in off the street, yelled and screamed into a microphone.  This track was mixed into the recordings to make them sound "live."  This technique was later used on other Eastside Sound records such as "Farmer John" by The Premiers, "La La La La La" by The Blendells, and on my band, Mark & the Escorts' single "Get Your Baby."  The "live" tracks on the "Stompin' At the Rainbow" album were recorded by Wally Heider, who would go on to become the pre-eminent "live" recording engineer of the era.  (Crosby, Stills and Nash recorded their first classic album at Wally Heider's studio in 1969.)  One track on "Stompin' At the Rainbow" features a lead vocal by Chick Carlton, who was not a member of the Mixtures.  Chick often wrote songs for many of Eddie Davis' label artists, sometimes playing on sessions and performing "live" with them.  Carlton also recorded for Davis' Faro label with Chick Carlton and the Majestics.  The Chick Carlton vocal on the Mixtures' album was a medley of Little Richard's "Jenny Jenny," "Lucille," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "The Girl Can't Help It," and Don & Dewey's "Justine."  The Mixtures often backed up other artists in their "live" performances such as Bobby Hart (later of the hit songwriting team of Boyce and Hart) and Chris Montez of "Let's Dance" fame.  "Stompin' At the Rainbow" by the Mixtures was released on March 19, 1962 on Eddie Davis' Linda Records.

     Perhaps the Mixtures best known record was "Olive Oyl," which was released November 7, 1962.  The flip side was the Mixtures version of "Canadian Sunset."  "Olive Oyl" is an instrumental featuring the rhythmic guitar of Dan Pollock, Del Franklin's sax solos, and Leroy "Zag" Soto providing the impressions of Popeye and Olive Oyl on the breaks.  It's similar to the way the word "tequila" is said in the breaks of the song "Tequila" by the Champs.  The idea for the song came about because Zag had been doing the impressions around the band for fun.  The band thought it would be a good idea to write a song around the impressions.  "Olive Oyl" was created in rehearsal with writing credit going to Del Franklin and Eddie Davis.  "Olive Oyl" backed with "a cover of "Canadian Sunset" was released on November 7, 1962.  Other singles by The Mixtures were:  "Rainbow Stomp (Part 1) b/w "Rainbow Stomp (Part 2)," March 19, 1962; "Jawbone" b/w "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," September 9, 1962; "Poochum" b/w "Tiki," March 5, 1963; "The Last Minute" b/w "Sen-Sa-Shun," July 16, 1964, and "Chinese Checkers" b/w "Dig These Blues," December 8, 1965.  Dan Pollock's guitar teacher and mentor was Jimmy Nolen, who was Johnny Otis' guitar player.  Jimmy had played on Otis' "Willie and the Hand Jive" and later was James Brown's guitarist on "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."  What better r&b credentials can one have?  Nolen passed away in 1983.  Dan Pollack believes he was forced out of the Mixtures in August of 1962 because his father, who was a city official and county sheriff in Ventura was investigating why the Mixtures were making only $40 a piece a week when they were packing Rainbow Gardens.  The reason he was given was that he was fired because the owner of the Rainbow saw him kissing a black girl in the parking lot of the establishment.  She was a singer in one of the other acts on the bill that night.  Whether or not it was the real reason, once again racism reared its ugly head.  Dan went back home and formed his own band with Phil Tucker and a soul singer named Linda Brown.

     Dan Pollock soon joined the army where he would play guitar with special services.  He also was in a band that played off base in Huntsville, Alabama.  One of the band members in this band was Fred Wesley, who had played with Ike & Tina Turner.  He was a trombonist and music director.  Later Wesley would fulfill the same duties for no less than the "Godfather of Soul," James Brown.  Fred Wesley also worked with Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, Bootsy Collins and George Clinton.  I don't think one can have a better r&b and funk resume.  After Dan Pollock got out of the army, Wesley hooked him up with an audition for Ike & Tina Turner's band.  Dan was hired and went out on the road with Ike & Tina.  Eventually, Dan and the band quit the revue in Phoenix, Arizona because they didn't like the way Ike was treating Tina.  They went to Los Angeles and became the house band at the California Club on Santa Barbara and Western.  There they backed such greats as Little Richard, Etta James, Johnny Guitar Watson, and T Bone Walker.  Dan Pollock eventually got a day job as a dispatcher for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department as he put it "to support his music habit."  He would play weekends.  He also had a local NPR radio show called "Blues Shack."  In 1998, Dan got fed up with club owners and the music business in general and quit the radio show and playing music professionally.  He figures he played from 1957 to 1998, forty one years ain't bad!  Pollock believes that the Mixtures didn't go farther in the business for two reasons.  First, he thinks the Mixtures didn't come off on record as excitingly as they did "live."  He feels what they created on stage was never duplicated on record.  The second reason was the racial prejudice they were faced with, being denied many opportunities because of the band's racial make up.  Another source of frustration to the Mixtures, according to Dan Pollock and Zag Soto, was that Eddie Davis was always trying to turn them into a surf band.  Surf music was a huge craze at the time, with Dick Dale & the Deltones, the Ventures, the Shan-tays, the Surfaris, et. al.  The Mixtures were an r&b band and were not comfortable doing anything else.

     When Dan Pollock left the Mixtures, his guitar spot was first taken by Mike Hufford, who did one or two recordings with the Mixtures.  Hufford was then replaced by East L.A. legend Andy Tesso.  Andy had played with the pioneering East L.A. band, The Romancers.  In addition to Andy Tesso, this latter phase of the Mixtures was made up of Randy Thomas on piano, Wayne Edwards on drums, and from the earlier Mixtures, Del Franklin, Leroy "Zag" Soto, and Johnny Wells.  Randy Thomas and Wayne Edwards were to gain "Eastside Sound" immortality by writing an instrumental called "Get Your Baby," which was recorded by the Blendells, the Premiers, and my Eastside band, Mark & the Escorts.  This Mixtures lineup played on Mixtures recordings such as "Poochum," "Chinese Checkers," and "Sen-Sa-Shun," featuring Andy Tesso on lead guitar.  "Poochum" was used in the 2005 television movie "Walkout," about the Chicano student walkouts in East Los Angeles in 1968.  This version of the Mixtures, like the earlier version of the band, also played at Pacific Ocean Park.  From P.O.P., as it was called for short, by this time a television show was broadcast called "Where the Action Is."  The Mixtures would perform on this show, which had the major recording artists of the mid-sixties as guests.  They also played "live" gigs with Barry White, the Rivingtons (of "Pah Pah Ooh Maw Maw" fame), and others.  There was also more discrimination faced.  They had an opportunity to play in Las Vegas with Herb Alpert, but the promoters in Vegas didn't want the racially mixed band.  (According to Dan Pollock, Herb Alpert used to jam with the Mixtures at Rainbow Gardens and had previously asked Dan, Zag, and Jess to go with him to form the Tijuana Brass, but they declined the offer.)  There was also a club in Santa Monica called the Dovell Club.  The Mixtures played there for Latin nights, but were not allowed to play on other nights.  The Mixtures broke up in the mid-60s, leaving behind a musical legacy and a great story.

     Jess Porras was drafted around 1964.  After his military service, he went to Santa Barbara City College, where he had Chicano Studies classes during the beginning of the Chicano movement.  He transferred to San Diego State, where he earned bachelors and masters degrees in speech pathology and audiology.  He's now a professor at San Diego State, teaching teachers in the fields of special education and learning disabilities.  Leroy "Zag" Soto was a helicopter pilot in the Viet Nam war.  After his service, he went to medical school and trained as a pediatrician.  He then did emergency medicine, general practice, and is now a physician and medical director at a federal prison in Texas.  He says he's known by many as Dr. Zag.  The nickname stuck.  Dan Pollock is retired from working for the Ventura County Sheriff's department.

     Recordings by the Mixtures are available on the following CD compilations:  "The Eastside Sound - 1959-1968," Dionysus Records (1996) "Rainbow Stomp," "Jawbone," "Olive Oyl," "Tiki," "Chinese Checkers," and "Sen-Sa-Shun"; "The West Coast Eastside Sound, Volumes one through four," Varese Sarabande Records (1999) "Darling (Please Bring Your Love)," "Olive Oyl," "Rainbow Stomp (Part 1)," "Karen" by Little Ray with the Mixtures, "My Girl" by Phil and Del with the Mixtures, "Chinese Checkers," "Don't Play with Love" by Phil and Del with the Mixtures, and "Poochum"; and "East L.A.- Rockin' the Barrio," Varese Sarabande Records (2005) "Rainbow Stomp (Pt. 1)" and "Darling (Please Bring Your Love."

This article is based on an audio taped telephone interviews by Mark Guerrero with Dan Pollock on October 15, 2006, Jess Porras on February 3, 2007, and Leroy "Zag" Soto on February 4, 2007.

mp3 Sound Bytes

Olive Oyl - The Mixtures 1962

Rainbow Stomp (Part 1) - The Mixtures 1962

8 photos of The Mixtures below courtesy of Dan Pollock

The Mixtures (1961)

(standing left to right- Del Franklin, Johnny Wells, Jess Porras,
Leroy "Zag" Soto, and Eddie De Robles)
(seated- Steve Mendoza and Dan Pollock)


The Mixtures at Rainbow Gardens (March 1962)

(left to right- Del Franklin, Leroy "Zag" Soto, Jess Porras, Dan Pollock,
Eddie De Robles, and Johnny Wells)
Steve Mendoza (far left hidden, piano)


The Mixtures (March 1962)

(standing left to right- Steve Mendoza, Del Franklin, Leroy "Zag" Soto,
Dan Pollock, Jess Porras, and Johnny Wells) (Eddie De Robles on drums)


The Mixtures and The Standells at Rainbow Gardens (March 1962)

(At the rear of the stage: The Standells, with Larry Tamblyn on guitar
Dan Pollock {bending down in front of Larry} and Eddie De Robles on front set of drums. Front of the stage from left to right are Leroy "Zag" Soto (standing),
Corkie Wilkie (back to camera with sax), and Jess Porras)

The Mixtures at Rainbow Gardens (February 12, 1962)
(taken during the live "Stompin' At the Rainbow" album)

 left to right- Del Franklin, Leroy "Zag" Soto, and Dan Pollock


The Mixtures at Rainbow Gardens (February 12, 1962)
(taken during the live "Stompin' At the Rainbow" album)

left to right- Eddie Robles (drums), Del Franklin, Leroy "Zag" Soto, and Dan Pollack


The Mixtures (1960)

(left to right- Phil & Harv, Dan Pollock, Johnny Wells (hidden), Del Franklin,
Leroy "Zag" Soto (hidden),Jess Porras, Steve Mendoza, and Dick Halstead)


The Mixtures (1959)

left to right- Del Franklin, Jess Porras, Dick Halstead, Steve Mendoza, Johnny Trueblood (Mixtures' first drummer), Dan Pollock, and Autrey Joe Johnson


Mark Guerrero & Dan Pollock



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