There's a book on the market entitled "Land of a Thousand
Dances" by David Reyes and Tom Waldman. It chronicles
the history of Chicano rock & roll in Southern California,
a subject that I'm more than casually interested in since
I experienced it first hand and was part of the story.
This book will introduce you to Chicano rock artists that
made a contribution to rock & roll. Most hailed from East
L.A., many had hits, others didn't or haven't yet. The
artists profiled that had a least one hit record include;
Ritchie Valens, The Premiers, The Blendells, Cannibal &
the Headhunters, El Chicano, Tierra and Los Lobos. It's
a fantastic story that deserved to be told. The vast
majority of the artists came from middle and lower middle
class families, had no formal musical training or education,
and had to fight an uphill battle against an industry that
was either ignorant of their existence, doubtful there was
a market for them or simply bigoted. I find it inspiring
that so many managed to achieve success in spite of the odds.
of a Thousand Dances" was at least ten years in the making.
I was first interviewed for the book in 1988. The authors
spent years doing research and interviews before they began
to write and did the job with great interest and enthusiasm.
The book begins with what Reyes and Waldman call the pre-rock
influences, Chico Sesma and my father, Lalo Guerrero.
The former, a big band swing and jazz musician turned radio
DJ. The latter, a Chicano musical pioneer. This
is followed by the Ritchie Valens story and proceeds to the
1960's, which was when East Los Angeles was a hot bed of musical
activity. I had a band called Mark & the Escorts,
who played virtually every weekend at dances, parties, weddings,
etc., in my early teens. There were scores of good,
and some great bands. Some thriving at the time were
Thee Midniters, The Romancers, Ronnie & the Casuals, Little
Ray & the Progressions, The Jaguars with the Salas Brothers,
The Emeralds, and the aforementioned Blendells and Premiers.
I played gigs on the same bill with all of them and can vouch
for the fact that they were good. As I look back it
amazes me because we were all teenagers. Moving further
down the time line, the late 60's and early 70's produced
many groups that recorded for major labels including El Chicano
(MCA), Tierra (20th Century), Macondo (Atlantic), Yaqui (Playboy),
and my band, Tango (A&M). The 80's gave us Chicano
punk bands such as The Plugz, Los
Illegals, and The Brat,
as well as the versatile and highly successful, Los Lobos.
The nineties have produced rap artists Kid Frost and Lighter
Shade of Brown.
Beyond telling the musical histories
of the artists, "Land of a Thousand Dances" delves into the
political and social conditions involved in the various eras
and how they affected the music and the musicians. It
also places Chicano musical contributions into the larger
context of the history of rock & roll. In addition, the
authors interviewed Frank Zappa and Bill Medley of The Righteous
Brothers, both of whom grew up with and were influenced, musically
and otherwise, by Chicanos. Despite the odds, many of
the bands from the barrio achieved great things. Cannibal
& the Headhunters toured with The Beatles in 1965, while
The Blendells toured with the Dave Clark Five the same year.
Tierra played at Carnegie Hall in the early 80's and Los Lobos
have performed with the likes of The Clash, The Eagles and
The Grateful Dead. They also had a number one hit with
their remake of La Bamba in 1987. There is information
about me on pages 9, 55, 97, and 106-109. There are
also photos of my first 60s' band, Mark & the Escorts,
and my 70s band, Tango. The discography at the end of
the book lists the recordings of each artist featured in "Land
of a Thousand Dances." The book is written with
insight and intelligence and I highly recommend it.
"Land of a Thousand Dances" by David Reyes and Tom Waldman
is published by University of New Mexico Press and is available
in book stores and amazon.com at the link below.
second edition of "Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano
Rock 'n" Roll From Southern California" was published
in March of 2009. It has a new cover, an expanded introduction,
and more photos!
Mark Guerrero is featured on
page 9, 55, 97, 106-9. Photos of Mark's early bands,
Mark & the Escorts (1963-66) and Tango (1973-74) are also
included in the book.
& Photo Below
"Land of a Thousand Dances" Book Release
September 2, 1998
who performed included:
Lalo Guerrero with Mark Guerrero & the SecondGeneration
Los Illegals, Max Uballez, Lisa Flores, Thee Midniters,
and Li'l Rudy G.)
David Reyes, Mark Guerrero, and Tom Waldman (2007)
Guerrero with the authors of the book "Land of
a Thousand Dances)
For the Record
Although there is a lot of good information and some very
positive things said about me in the book, for which I am
grateful, there are a few things relative to my story in "Land
of a Thousand Dances" that I would like correct or clarify
for the record.
Page 55- In reference to me, it says that when The
Beatles came to America "he put away his acoustic guitar and
replaced it with an electric model" and "after seeing and
hearing them (The Beatles), he had no choice but to form his
own band." Yes, the Beatles did inspire me and change
my life, however, I had a band (The Escorts) and played electric
guitar (a Gibson Melody Maker) about a year before The Beatles
Page 107- It states that Billy Cardenas' nephew sang
the lead vocal on Mark & the Escorts' version of "Dance
with Me" because "he couldn't hit the high notes." The
actual reason we brought him in was because I wasn't singing
in the band yet because I felt my voice was too young and
high sounding to be on the record. I didn't start singing
publicly until I was sixteen years old, a year or two later.
It also turns out, it may not have been Billy's nephew who
sang on the record. I definitely told the authors of
"Land of a Thousand Dances" that it was Billy's nephew because
that was my recollection in the late 80s when I was interviewed
for the book. However, when I asked Billy in 1999 who
that singer was, because I was writing the liner notes to
the reissue of the Mark & the Escorts recordings on Dionysus
Records, he said it was not his nephew and he can't remember
who the guy was. So apparently it will remain a mystery.
Page 109- This item is more of a response to the authors'
opinion, rather than a correction. It refers to my song
"He's An Artist," which was on my "Tango" album on A&M
Records in 1973, as a "happy-go-lucky song." Musically
it could possibly be described in that way, although it was
a crunchy, up tempo rock & roll song, but lyrically it
was a somewhat angry song about a pseudo artist. It
was inspired by someone I was working with, who had the walk
and the talk of an artist without the talent (all hat, no
cattle). I don't understand how an angry rock song could
be described as "happy-go-lucky." On the same page,
it incorrectly states that my song "Pre-Columbian Dream" was
on my "On the Boulevard" E.P. It was not on that E.P.
and has not been released officially to date, except for the
instrumental version by Herb Alpert in 1983.
Photo Caption- On the caption under the photo of Mark
& the Escorts, it calls our lead singer Ricky "Alma" instead
of "Almaraz." This occurred because I faxed a copy of
the photo to the authors with the names of the band members
written by hand underneath. The "az" of Almaraz didn't
come through on their end because it was slightly past the
margin of the photo.
Mark Guerrero also wrote a review
on "Land of a Thousand Dances," available on
the "Miscellaneous Writings" page. Click
Here to read it.