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Book Review: “Barrio Rhythm”

by Mark Guerrero

     “Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles” by Steven Loza was published by the University of Illinois Press in 1993.  Loza, a professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA, gives us a scholarly survey of the history of Mexican and Mexican-American music in L.A.  The book begins with a chronicle of the social and musical history of Mexican Los Angeles from the founding of the pueblo in 1781 up to the end of World War II.  This section illuminates us on the styles of music, kind of groups, and instruments used by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans of this period.  It also tells of the earliest recordings of Mexican folk songs, recorded on wax cylinders between 1904 and 1912 by writer/photographer Charles Lummis. The postwar period covers a lot of information including the recording industry and nightclub circuit of the 40s and 50s, the Chicano Movement of the 60s, and the new wave and punk scene of the 80s.  Much of the information on the artists profiled in the book was taken from video taped interviews conducted by Steven Loza with the artists themselves.  Postwar artists such as Andy Russell (born Andres Rábago Perez), Vikki Carr (born Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona), Eddie Cano, Don Tosti, and my dad, Lalo Guerrero, are featured. Loza also describes the East L.A. riots of the late 60s and the Eastside Sound, which developed during the musical explosion that occurred in East Los Angeles in the 1960s.  The “Eastside Sound” section touches on The Premiers, Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Blendells, and Little Ray.  Special attention is given to Thee Midniters, El Chicano, Tierra, and Ruben Guevara.  In a chapter entitled, “Papas Got a Brand New Bag,” Loza profiles salsero Poncho Sanchez, 80s artists Teresa Covarrubias of The Brat and Los Illegals, and Los Lobos in some detail.

     The book has plenty of photos, lyrics, and even musical notation of relevant songs.  The excellent cover artwork was done by artist/musician Willie Herrón of Los
Illegals, who’s featured prominently in the book.  There’s also an "Appendix: Jazz and Fusion Musicians," which lists Chicano musicians with information on each one, an extensive bibliography, and a discography.  I’m mentioned briefly in the chapter on my dad, Lalo Guerrero, on page 165, and my teenage band, Mark & the Escorts, are mentioned on page 102 in relation to the "West Coast Eastside Review" album on which we appeared.  Lalo Guerrero gets the most attention in this book, and deservedly so, since he’s widely considered to be the Father of Chicano Music.  He’s mentioned and quoted all over the book and has a section of 26 pages dedicated to his life and career.  That includes the lyrics and notated music to three of his songs:  the ranchera standard, “Canción Mexicana,” a pachuco swing classic, “Los Chucos Suaves,” and a satirical song about immigration, “No Way Jose.”  “Barrio Rhythm” is an essential book for anyone interested in Mexican or Chicano music, as well as those interested in the “Eastside Sound” of the 60s in East L.A.

For the Record

     There are some minor errors in my dad’s (Lalo Guerrero's) section of the book that I would like to address for the historical record.  These are small academic points that do not detract from the value or importance of the book.  These errors could be a result of the students who transcribed the interviews or perhaps typos, but they should be corrected since it’s a history book which is used in some colleges and universities.  The following corrections are based on my own recollections and from double checking with my dad, the first time several years ago when I first read the book, and then again in 2003 while writing this article.

Page 71- My dad’s song is referred to as “Chuco suave” instead of “Los Chucos Suaves.”  On pages 165, 178 and 180, the same song is called “Chucos suaves,” but the “Los” is still missing and the “s” is not capitalized.

Page 74- The nightclub my dad purchased was previously known as Torrey’s Inn and not “Tony’s Inn” as it appears in the book.  The name Torrey was an Anglicizing of the previous owners name, Torivio Reza.  Also on page 74, my dad’s trumpet player’s last name is misspelled.  It appears as Tony Fashudo. The correct spelling is “Facciuto.”

Page 75- My dad is quoted speaking about various musicians on the scene.  Part of the quote says, “And of course, Issi Morales, Lalo’s brother, and many others.”  Issi spelled his name “Izzy” and my dad didn’t have a brother who was a professional musician.  At the bottom of the same page he’s quoted saying “I made it from my recording WITH Pancho Lopez,” rather than OF Pancho Lopez, who was a fictional character in the song.

Page 76- At the top of the page, it refers to my dad making two VERSES of Pancho Lopez, one in English and one in Spanish. It should be two VERSIONS.  At the end of the same paragraph, my dad says his cut of his hit record “Pancho Lopez” was $98,000.  It’s possible that my dad forgot at the time of the interview, but his cut was 1/3 of the $98,000, with the other thirds going to the owner of the recording studio, Jimmy Jones, and my dad’s partner at the time, Paul Lanware.

Page 77- It says that my dad bought the building that housed his nightclub, Lalo’s. He never bought it or owned it.  He owned the business and paid rent for the building.  In the same sentence it refers to Torri Reza as Tony Reza.  My dad told me today (2003) that Torri spelled his name with an “i,” but on the nightclub he used “ey” as the last syllable of his name.

Page 83- It says that Tito Puente confirmed “Guevara’s” estimate that during the 50s his audiences were 90% Mexican.  In the context of the paragraph where my dad is mentioned in the previous sentence, it looks like it was supposed to be “Guerrero’s” estimate.

Page 160- The owner of Imperial Records, for whom my dad recorded, is referred to as “Lutte Chat.”  His name was actually Lew Chudd.

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Mark Guerrero
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Cathedral City, CA 92235

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