for CD: "Eastside Sound, Vol. 2
Featuring Mark & the Escorts" Dionysus Records (2001)
The East L.A.
Rock Music Scene (c. 1964-66)
by Mark Guerrero
East Los Angeles in the mid-sixties
was a hot bed of musical activity, much like Liverpool in
the same time period, or perhaps Seattle in the early nineties.
There were countless teenage garage bands rockin’ the
barrio. Many of the musicians had genuine talent and
a large number of groups, especially considering the small
geographical area, went on to achieve national hit records
such as The Premiers, The Blendells, and Cannibal & the
Headhunters. Many friendships and musical alliances
were made that last to this day. There was a lot of
friendly, and some not so friendly, competition between bands.
For example, during a particularly good set at St. Alphonsus
Auditorium, my band (Mark & the Escorts) was unplugged
by a rival group on the bill, leaving our drummer playing
for a few seconds with no accompaniment. On another
occasion, a band hired to play our breaks wanted to rumble
with us after the gig because we rejected their request to
cut into our allotted time. Fortunately, a couple of
beefy friends of ours, acting as our roadies to get into the
dance for free, defused the situation. Our main rivals
were The Exotics and The Emeralds, but we admired and were
influenced by slightly older bands like The Blendells, The
Romancers and Thee Midniters. The music that we all
played was a mixture of r&b, oldies, Motown, Stax/Volt,
and British Invasion. We had many venues to play and
worked virtually every weekend and sometimes more than once
a night. A typical dance hall gig had four or five bands
on the bill with each band playing one set. This was great
because one could check out the other groups to see what they
were playing and maybe pick up a song or a new guitar lick.
There were also wedding dances, quinceaneras (girls coming
out parties at age fifteen), and the occasional house party.
There was a tangible excitement in
the air. We were pubescent boys discovering the joys
of music and girls. We had the cruising scene on Whittier
Boulevard, car clubs, low riders, mini-skirted girls, disk
jockeys like Huggy Boy and Godfrey playing our records on
the radio, and the Record Inn and Record Rack selling them.
Bands dressed in matching coats, either velvet-lapelled or
perhaps the collarless European style, and sometimes moved
to choreographed steps with guitars and horns moving left
and right and up and down to the beat of the music.
This was a special time when there were great musical artists
in their prime on the world stage such as, The Beatles, The
Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, James Brown, The Temptations, Marvin
Gaye, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. It was right
after the John F. Kennedy assassination, when our nation began
to lose its innocence, and before the advent of the hippie
movement and psychedelia. Drive by shootings, crack
cocaine, and aids were decades away. It was also right
before the Viet Nam war escalated and began to take many of
East L.A.’s musicians, breaking up many of the bands.
Many others kept playing and evolved into groups that recorded
for major labels in the 70’s and 80’s, such as
El Chicano, Tierra, Macondo, Yaqui, my band (Tango), and Los
Lobos. A great number of us have been performing and
recording to the present time. This album will give
you a taste of the style and spirit of the young groups that
were a part of the 60’s musical revolution. Viva East
L.A. and Chicano rock & roll!