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Saturday, June 25, 2011


Just a reminder that Saturday, July 2, 2011 is another chance for you to see Azusa's own Chicano Soul group Balance with lead singer Sammy Medina. I have seen this group several times & take it from me these dudes "funk it up" non-stop from the moment they hit the stage. Funky uptempo tunes & soulful ballads for your dancing pleasure.
  Also on the bill are the return of the Southern Soul Spinners with DJs Soulera 5150 and the incomparable Ruben Molina who will spin soulful vinyl classics and hard to find records. Throw in a whole lot of beer and some low rider cars and a good time will be had by all.
  V.F.W. Hall 1944 at 16157 Gale Ave in the City Of Industry, California. Show time is 8 P.M. See you there!!


So far we have looked at several major players in the R&B music scene in early 1950's Los Angeles. Johnny Otis, Big Jay McNeely, Joe Houston, Chuck Higgins, Johnny "Guitar" Watson & Richard Berry all helped shape that music scene and all became huge favorites of Chicano audiences where ever they played - churches, dance halls, school auditoriums and clubs.
  I can't stress enough how important and valuable this book is into understanding the influence of R&B artists around the Los Angeles area on Chicano audiences, listeners and record collectors, especially in the early days. There was a wonderful mutual influential blending of the African-American beat and the Latin beat which would become the "Eastside Sound".
  Steve Propes has been a record collector since 1960 and this book lists every major artist and every pertinent record release during that 20 year period and includes biographical information. The book is especially helpful for doo wop collectors such as myself.
  There are more artists in this book than I could posssibly list on this site & they probably deserve a blog of their own. Artists such as Jesse Belvin, The Penguins, The Jaguars, Shirley Gunter & The Queens, Don & Dewey, The Turks and The Hollywood Saxons are only a few of what you will find.

We will visit many of these artists and their recordings when we get into the "EASTSIDE OLDIES" posts to this site.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Richard Berry was born in Extension, south of Monroe,Louisiana on April 11, 1935, and moved with his family to Los Angeles as a baby. Richard attended Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles during the early 1950's. He began singing and playing in local doo-wop groups, recording with several of them including The Penguins, The Cadets and The Chimes, before joining The Flairs (who also recorded as The Debonaires and The Flamingoes) in 1953.
 The Flairs’ 1953 record "She Wants To Rock", on Modern Records, featured Berry’s bass vocals, and was an early production by Leiber & Stoller. A few months later, when the producers needed a bass voice for The Robins’ "Riot In Cell Block #9" on Spark Records, they recruited Berry to provide the menacing introduction to the song – uncredited, as he was contracted to Modern. Berry’s voice was also used at Modern, again uncredited, as the counterpoint to Etta James on her first record and big hit, "The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)', and several of its less successful follow-ups. Berry also recorded with several other groups on the Modern and Flair labels, including Arthur Lee Maye and The Crowns, and girl group The Dreamers (who later became The Blossoms)
   By the end of 1954, Berry left the Flairs to form his own group, the Pharaohs, while also continuing to work with other groups as a singer and songwriter. One of these was a Latin and R&B group, Rick Rillera and The Rhythm Rockers. In 1955, Berry was inspired to write a new calypso-style song, "Louie Louie", based on The Rhythm Rockers version of Rene' Touzet's "El Loco Cha Cha", and also influenced by Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon". Richard Berry and the Pharaohs recorded and released the song as a B-side on Flip Records in 1957. It became a minor regional hit, was re-released as an A-side  and, when the group toured the Pacific Northwest, several local R&B bands began to adopt the song and established its popularity. "Louie Louie" finally became a major hit when The Kingsmen's raucous version – with little trace of its calypso-like origins other than in its lyrics - became a national and international hit in 1963. The nearly unintelligible (and innocuous) lyrics were widely misinterpreted as obscene, and the song was banned by radio stations and even investigated by the F.B.I. The song has been recorded over 1,000 times, but, because Berry sold its copyright cheaply in 1959, he received little financial reward for its success for many years.
  Three decades after the release of "Louie Louie" Richard Berry continued to perform regularly in Downey, El Monte, Montebello, Norwalk and other Southern California cities with a large Chicano population. The existence of a loyal, appreciative & sizeable Chicano audience allowed Berry to remain true to himself & his art.
  In February 1996, he performed for the final time, reuniting with The Pharaohs and The Dreamers for a benefit concert in Long Beach, California. However, his health declined, and he died of heart failure in 1997.

A far more detailed recording history can be found in the book "L.A. R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965' by Steve Propes & Galen Gart.

We will visit more of Richard Berry's recording in the future.

You may listen to "Louie Louie" here:


Soley for historical, educational & listening pleasure.


John Watson, Jr. was born in Houston, Texas February 3, 1935. His father John Sr. was a pianist, and taught his son the instrument. But young Watson was immediately attracted to the sound of the guitar, in particular the electric guitar as practiced by the "axe men" of Texas: T-Bone Walker and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
.His parents separated in 1950, when he was 15. His mother moved to Los Angeles, and took Johnny with her. In his new city, Watson won several local talent shows. This led to his employment, while still a teenager, with jump blues-style bands such as Chuck Higgin's Mellotones and Amos Milburn. He worked as a vocalist, pianist, and guitarist. He would sign with Combo Records in 1952, Federal in 1953, RPM in 1955 and Keen in 1957.
 Watson's ferocious "Space Guitar" of 1954 pioneered guitar feedback and reverb. He would also have a big hit with "Motorhead Baby", the flip side of Check Higgins' "Pachuco Hop" on which Johnny played piano. Watson would later influence a subsequent generation of guitarists. In 1955 Johnny would record the Eastside classic "Those Lonely Lonely Nights" which I believe is his best track. His song "Gangster Of Love" was first released on Keen records in 1957. It did not appear in the charts at the time, but later became a hit in 1978 and identified as Watson's "most famous song'.
  Johnny's influence on guitarists and and rappers has continued even after Watson's death on stage in 1996.


Soley for historical, educational & listening pleasure.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Charles Williams Higgins was born April 17, 1924 in Gary, Indiana. The son of a preacher, Higgins learned to play trupet at the age of ten.
In 1940 he moved to Los Angeles, where he played the trumpet in his high-school band. While attending the Los Angeles Music Conservatory, Higgins formed a band with pianist Frank Dunn, saxophonist Johnny Parker and others on bass and drums. he lived in a largely Mexican-American neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles called Aliso Village. He was profoundly influenced by his surroundings.
  After a series of personnel changes, Higgins took over the saxophone position and wrote ‘Pachuko Hop’, featuring a squealing solo on that instrument. It became a highlight of his stage show and was heard by Vernon ‘Jake’ Porter, owner of Combo Records. Porter released the single in 1952 (‘pachuko’ was a slang word denoting a Mexican-American dressed fashionably in baggy pants, with a long key chain), with the b-side ‘Motorhead Baby’, another raw R&B rocker.
  "Pachuko Hop" was first played on the radio by legendary Los Angeles disc jockey Hunetr Hancok, a white man whose show featured black music and was hugely popular with Chicanos. The song featured a 16 year old Johnny "Guitar" Watson on piano and possibly because of it's title only sold locally.
  Higgins was a huge drawing card not only in the Los Angeles area but also in San Bernadino, Oxnard, Tulare & Bakersfield.
  After Johnny "Guitar" Watson left the group to pursue a solo career, Higgins enlisted Daddy Cleanhead to take most of the lead vocals on recordings and as Higgins never signed an exclusive recording contract, his records were released on numerous labels, including Aladdin Records, Caddy, Lucky, Recorded in Hollywood, Specialty Records and Dootone.
 In 1955-56, the Higgins combo recorded for Dootsie Williams's Dootone label. The second Dootone single, "Wetback Hop", became the subject of controversy because of the use of the derogatory term for Mexicans in the title. It was an attempt to associate the listener with the earlier success of "Pachuko Hop", which refers to Mexican zoot suiters of the 1940s. After a few sessions for various small labels in 1956, Higgins returned to Combo in 1957 with a mixed-race band that included future Canned Heat member Henry Vestine. "Long Long Time" (Combo 144, 1957) is a fine bluesy recording, featuring Frank Dunn on vocals.
 He died of lung cancer in 1999, leaving behind an estimable body of work, even though he never scored a national hit.

You may listen to "Pachuko Hop" here:

You may listen to "Motorhead Baby" here:


Solely for historical, educational and listening pleasure.


                                                                 Joe Houston

Joe Houston was born July 11, 1926 in Austin, Texas. He was a tenor saxophonist who played jazz & rhythm & blues.
After World War II, Houston returned to Texas, and recorded with the pianist Amos Milburn and singer Big Joe Turner. Turner got Houston his first recording contract on Freedom Records in 1949 and recorded "Jumping The Blues" and "Your Little Girl Is Gone". Houston moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and played with King Kolax, Betty Roche and Wynonie Harris.
  Eventually, Houston formed his own band The Rockets, and moved to Los Angeles in 1952. He scored his only two chat hit singles in 1952 with "Worry, Worry, Worry", and "Hard Time Baby" on the Mercury label, both which peaked at #10 on Billboard's R & B singles charts.
  Houston would record for many other labels including Combo, Modern, RPM, Imperial, Cash, Dooto, Money, Lucky and Recorded In Hollywood. He would appear on the bill at every major venue with all of the great R&B artists in the Southern California area. Houston would endear himself to the Chicano audiences with songs like "Chicano Hop", "Homeboy" " East Side" and "Bean Hop".
  He will always be remembered for the Eastside classic 1954 hit "All Night Long" recorded for John Dolphin's Money label and also released on the RPM label.

You may listen to "All Night Long" here:


Soley for historical, educational and listening pleasure.


Tenor saxophonest, Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely is known as "the king of the honkers", He was born on April 29, 1927 in Watts, California. Discoverd by Johnny Otis, Big Jay would go on to form his own band and go on to record for Savoy records.
  He would record a rockin' honked-up instrumental "The Decon's Hop" which would hit #1 on the R&B charts in February 1949.
   In the early- to mid-fifties, Big Jay added vocal groups to his act, beginning with Four Dots & Dash, which included, at one time or another, 16-year-old Jesse Belvin, Marvin Phillips (later of Marvin & Johnny fame), Tony Allen and Mel Williams. Big Jay also worked extensively with The Hollywood Flames, The Penguins and The Medallions up and down the West Coast. In 1955-56 he shared the stage with the Clovers, the Harptones (at the Apollo Theater), Bill Haley and His Comets, the Moonglows, Little Richard, and others.
  Big Jay would also go on to record for other labels - Federal and Swingin'
  In 1959 Big Jay enjoyed his biggest hit, a blues ballad called "There Is Something on Your Mind," featuring Haywood "Little Sonny" Warner on vocals. The record stayed on the R&B charts for six months and reached as high as #44 pop. The song was later a hit for Bobby Marchan. Other artists who have recorded Big Jay's song include B.B. King, Etta James, Freddy Fender, The Hollywood Flames, Gene Vincent, Albert King and Professor Longhair.

You may listen to the Eastside classic "There Is Something On Your Mind" here:


Soley for historical, educational & listening pleasure.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


We have looked at artists such as Chico Sesma, Lalo Guerrero, Don Tosti and the Armenta Brothers who took their musical roots of corridos & boleros and incorporated their styles into the big band, jump blues, jazz and boogie sounds of the late 1940's and early 1950's. We will now focus our attention to the rhythm and blues influence.
  Los Angeles was a virtual "hot bed" of rhythm & blues during this era & we will look at some of the artists who shaped this sound and influenced the Mexican-American youth who would later incorporate it into forming the Eastside Sound and the whole Chicano Soul genre.
  You will find a lot of valuable information in the book "L.A. R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965" by Steve Propes & Galen Gart.


Born John Veliotes on December 28, 1921 and the son of Greek immigrants, Johnny Otis grew up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in Vallejo, California. Even before falling in love with black music traditions, Otis identified with the culture of lis black childhood friends and cam to think of himself as black. After playing in a variety of swing orchestras, including Lloyd Hunter's Serenaders, he founded his own band in 1945 and had one of the most enduring hits of the big band era, "Harlem Nocturne"
  In 1947, he and Bardu Ali opppened the Barrelhouse Club in the Watts district of Los Angeles, he reduced the size of his band and hired singers Mel Walker, Little Esther Phillips and the Robins (who Later became the Coasters). He discovered the teeenaged Phillips when she won one of the barrelhouse Club's
talent shows. With his band, which toured extensively throughout the United States as the California Rhythm & Blues Caravan, he had a long string of rhythm & blues hits through 1950.
  In the late 1940s, he discovered Big Jay McNeely, who then performed on his "Barrelhouse Stomp". In the 1950s he discovered Etta James, for whom he produced her first hit, "Roll With Me Henry", (also known as "The Wallflower"). He also discovered Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, Little Willie John and Eastside legend Little Julian Herrera.
  Otis' knowledge of R&B music, his connections and his popularity made him a natural promoter of the music he loved. Prompted by his desire to spend more time with his family, Otis quit youring in 1955, He became a Los Angeles disc jockey on KFOX with an immensely popular radio show which led to a television show, The Johnny Otis Show and later started his own record label, Dig Records. He is also credited with bringing many R&B artists to perform at the legendary El Monte Legion Stadium where young Chicanos would gather to dance & listen to the music of the day..
  In April 1958, he recorded his best-known recording "Willie And The Hand Jive", which relates to hand and arm motions in time with the music, called the hand jive. This recording went on to be a huge hit in the summer of 1958, peaking at #9 on the U.S. Pop chart, and becoming Otis' only Top 10 single. He would later do an answer to that hit entitled "Willie Did The Cha Cha" His most famous composition is "Every Beat of My Heart", first recorded by The Royals in the 1952 but which became a huge hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips.
  It is Johnny's discovery of Little Julian Herrera that would endear him to my heart which we will explore later. Little Julian's releases on Johnny's Dig label would become true "Eastside classics".

Johnny Otis was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994 as a Non-Performer for his work as a songwriter and producer.

You may listen to "Harlem Nocturne" here:

You may listen to "Willie & The Hand Jive" here:

You may listen to "Willie Did The Cha Cha" here:


Soley for historical, educational and listening pleasure.


Edmundo "Don Tosti" Tostado was a musician, composer, band and orchestra leader whose illustrious career spanned more than seven decades. He was born on the March 27, 1932 in El Paso, Texas. Don Tosti rose above his humble origins in El Paso's hardscrabble Segundo barrio, becoming a child prodigy at nine years of age and playing second violin with the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. Following a move to East Los Angeles at the age of fifteen, he began playing saxophone first, then the bass, and formed his own swing band. He attended Roosevelt High School, becoming concertmaster for the All-City high school orchestra. His growing prowess on the string bass took him through a star-studded musical career as a jazz player with legends such as Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Dorsey, Bobby Sherwood, Les Brown and Charlie Barnett.
  In 1948 Tosti & his group, the Pachuco Boogie Boys recorded "Pachuco Boogie" which became the first million selling Latin record.
You may find a more detailed biography at Mark Guerrero's site:
There is a fine CD available put out on the Arhoolie Label entitled "Pachuco Boogie"

You may listen to the song "Pachuco Boogie" here:

You May Listen To "Crusin' Nights" Here:


Soley for historical, educational & listening pleasure.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


The storied career and life of Lalo Guerrero would take a long time to tell and the man truly deserves a site of lis own. I will give you the highlights of his career taken from the

Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero, credited as being "the father of Chicano music," was a Mexican-American guitarist, singer and farm labor activist best known for his strong influence on today's Latin artists.
Guerrero was born in Tucson, Arizona, one of somewhere between 16 to 24 siblings (although only nine survived). His father worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Lalo did not finish school, but instead dropped out to pursue music. His first group, Los Carlistas, represented Arizona at the 1939 New York World's Fair, and performed on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour on radio.
He moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s, and had a few uncredited roles in movies, including Boots and Saddles and His Kind of Woman. He recorded for Imperial Records and fronted the Trio Imperial. He also formed his own orchestra and toured throughout the Southwest. He performed at the "La Bamba" club in Hollywood, a place frequented by the biggest stars in the movie business. In the 1960s, he bought a night club in Los Angeles and renamed it Lalo's.
His original composition, "Canción Mexicana" is a mariachi standard. César Chávez said of Guerrero in 1992 at a tribute in Palm Desert, California: "Lalo has chronicled the events of the Hispanic in this country a lot better than anyone." He worked closely with Chavez for farmworkers' rights and lent voice to the movement with the song, "No Chicanos On TV."
Guerrero's earliest Pachuco compositions were the basis of the Luis Valdez stage musical, Zoot Suit. He even wrote children's songs presented via his "Las Ardillitas," or "Three Little Squirrels."
His first US hit was "Pancho Lopez", a parody of the popular 1950s hit "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett". Guerrero used the Davy Crockett melody and wrote his own lyrics, telling the story of a legendary Mexican character. The song was popular in both Spanish and English. However, due to criticism Guerrero received over this song, he never performed it publicly, not wanting to contribute to an inappropriate stereotype. Guerrero went on to record several more parody songs, including "Pancho Claus," "Elvis Perez," "Tacos For Two" (to the tune of "Cocktails For Two"), and "There's No Tortillas" (to the tune of "O Sole Mio").
He was declared a national treasure by the Smithsonian Institution in 1980 and was presented with the Presidential Medal of the Arts in 1997 by then-US president Bill Clinton. In 1992 he received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Guerrero wrote an autobiography, Lalo: My Life and Music (ISBN 0816522138).
Guerrero died in March 2005 at the Vista Cove assisted living facility in Rancho Mirage, California after suffering a gradual decline in his health.

Additional Information:

Lalo Guerrero's first solo effort "Pecadora" was released in 1948 on the Imperial Record label. The label would later remane Lalo Guerrero "Don Edwards" and he would cut one record recorded in English "Floricita, I Will Never Fall In Love Again". The record flopped & he went back to his previous career as a "Mexican" singer.
  In 1955 he moved to the RCA label and while the country became obsessed with  Davy Crockett mania, Lalo would record a parody called "The Ballad Of Pancho Lopez" The record would go on to sell more than a half a million copies.
  Following the success of "Pancho Lopez" Lalo realeased other parodies such as "Tacos For Two", "I Left My Car In San Francisco", "Elvis Perez" and "Pancho Claus"
  In the mid 1970's ethnomusicology departments at major universities invited Lalo to speak & perform and he would go on to perform concerts with his son Mark, a talented musician & songwriter in his own right.

For more information on Lalo Guerrero please visit Lalo's son, Mark Guerrero's site at:

Also please buy his autobiographical book - "Lalo: My Life And Music" which contains a detailed discography put together by Mark Guerrero.


Soley for historical, educational and listening pleasure.


Lionel "Chico" Sesma attended Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. He was a member of the dance orchestra , the concert band and the band that played at football games.
  After high school he played trombone with the Johnny Richards orchestra and the Russ Morgan orchestra playing "big band music"
  By 1949 his musical carrer had slowed & he became a disc jockey at radio station KOWL. KOWL would later become KDAY. Sesma was the first person to expose mambo and cha cha chá in Los Angeles with an innovative new bilingual broadcasting twist.
  In the early 1950's he began promoting concerts by Latino artists. By 1959 he was promoting his monthly "Latin Holidays" show at the Hollywood Palladium. These shows would run through 1973.

  In searching for a Chico Sesma discography I could only find one extended-play 45 released on the Fiesta label from the early 1950's. The songs on the EP are "Cha Cha Bounce", " Lullaby In Cha Cha", "Enchachalada" and "Cha Cha In The Moonlight".

You may listen to "Cha Cha Bounce" here:

Chico Sesma passed away in October/November 2015.

If anyone has more information on Chico and his music please contact me.


Soley for historical, educational and listening enjoyment.