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Saturday, March 31, 2012

THE EASTSIDE SOUND - A RETROSPECTIVE LOOK (PART 1)



Thus far we have looked at the roots and early beginnings of the Eastside Sound from the late 1940's through the early 1960's. In order to continue examining and defining the Eastside Sound we must first look at the road we have traveled thus far.
  The end of World War II marked the return home of soldiers as well as the continuing migration of Mexiacans and other ethnic gropus to the greater Los Angeles area. They came to Los Angeles with hopes of better employment, higher wages and a decent place to raise their children.
  Why not?? Los Angeles had a warm climate and sandy beaches within a short driving distance. It had Hollywood and all it's stars, great night clubs for dancing & entertainment. Disneyland would be built in 1955 and even the Dodgers would move from Brooklyn into Chavez Ravine. Higher education would become an issue and East Los Angeles College would find it's permanent home and Cal State Los Angeles would be built.
  With the increase in the city's population came an increase in social, cultural, political and economic problems. Mexican-Americans needed a place to call home. They settled in East Los Angeles and it's surrounding communities, City Terrace, El Sereno, Boyle Heights, Montebello, Pacoima, El Monte, Pomona, Pico Rivera, Echo Park and Chavez Ravine (till the Dodgers came to town).
  Despite their struggles, Mexican-Americans could take pride in the musical and cultural richness they brought to their communities. Steeped in tradition they brought talent, enthusiasm, dedication and perserverance.

  But what is the "Eastside Sound"? To many collectors & historians it is the vocal duo sound which it it but as we will come to see it is a hybridization of many musical genres and styles. It continued to grow as it still does to this day because of the artists' abilities to adapt to the changing musical, social, cultural, economic and political struggles of the day. The world of music too often short sells the accomplishments and abilities of the Chicano artist. This is why I have put this site together and continue to keep alive the music I grew up with alive and to hopefully pass on an appreciation for this music to others.

If the Eastside Sound is a hybridization of musical styles and genres, how did it come about?

Los Angeles has always be a music mecca since the early 1900's For the puposes of our discussion of the Eastside Sound, we will begin in the late 1940's.

Traditional mariachi music was already in place. So were Carribean rhythms, i.e. Afro-Cuban music such as the rumba. So was jump blues and swing brought to us by Roy Milton and The Solid Senders among others. Add to this jazz, Latin jazz and fusion and there were certainly enough styles upon which to build a foundation. It was the hybridization of these styles that got the Eastside Sound ball rolling.

  Lalo Guerrero began doing his own spin on rancheras and introducing "boogie woogie" (jump blues) style into his music.
  Don Tosti would take his jazz & big band background and create "The Pachuco Boogie" enjoyed by the "zoot suit" crowd.
  Chico Sesma would also make his mark in the field of jazz & big band and then go on to influence Latinos as a disc jockey with his radio broadcasts.
  After you have digested all of these musical styles add on some rhythm & blues with the likes of Johnny Otis, Big Jay McNeely, Chuck Higgins and Joe Houston.
  The Armenta Brothers would be the fisrt to introduce Chicano rhythm & blues to East Los Angeles.

By the mid 1950's the Rock & Roll era would begin and Chico Sesma would turn Latin jazz into Latin Rock. More rockers would follow as youngsters in Los Angeles and the entire country would be engulfed by the beat. Bobby Rey, Gil Bernal, The Rhythm Rockers and Chuck Rio would perform in the L.A area & have fine recording careers.

The forgotten third of Rock & Roll, "doo wop" would captivate our hearts. Groups like The Jaguars, The Penguins, The Platters, The Feathers, The Medallions, Richard Berry & The Pharoahs, Jessie Belvin and his groups, the list goes on & on.

Whether Los Angeles was looking for their own version of Elvis Presley or not Little Julian Herrera came on the scene and became an overnight star. I do not know what he could have been but his voice & stage presence were breath taking.

Ritchie Valens ushered in the "teen era" and became the idol of millions. Chris Montez & Bobby Dominguez were teen stars in their own right.

Vocal duos like Chavez & Chaney, Pat & Lolly Vegas, The Perez Brothers, The Carlos Brothers, The Heartbreakers, Rene & Ray, Doug & Freddy, Alfred & Joe, Rosie & Ron, The Salas Brothers and many more would follow. This is why many collectors & historians say the eastside Sound is a vocal duo sound.

More vocal groups: The Sisters, The Story Tellers, The Velveteens, Rosie & The Originals, Yolanda & The Naturals.

With every change in musical style and taste, the Chicano artist was able to take what had come before and adapt his or her own musical talents to create a unique sound. In the mid 1960's and beyond the music became more complex and so did the Eastside Sound.

So what lies ahead?? The influences of surf music from the Beach Boys, soul from Motown, The Beatles & The British Invasion Bands, Garage Bands, Psychedelia and much much more. The story of the Eastside Sound continues and we will look at that in Part 2 of The Eastside Sound - A Retrospective Look.

Your comments are always welcome.

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