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Monday, April 16, 2012


                                        BILLY CARDENAS

Billy Cardenas managed and/or produced many of the East L.A. bands from the early 1960's onward. By his own admission he was just a street kid but found his niche in life through his desire to see Chicano performers make it in America.With the help of his partner, Eddie Davis, he would do just that.

Billy was born in 1938 in Boyle Heights, California. He started playing trumpet at an early age. His first major influence was Bobby Rey (see my post under Eastside Legends) who lived around the corner. He was also influenced by the music of Lionel Hampton and rhythm and blues stars Big Joe Turner and Fats Domino. He was impressed by how well they were groomed and their fancy clothes. He would instill these qualities in the artists he managed.

After high school, Billy entered the army & also became an accomplished boxer winning the 1959 Gold Gloves championship in Chicago. Billy met Bob Keane and sat in on a Ritchie Valens recording session. He began working in the recording industry producing Chicano and mariachi records for Cadet Records in West Los Angeles where he worked with engineer Bill Lazereth. During spare session time he produced a record for Robert & Rey (see my post under Eastside Rarities). He also co-produced with Bumps Blackwell a record for Yolanda Lea, a South L.A teenager.

Billy would make his first major splash with a group who played at one of his parties, The Romancers. Billy knew they has something special and began booking his own dance shows with the Romancers and a vocal duo, The Heartbreakers (see my post under Eastside Legends).

Billy was now a successful manager, promoter and producer but he wanted to take it to the next level. In 1963 he was watching Eddie Davis' "Parade Of Hits" television show and called Eddie to see if he could get the Romancers on the show. Eddie said no but invited the Romancers to perform at his Rainbow Gardens in Pomona. The Romancers were an instant hit, Billy & Eddie connected and the West Coast Eastside Sound was about to reach new audiences and new heights.

Whereas Bob Keane had Ritchie Valens fall into his lap, Billy Cardenas went out & actively pursued acts to promote and record. A multitude of artists and bands would follow. The list includes, The Premiers, The Salas Brothers and The Jaguars, The Royal Jesters (who became The Rhythm Playboys), Sal & Marge (Sal Murillo would later join The Blendells), The Blendells, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Ronnie & The Pomona Casuals. The Sisters, The Blue Notes, The Four Queens and Mark & The Escorts.

Billy credits disc jockeys Huggy Boy & Godfrey Kerr for helping him promote his dances & getting his groups records onto the radio. Eddie Torres, best known as the manager of the East L.A. group, Thee Midniters helped Billy with bookings and promotions.

Despite any differences Billy Cardenas and Eddie Davis had, they made the perfect partners when they put  their abilities together. Eddie from the business end with his negotiations, record companies & venues and Billy with his managing, promoting and producing. Together they accomplished alot but both had successes on their own. They brought artists who would otherwise never get a chance to a national audience.

We will hear more about Billy Cardenas and Eddie Davis as we get into the individual artists.

To Learn More About Billy Cardenas Please Read The Article Written By Mark Guerrero On His Web Site Here:

Also Of Major Interest Please Read The Article Published By LA Weekly:

Naa Na Na Na Naa

How the West Coast Eastside sound changed rock & roll

Ben Quiñones

published: December 29, 2005


Soley for historical & educational purposes.

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