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Saturday, May 26, 2012


The Ambertones, from left: Jimmy Alvarez (on drums), Eddie Delgado (above on bass), Mike Sandoval (guitar), Frank Vasquez, Danny Medina, Tony Cardenas (sax), and Henry Hernandez (guitar).

The original lineup was:
Ray Arriola - sax
Henry Hernandez - lead guitar
Mike Sandoval - rhythm guitar
Eddie Delgado - bass and vocals
Danny Medina - keyboards
Jimmy Alvarez - drums

Later members included:
Frank Vasquez (Frank Olvera?) - vocals
Charlie Muñoz - vocals
Tony Cardenas (or is it Tony Duran?) - saxophone
Henry Sarnoff joined on piano and organ in 1966
Ruben Alvarez - drums

Next to Thee Midniters probably my favorite Eastside band. The Ambertones were major contibutors toward the Eastside Sound because of their diverse playing styles. Blues, R&B, soul, garage, doo wop, surf.  The Ambertones could play them all.

The Ambertones began as as a band called The Scepters while the members were attending Roosevelt & Garfield High Schhol in East Los Angeles. Like many other Eastside bands they started playing surf music. By 1963 they started doing R&B covers. They came up with a new name, The Ambertones because one of the members wore an amber jacket.They played at high school teen dances & at local venues like the Union Hall and would win the first Battle of the Bands held at the Hollywood Palladium.

The group did go through several member and label changes from 1963-1969.

The Ambertones first recorded for the G.N.P Crescendo label in 1963. "Charlena" (a remake of the Sevilles classic wriiten by Chavez & Chaney) and "Bandido" (written by Manny Chavez) (GNP 329).

For their second single, The Ambertones moved to the Dottie label owned by their manager Leonard Mamola. "Chocolate Covered Ants" (written by Mamola) and "One Summer Night" (The 1958 Danleers doo wop classic written by Danny Webb (but mistakenly credited to Mamola). The record was released in 1965 (Dottie 1129)

Their third single and second single for Dottie was "I Need Someone" and "If I Do" released in October 1965 (Dottie 1130). "I Need Someone" is in my top ten of all Eastside classics and was also recorded by Thee Midniters. "If I Do" is a "garage sound" classic which makes this record highly sought after.

Because of the emense popularity of "I Need Someone" the record was reissued/bootlegged in 1969 on a pale blue Dottie label.

For their fourth single The Ambertones would record two more Leonard Mamola tunes, "Clap Your Hands" and Cruise" for the very rare Rayjack label in December 1965 (Rayjack 1001). "Cruise" is a take-off of Thee Midniters "Whittier Boulevard"

 The songs would be picked up by the Newman label in 1966 (Newman 601)

For their fifth single, The Ambertones stayed with the Rayjack label and recorded "I Can Only Give You Everything" (another garage classic) and a remake of "I Only Have Eyes For You" (Rayjack 1002) in 1966. The record was picked and released on Treasure Chest (Treasure Chest 001) in the same year but I do not have a scan of this record.

In 1967, The Ambertones moved to the White Whale label hoping for more national exposure. Their sixth single and first for White Whale was "Ninety-Nine And A Half" and "You Don't Know Like I Know" (White Whale 242). "Ninety-Nine And A Half" is a remake of the Wilson Pickett classic. "You Don't Know Like I Know" is a remake of a Sam & Dave tune. Around this time local disc jockey Casey Kasem had become thier manager who got them a job as the house band at pacific Ocean Park. They would also tour the United States with Dick Clark's Rock & Roll Revue.

For their seventh single, The Ambertones recorded their second single for White Whale. "A Million Tears" and "Little Bit Of Lovin" were released in 1969 (White Whale 302). "A Million Tears" is an absolutely fabulous ballad written by Ambertones member Frank Vasquez. "Little Bit Of Lovin" is a great mix of pop, soul & garage. This is a very underrated record.

The Ambertones also recorded "Cuartavara" and a surf instrumental "Hang Ten" but I have no information on these songs.



Soley for historical and educational purposes and for listening pleasure.


Track Listing1. I Wanna Do the Jerk
2. Sloopy
3. Jerk, The
4. Land of a Thousand Dances
5. Do the Jerk
6. Slow Jerk
7. Everybody Jerk
8. Help Yourself
9. Ya Ya
10. Hi-Heel Sneakers
11. Dance What You Wanna
12. Out of Sight

Released in 1964 on the Donna label (Donna 2112) Ronnie & The Pomona Casuals' album "Everybody Jerk" is East L.A soul-pop and a fine dance album capitalizing on the mid-1960's dance craze "The Jerk"
A young Athur Lee later to become famous with the group, Love played a big part in this record and can be heard singing backing vocals especially on "Everybody Jerk" and "Slow Jerk" Arthur Lee co-wrote "I Wanna Do The Jerk" with The Casuals but is not credited.The lead vocalist, sixteen year old Charles Lett is fantastic, reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and the band hits every beat.

Included on the album are cover versions of "Land Of A Thousand Dances", "Ya Ya", High Heel Sneakers" and "Out Of Sight". The album was produced by Billy Cardenas.

Original copies of the album are available if you look, but the album was released on CD on the Del-Fi label ( DFCD 72112-2) in 1995 and I highly recommend you pick up a copy.


Soley for historical & educational purposes & for listening pleasure.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


                               RONNIE & THE POMONA CASUALS

Band Members:

Ronnie Duran (lead guitar)
Charles Lett (vocals)
Jimmie Duran (tenor sax)
Robert Foley (baritone sax)
Phillip Duran (drums)
Robert Arroyo (organ) replaced by Les Kalil
Ryan O'Brien (bass)

Ronnie Duran grew up in Pomona, California. At age 13 and encouraged by his uncle Ronnie started playing guitar. The following year Ronnie formed his first band, playing weddings & local dances.

At Damien High School in San Dimas, California, Ronnie would form a group called The Casuals and later their name was changed to The Pomona Casuals.  Ronnie's father called manager/producer Billy Cardenas who after hearing the band got them gigs at the usual Eastside vevues.

Billy took Ronnie & The Pomona Casuals to see Bob Keene at Del-Fi Records. The members were between at ages of 14 and 17 at the time. They recorded at album "Everybody Jerk" for Keene's Donna label (Donna 2112) released in 1964.

This album will be reviewed in the VINYL CLASSICS section.

As for singles releases, I have been able to come up with five. Several of them are on my want list as they are quite rare.

I don't have a year or any information on this single and it may have been the group's fist because they are listed as Ronnie D.& The Casuals "I Need Your Lovin"


Ronnie & The Pomona Casuals' first single on the Donna label was "Casual Blues" and "Swimming At The Rainbow" (Donna 1400) released in 1964.

                               Currently on my want list.

The groups' second single for the Donna label was "I Wanna Do The Jerk" and "Sloopy" released in 1964 (Donna 1402).

Ronnie & The Pomona Casuals recorded a third single for the Donna label although I have not found it on anyone's discography and is quite a rare piece. "Out Of The Blue" and "Slow Jerk were released probably in 1964 or early 1965 on the Donna label (Donna 1405).

In 1965 Ronnie & The Pomona Casuals would record "Please, Please, Please" and "We're Gonna Do The Freddie" for the Mustang label (Mustang 3005)

The group would become very popular on the Eastside circuit with their "jerk" songs as it was an extremely popular dance in the mid 1960's. They also backed The Sisters (see my EASTSIDE LEGENDS post) on their Del-Fi recordings and Ronnie married one of The Sisters, Rosella Arvisu.



Soley for historical & educational purposes and for listening pleasure.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Another great oldies show this Sunday May 20 at Mi Hacienda in Pico Rivera, California. A tribute to saxophone great Joe Houston and to one of the finest female soul singers, Etta James.

The show will be hosted by Mr Duran and performers include Brenda Holloway, the Medallions and The Vibrations. Also performing are the Dew Drops. If you like girl groups as much as I do you won't want to miss them. The show starts at 2:00 P.M. Check out the flyer.


Thursday, May 17, 2012


                                    THE BLENDELLS

Band Members:

Mike Rincon (bass)
Ronnie Chipes (drums)
Rudy Valona (lead guitar)
Don Cardenas (sax)
Tommy Esparza (rhythm guitar)
Sal Murillo (Vocals)

The Blendells were one of three East L.A. bands to have a national hit, The other two being the Premiers and Cannibal & The Headhunters.

In 1962, Mike Rincon, leader of The Blendells was inspired by rhythm & blues & decided to form his own groups. Mike Rincon & Ronnie Chipes attended Cathedral High School in Lincoln Heights, California. Rudy Valona & Tommy Esparza attended Garfield High School. Sax player Don Cardenas and Sal Murrillo of the vocal duo Sal & Marge were added.

The group's original name was The Blenders but was soon changed to The Blendells as an homage to the 1950's vocal group, The Dells. The group got their start playing the Big Union in East Los Angeles. Rudy was able to get Billy Cardenas to come and hear the band and become their manager. Billy got the group gigs playing the East L.A circuit including The Paramount Ballroom.

Billy took the Blendells to Eddie Davis who had seen The Blendells perform an obscure Stevie Wonder song called "La La La La La" at a show in La Puente, CA. The group was taken to Stereo Masters on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Eddie wanted the song to have that "live" feel so he brought in the all-girl car club the Chevelles to add background noise.

"La La La La La" and "Huggies Bunnies" were released on Rampart Records (Ramaprt 641) in 1964.

Eddie Davis took the recordings to Reprise Records for further promotion and distribution. Reprise released the record (Reprise 0291) in 1964.

You May Listen To The Blendells "La La La La La" Here:

You May Listen To The Blendells "Huggies Bunnies" Here:

"La La La La La" would peak at number 62 on the Billboard charts in 1964.

The Blendells would appear on national televison show "Hullabaloo" and "9th Street West"

Their record would be popular worldwide as witnessed by this French single.

Sal Murillo's mother would enter into a contract dispute with the label which led Eddie Davis to ask Sal to leave the band. The Blendells without their lead singer, Sal would go on tour with many big name acts such as Roy Orison, The Dave Clark 5, The Shirelles and Chuck Berry.

The Blendells would leave Eddie Davis and move on to Reprise Records & go back into the studio for a follow-up record. "Dance With Me" and "Get Your Baby" were released in 1965 (Reprise 0340).
Ralph Ventura is the singer on "Dance With Me" and though a track had been recorded The Romancers band went over it.

You May Listen To The Blendells "Dance With Me" Here:

The lead vocalist on "Dance With Me" was Ralph Ventura, trumpet player for The Romancers.

During one of their tours, Rudy & Tommy were let go after some inter-band member disputes and were replaced by Bob Hernandez of The Romancers and Johnny Diaz of The Rhythm Playboys. There were times when Andy Tasso of The Romancers would sit it.

Rudy Valona, Tommy Esparza and Sal Murillo would go on to form their own group called, The Vaqueros.
The Vaqueros first single was "Vaquero Beat" and "Oh So Tenderly"

You May Listen To The Vaqueros "Vaquero Beat" Here:

The Vaqueros would record a second single "Hey Girl" and "Simple Minded Me"

As with many other Eastside bands, The Viet Nam War  would effectively put an end to The Blendells and The Vaqueros as their members were drafted.

On December 26, 2003, Rudy Valona of The Blendells passed away.



Soley for historical and educational purposes and for listening pleasure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Track List:

1. Farmer John
2. Don't You Just Know It
3. We Go Together
4. Look At Me
5. Over The Mountain, Across The Sea
6. Annie Oakley
7. Anymore
8. Feel Like Dancing
9. Ruined
10. I Won't Be Back Next Year
11. Cross My Heart
12. Mary Ann

Riding the heels of their  national hit, "Farmer John", San Gabriel's own, The Premiers hurriedly put together an album for Warner Brothers Records entitled "Farmer John Live" in 1964 (Warner Brothers 1565). (See my post Eastside Bands - The Premiers). The title track is a Don & Dewey tune suggested to the group by promoter/manager Billy Cardenas. The audience noise and live sound feel was provided by the all-girl car club, The Chevelles in the studio at Stereo Masters on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood and not live at The Rhythm Room in Fullerton as the album's liner notes would suggest. The dubbing-in of a live ambience was the genius of Billy Cardenas & Eddie Davis which they would also use on The Blendells' hit "La La La La La".

The entire album has a great dance party feel and features up-tempo R&B and doo wop classics. Johnny Ace's "Anymore" and Cross My Heart are two personal favorites. Eastside classics like 'We Go Together" and "Over The Mountain, Across The Sea" will bring back fond memories of high scool romance.

Of special interest are two Max Uballez penned tunes "Annie Oakley" and "Feel Like Dancing" Pat Vegas wrote "I Won't Be Back Next Year" and Billy Cardenas wrote Mary Ann"

This album is an Eastside Classic and well worth picking up. It was released on compact disc in 2003 by Collectors Choice Music and is still readily available. PLEASE BUY A COPY & SUPPORT THESE GREAT ARTISTS!!!

You may read Richie Unterberger's review here:


Soley for historical & educational purposes and for listening pleasure.