So begins this series of kickin’ back, coolin’ out Summer Jams.
Whether with your homies or your sweetie, heading to the hop or the swimmin’ hole, to get tacos or burgers—as beautiful spring evenings start to turn into hot summer nights, there ain’t really much else like some windows-down cruisin’. And nothing goes as smooth with cruisin’ as some classic (y obscure) Latin oldies. There’s just something magical about the fusion of the sounds of Latin America with 1950s/60s rock n’ roll and R&B norteamericano.
This mixtape of course features some classics popularized by the OG cruisin’ culture of the Los Angeles Xicano lowrider scene, but also has plenty of lesser heard Spanglish rock n’ soul gems from Peru to Texas (now that I am reevaluating, a lot from Texas).
So lean that seat back just a bit further, roll down that window, and crank up the jams!
Track listing and detailed notes after the jump.
Sunny & The Sunliners: “Short Short Shorty” [Tear Drop 3094, 1966]
San Antonio’s Sunny & The Sunliners (formerly known as Sunny & The Sunglows, and sometimes appearing as Sunny Ozuna & The Sunliners) are heroes of the 60s Tejano Soul scene. They are considered pioneers (along with The Royal Jesters) of San Antonio’s soul music-inspired, English language “Westside Sound.” There are a few great examples of that sound later in the mix, but we kick it off here with the Sunliners sounding extra rambunctious, funny, and a bit more Tejano than they are typically known for—compare this Tejano/R&B beat with a more famous San Antonio tune, Sir Douglas Qunitet’s “She’s About A Mover”!
Carlos Guzman y Los Fabulosos Cuatro: “96 Lagrimas” [Tiempo de Llorar, 1967]
Can we talk about the brilliance of replacing the organ from “96 Tears” with an accordion? Seems so obvious now, no? Another Tex-Mex hero, Carlos Guzman, and his “Fab Four” further show us that Xicanos interpreting garage rock, that is interpreting the British Invasion, that is interpreting American blues and early rock n’ roll... rules.
The Premiers: “Farmer John” [Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1972, Original 45 released 1964]
This is thee famous Eastside L.A. Chicano Garage Rock toon. Co-producer Eddie Davis, in The West Coast East Side Sound, Vol.3 compilation album, recollected “We had a party at the studio and had all the kids come down. Everybody was having a good time and we put the record on—in those days they had three-track recording—and while everybody was having a party we recorded the crowd on top of it.”
Freddy Fender & The Comancheros: “Boogaloo En Monterrey” [Discos Dominante 590, year?]
I am kind of surprised at how little I can find about this tune despite the legendary status of Freddy Fender. I first encountered it on the super cool Breakaway Records compilation CD, Tejasoul: A Mix of Rare Tejano Soul 45’s, and all I can gather from a few scattered music blogs is that the disc was released on a Mexican label and features Freddy Fender a couple decades-ish before being a Texas Tornado.
Los Hijos del Sol: “Cariñito” [The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru, 2007]
Ok, here’s where we get a little off the beaten path. The music contained on The Roots of Chicha compilations wasn’t really known outside of Peru during its 70s heyday. It certainly would not have been familiar to car clubs in East L.A. or West San Antonio, but in a way it would have been. The mix of Cuban and Colombian rhythms, Tex-Mex/garage Farfisa organ, twangy surf guitar and psychedelic rock—this is Pan-American music!
Los Yaki: “Las Estatuas de Marfil” [Los Yaki, 1966]
Mexican rockers Los Yaki give us this crazed, groovy garage cover of Alvin Cash & The Registers: “The Philly Freeze” (yes, Alvin Cash of “Twine Time” fame). I love that “The Philly Freeze” becomes “The Ivory Statues.” Far out! Me gusta, me gusta, me gusta tambieeeeennnn.
The Eptones: “A Love That’s Real” [JOX 070, 1967]
Remember when I mentioned the San Antonio Westside Sound? Well, here it is! Take a smooth, sweet soul tune like this one by the Intruders and inject some raw, Tex-Mex energy, and BOOM! Westside Sound.
Rene & Rene: “I’m Not the Only One (No Soy El Unico)” [Cobra 212, 1965]
Laredo, Texas duo Rene & Rene (René Ornelas and René Herrera) had a modest hit in 1964 with “Angelito” using a pop + Spanish/English lyrics-formula—they even appeared on American Bandstand! They try the formula again on this tune, with less commercial success but with more cool factor success. It is apparent by this point they’ve been digging The Beatles—check that “And I Love Her” guitar line!
The Royal Jesters: “We Go Together” [English Oldies, 2015]
The other kings of the San Antonio scene. The Royal Jesters evolved from a doo-wop group to a Motown-esque Westside Sound group to a fiery Latin Rock group over the course of the the 60s and early 70s. Dig Numero Group’s fantastic English Oldies compilation for a more thorough introduction.
Malo: “Suavecito” [Malo, 1972]
Hailing from the the Mission District of San Francisco, Malo was, of course, Carlos Santana’s brother Jorge’s group, and “Suavecito,” their signature song, has been called the “Chicano National Anthem.”
Los Tres Ases: “Sabor a Mí” [Exitos Originales, year?]
“Sabor a Mí” is a Mexican classic, written by Álvaro Carrillo in 1959. It’s been covered many, many times. Los Tres Ases beautiful version here is hard to beat, though of course it was El Chicano’s version that made the tune a lowrider staple.
Los Shain’s: “Shain’s A Go-Go” [El Ritmo de Los Shain’s, 1966]
Los Shain’s: “El Tren Pasa Esta Noche” [Docena 3, 1968]
Raw, groovin’ garage rock from Peru!
Chris Montez: “Let’s Dance” [Let’s Dance and Have Some Kinda Fun!!, 1962]
“Let’s Dance” is arguably the best known tune on this mix. It was a huge hit in the U.S. and in the U.K. Montez (born in L.A.) even toured the U.K. and had a then-little-known band called The Beatles open for him. Montez reportedly commented, “Who are these guys The Beatles? I try to keep up with the British scene, but I don’t know their work.”
Sonny Ace & The Twisters: “Wolleh Booleh” [Atlantic 2364, 1965]
Dig this Tex-Mex take on the Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs classic!
Papi Brando y sus Ejecutivos: “Viva Panama” [Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus, 1965–1975, 2006]
Los Dinamicos Exciters y Ralph Weeks: “Let Me Do My Thing” [Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus, 1965–1975, 2006]
Speaking of Pan-American music, this Panamanian music is just that—simultaneously Latin and African, soul and cumbia. Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus, 1965–1975 is the passion project of Costa Rican/Panamanian DJ Roberto Ernesto Gyemant and ethnomusicologist Miles Cleret, and you’ve gotta thank the good Lord that there are folks like them out there digging up obscure gems like these!
Las 4 Monedas: “Windy” [Four Coins A-Go-Go, 1968]
I have a soft spot for sunny 60s California psych pop with great harmonies a la The Beach Boys and The Association (my parents are both Southern Californians); so if you take a classic like “Windy” and add a Latin dance groove, I’m gonna be hooked! My research has found conflicting information about the origin of this band, but I’m fairly certain that they were four black Venezuelans that pioneered a psych/soul/cumbia/pop fusion sound in the late 60s and then moved to a more ska-reggae oriented sound in the 1970s.
Los Bravos: “Black is Black” [Black is Black, 1966]
The mega-hit by the Madrid-based beat group Los Bravos! No. 2 in the U.K., No. 4 in the U.S.! Also dig Eddie Santiago’s salsa version!
Los Monjes: “Mi Mami Dijo” [Mexico Discos CBS 5785, 1965]
Mexico’s Los Monjes, or The Monks, are not to be confused with the legendary American/German band The Monks, but they are cut from a similarly punk cloth.
Los York’s: “El Sicodelico” [Los Yorks 69, 1969]
Despite their raw, wild garage style, Los Yorks were actually quite a successful band in their native Peru. They even had their own Monkees-esque TV and radio program! Unfortunately, in 1971, at the peak of their popularity, the oppressive military government of Juan Velasco Alvarado began to call the band “immoral” and pressured them to stop performing.
Juaneco y su Combo: “Ya Se Ha Muerto Mi Abuelo” [The Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru, 2007]
Another track from the great Roots of Chicha compilation. From the Barbès Records website: “Formed in Pucallpa in 1966 Juaneco is the most mythical of all Amazonian bands. They claimed the regional Shipibo Indian identity by dressing in traditional costumes. Their songs, which can be both funny and poetic, often deal with the clash between tradition and urbanization. Their sound doesn’t seem to owe anything to anyone and hasn’t aged a bit. They released their first single in 1970 and toured in neighboring Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia. In 1977 most of the band died in a plane crash, including Noe Fachin, the band’s first guitar and main composer. Band leader Juaneco and singer Wilindro, who were not on the flight, reformed the band with new musicians and kept the sound alive.”
No. 1 de No. 1: “Guajira Van” [World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 3: Love is a Real Thing, 2005]
This just goes to show how far the influence of Latin American music goes—this song is from Africa! (Of course Africa has had an enormous influence on Latin American music, so definitely a full-circle situation here) Off of David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records’ incredible compilation of The Funky, Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa.
The Personalities: “Sospecha” [Falcon 1359, 1964]
Super cool Elvis cover from Mission, Texas!
Lucila Campos: “Toro Mata” [Los Clásicos Afro-Peruano: El Alma Del Peru Negro, 1995]
This one is from another classic Luaka Bop compilation: The Soul of Black Peru. Like the title suggests, the album focuses on the music of the black Peruvian community. Killer stuff!
Los Hitters: “Delicuente” [Orfeón 45, 1967]
A nice rockin’ ripper from Tijuana, Mexico!
Henry & His Kasuals: “I’ll Come Running” [Cobra 1140, year?]
Sunny & The Sunliners: “Sitting in the Park” [Chicano Soul: San Antonio’s Westside Sound, Vol.3]
The Royal Jesters: “I Want You ’Round” [Jester 104, 1965]
Little Jesse Jr. & His Tear Drops: “Little Playgirl” [Metro-Dome 1002]
San Antonio Westside Sound block! The OG Billy Stewart version of “Sitting in the Park” will be familiar to LA Heads because of its inclusion on East Side Story, Vol. 3, but for my money, Sunny’s version is cooler.
Los Rollings: “No Tienes Mi Querer” [World Beaters, Vol. 6, 2006]
Los OVNIs: “El OVNI” [Los OVNIs, 1966]
Los Matematicos: “Me Atrapaste” [Go-Go en Rojo, 1967]
Bitchin’ Latin garage rock block! Los Rollings are from Nicaragua and the other two groups are Mexican. I especially love how Los OVNIs took the classic garage/blues tune “Baby Please Don’t Go” and made it about aliens!!!
Richie Valens: “Donna” [Del-Fi 4110, 1958]
If “Let’s Dance” is the most famous song on this mix, East LA’s Richie Valens is certainly the most famous performer. “Donna” was the A-side to the more famous flipside, “La Bamba.”
Johnny & Gene: “It’s You I Love” [JOX 023, 1964]
Sunny & The Sunliners: “Should I Take You Home” [RPR 6404, 1969]
I don’t see a better way to end this mix than with a couple of romantic Westside cruisers. Should I take you home?
This mixtape is dedicated to Madrid-based artist Lauren Moya Ford, who turned me on to a lot of these jams; Breakaway Records in Austin, Texas for sharing a killer rare Tejano Soul 45 compilation that was the source for a handful of these tunes; Noah Mass for introducing me to los garage rockers; and the mysterious geniuses behind the Eastside Story compilations.