Friday, October 14, 2005

Chicano Music

Manuel Ramos

Not much about fiction this week, so let's do music.

CHICANO MUSIC? La cancíon mexicana, latin jazz, movimiento protest songs, oldies, tejano, conjunto, hip-hop, reggaeton, o qué? Maybe all of that. There is a good shelf's worth of books to help figure it out. Keep in mind, this post is mostly old school.

A good place to start is A Texas-Mexican Cancionero by Américo Paredes (University of Illinois Press, 1976, reprint by University of Texas Press, 1995) , subtitled, Folksongs of the Lower Border. Paredes, one of the masters of Chicano research and historical preservation, collected sixty-six songs that were representative of the folksongs of the Lower Rio Grande Border from 1750-1960. Here are the words, the compositions, and the stories behind the songs that tell how life was for the people along the border in the days of shoot-outs with the Texas Rangers (¡rinches cobardes!) - Jacinto Treviño; smuggling tequila across the border - Los tequileros; and the first appearance of television and easy-payment plans (ya no tengo pa' cerveza por estar viendo los monos) - Ya se va la televisión. Unique photographs, too.

Moving several years forward, take a look at Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles by Steven Loza (University of Illinois Press, 1993). This book has it covered. The book jacket says, "Loza provides a historical overview of the music from the nineteenth century to the present and offers in-depth profiles of nine Mexican-American artists, groups, and entrepreneurs in Southern California from the post-World War II era to the present. His interviews with many of today's most influential barrio musicians, including members of Los Lobos, Eddie Cano, Lalo Guerrero, and Willie Herrón, chronicle the cultural forces active in this complex urban community."

The Old Barrio Guide To Low Rider Music, 1950 - 1975, by Ruben Molina (Mictlan Publishing, 2002), doesn't focus only on Chicano music. This book provides rundowns on the bands and singing groups that taken together defined and continue to define the urban sound of low rider culture - equal parts R&B, Chicano rock and oldies, with bits and pieces of jazz, blues, and maybe one or two corridos or rancheras. The book starts with Johnny Ace and ends with the Youngsters, and in between are thousands of details about everyone else who matters, from El Chicano to Thee Midniters, from the Premiers (photo at the top of this post) to Ritchie Valens. A fun book that looks fine, so fine, on the coffee table.

Back to Texas for The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music by Ramiro Burr (Billboard Books, 1999), another group-by-group, singer-by-singer compilation from Accordion to Henry Zimmerle y Conjunto San Antonio. Burr is a music journalist, syndicated columnist, radio personality and critic. This is the source for information about the wide range of Tejano formats and the diverse musicians who continue to produce the most popular Latino music in the country (yes, even more than salsa.) If the word Tejano means Selena and nothing more, this book is for you.

Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock 'n' Roll from Southern California, by David Reyes and Tom Waldman (University of New Mexico Press, 1998), is a more-or-less chronological analysis of the various personalities, influences, musical styles, low and high points of the Chicano rock scene in SoCal, from Chico Sesma and Lalo Guerrero to Los Lobos. Many, many details and personal insights that create an insider's attitude.

Two other excellent sources are Chicano Popular Culture: Que Hable el Pueblo, by Charles M. Tatum (University of Arizona Press, 2001), and Chicano Renaissance: Contemporary Cultural Trends, by David R. Maciel, Isidro D. Ortiz, and María Herrera-Sobek (University of Arizona Press, 2000), both of which have sections on Chicano music.

This list lacks a reference for the music scene in the Bay Area (California) - Santana, Malo, et al. - and a definitive work on the music of New Mexico - Al Hurricane, Roberto Griego, Tobias Rene, etc. Any suggestions? Also missing is the newest stuff, the current groups, singers and musicians - but that's the way it is with music. It evolves quickly, progresses constantly and the critics and analysts are usually a few years behind.

On October 18 I will have the pleasure of talking with the students in Mimi Wesson's Law and Literature class at the University of Colorado School of Law. Mimi has published several crime fiction novels and consistently attracts a very interesting group of students for this class. The students have been reading The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz and thinking up questions such as: why do so many lawyers write fiction; is there room in a busy lawyer's life for creativity? Daniel Olivas?



msedano said...

a great collection of books about raza music. i'd add National Medal of Arts awardee, Lalo Guerrero's autobio, Lalo: My Life and Music. The evening I attended the signing was typical Lalo. He played and sang and told stories. Then he had lengthy conversations with each person who sought his signature.

Manuel Ramos said...

Thanks for the addition to the list - Lalo's book should be included. Another one is The Latin Beat: The Rhythms and Roots of Latin Music, from Bossa Nova to Salsa and Beyond
by Ed Morales, recommended to me by Pocho Joe, local DJ. I haven't seen it but apparently it is exhaustive in tracing the roots and influences of several forms of Latino music.

cindylu said...

Those are some good picks. I've taken a class or two on Chicano music and used some of those books (mainly Land of a Thousand Dances).

I would also recommend a new Rolas de Aztlan: Songs of the Chicano Movement.

Manuel Ramos said...

Yes, Cindylu, that CD is very good - I've posted about it here on La Bloga a couple of times and recommend it highly, especially to those who need a refesher about the sentiment and feelings expressed in music from the 60s and 70s. The Cd booklet is a good reference, too.

daniel olivas said...

oh, i forgot to answer your question about how i find time to practice law and write. i don't golf.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to invite everyone to listen to Musica de la Raza - Aztlan to El Barrio, Saturdays 5-7 am (PST) or anytime on-line (for two weeks) at, KBCS 91.3 FM. I feature Mexican, Mexican-American and Chicano music. Gracias por escuchar! !Que disfrute! - Patty Fong, DJ/Host, Musica de la Raza - Aztlan to El Barrio, !Viva la Raza!

chicano soul said...

Chicano Soul shows in September

This September, 2009 Southern California will be getting a musical treat in the form of the Chicano Soul Revue. As a group of veteran musicians from San Antonio, Austin & Temple, Texas join a group of veteran musicians from East Los Angeles to perform three shows packed with sixties soul and R&B classics mixed with several Tex-Mex classics. The band was put together by Eastside author/music historian Ruben Molina and promoter Juan Mendoza of San Antonio, TX to promote the Chicano contribution to sixties American pop culture.
For more information go to or call Ruben Molina at 626.941.4115
Ruben Molina author: Old Barrio Guide To Low Rider Music, Chicano Soul:Recordings and History Of An American Culture
Dates and Locations
Friday Sept. 25, 2009
Levels Lounge
465 W. 7th Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
Saturday Sept. 26, 2009
Nick's Taste Of Texas
Sunday, Sept 27, 2009
V.F.W. Hall 1944
16157 East Gale Ave
City Of Industry, CA 91714
Chicano Soul Musicians

Rudy Palacios- guitar, vocals….San Antonio, Texas
Sunny & the Sunliners [1964-1974]

Henry Parilla- Keyboards, vocals….San Antonio, Texas
Henry & the Laveers [1963], Sunny & the Sunliners [1964-

Chente Montes- bass, vocals….San Antonio, Texas
Sunny & the Sunliners [1964-1974]

Johnny Hernandez- vocals….Temple,, Texas
Johnny & the Sinceres, Little Joe and the Latinaires [1963-1970], Little Joe Y La Familia [1970- ]

Rudy Tee Gonzales- vocals….San Antonio, Texas
Rudy Tee and the Reno-Bops [1960- ]

Ernie Garibay- bass, vocals….San Antonio, Texas
Commands, Randy Garibay, Cats Don’t Sleep

Ralph Cortez- vocals….San Antonio, Texas
Royal Jesters [1969-1971]

Steve Salas- timbales, vocals….East Los Angeles
Salas Brothers/ Jaguars, Tierra

Greg Esparza- vocals….East Los Angeles
Cannibal and the Headhunters, Thee Midniters

Joanna Ramirez- vocals….Austin, Texas
Larry Lange and His Lonely Knights

Larry Lange- bass, vocals….Austin, Texas
Doug Sahm, Larry Lange and His Lonely Knights

Roland Martinez- drums….San Antonio, Texas
Sunglows, Laura Canales, Marvelettes

Donald Garza-trumpet….San Antonio, Texas
Latin Breed

Jesse Botello –saxophone….Corpus Christi, Austin, Texas
Oscar Martinez Orch., Manuel Donely Orch, Alfonso Ramos Orch. Larry Lange and His Lonely Knights

Bobby Navarette- saxophone….East Los Angeles
Fabulous Sounds, Young Hearts Band, Tierra, Thee Midniters

Bobby Loya- Trumpet….East Los Angeles
Blue Satins, V.I.P’s, Tierra, Little Joe Y La Familia, Thee Midniters

Manny Gonzales- guitar, vocals….East Los AngelesBlazers, Big Manny Band