Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rare Tape of a Radio Show on the Evolution of Chicano Rock Music Found!

The tape contains music and interviews with Chicano rock pioneers TIERRA, YAQUI, Mark Guerrero and Chicano rock music producer, Art Brambila, which aired 40 years ago on KLOS-FM in Los Angeles, CA.
     Memories, precious memories!
     There isn’t a Chicano alive today who doesn’t recognize the title of the 1980 hit record made famous by the legendary East Los Angeles-based Chicano rock group, TIERRA!
     Little did most Chicano rock music devotees and aficionados know that TIERRA actually recorded an album almost ten years before its giant “Memories” hit that, which, for the most part, contained and important message about the Chicano culture, with original music that has become the standard sound that epitomizes the indeginous East Los Angeles music style, which combines a unique blend of rock, soul, R & B, salsa and Latin Jazz.
     Well, lo and behold, a rare radio show that showcased TIERRA’s music along with other pioneers of that unique musical sound, has been discovered and it includes an interview and the music of the person who found the tape among others loaned to him by friend and former manager, Chicano music producer, Art Brambila.
     “I was simply going through some old reel to reel tapes in an old box that Art loaned me a couple of years ago, looking for material to add to my Chicano music history web site, “ said Mark Guererro, a veteran singer-songwriter who hosts a web site that probably contains more information about Chicano music artists than anyone else in the world.  
     "When I started playing this one tape, I couldn't believe what I was hearing,"Guerrero said.    
     The tape that Guerrero found contained a recording of a show on KLOS-FM radio station in Los Angeles where he was interviewed in 1972 by Joe Ortiz, Chicano talk show host pioneer, along with members of Chicano Rock band legends TIERRA and YAQUI and their manager, Art Brambila.
     “Here I sat, stunned, listening to my song I'm Brown and being interviewed on a radio show that was broadcast 40 years ago,” said Guerrero.
     After listening to the entire show, Guerrero quickly got on the phone and called Ortiz, a close friend since they met back in 1972 when he appeared on Ortiz’ television show on Channel 2, The Siesta is Over, a month before the radio interview. Guerrero also quickly called Art Brambila, who was the president of Brown Bag Productions, who produced his song as well as the first albums for TIERRA and YAQUI forty years ago. Guerrero told both Brambila and Ortiz that he would email them a copy of the show as soon as he was finished dubbing the tape into MP3 format.
     “I have many tapes of radio interviews I conducted on my shows in the mid 80’s to the 90’s, said Ortiz, “but nothing going back to the days when I first began working as a talk show host in 1971 at KABC-AM, and then the following year at its sister station, KLOS-FM. This interview that Mark discovered is like finding a golden nugget in the penny jar of Chicano rock music history.”
     Ortiz added that the few Chicano broadcasters they had back in the days before digital video and audio were too focused on taking advantage of the few media venues available to them to think about recording the historical relevance those interviews represented in the late 60’s and early 70’s. “But, obviously someone recorded that show unbeknownst to me and the guests on the show.”
     “After listening to the MP3 Mark sent me, I called him and Art and told them that they may not realize it, but that show is probably the only interview in existence where these visionary musicians were presenting the American audience with the most intelligent and profound expression of what has become an indigenous musical genre that has touched the lives of most Latinos throughout the world. “
(Mark Guerrero and Art Brambila)

     Most certainly, Brambila has always had a dream and a vision about the unique sounds he grew up with on Clover Street in the Lincoln Heights area of East Los Angeles, the same community where his nephews Rudy and Steve Salas, the founders of TIERRA, were raised, along with Eddie Serrano of YAQUI. 

(Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers of America,
listens to songwriter Art Brambila’s lyrics of the song he wrote for
the organization called Manana is Now, circa 1976)

     “I have always known that we (Chicanos) had great talent in all areas, especially in the music field, “said Brambila, who later in his career launched a television show in the late 70’s called The Mean Salsa Machine, the first bi-lingual major market TV show on an English Speaking station, Channel 9, in Los Angeles. Brambila also excelled as a songwriter himself with a tune he penned, Mañana Is Now , for the album Si Se Puede, the 1976 charity album debut of Los Lobos, of which the proceeds from the album went towards the United Farm Workers of America.
(Original cover of TIERRA’s first album, autographed for Joe Ortiz
by the original members, which he still has in his possession)

     “When I first started managing these gifted musicians, I knew they had a unique and marketable sound that would revolutionize the recording industry,” said Brambila, who had much experience in the marketing division at Capitol Records, but little technical in studio experience, but I used that knowledge to promote these talented guys,” added Brambila. His efforts resulted in Mark Guerrero, TIERRA and YAQUI signing a contract with major labels Capitol Records, 20th Century and Playboy, respectively.
     Although Brambila’s vision was being fulfilled during those early and trying times, he knew this evolution from being mere Chicano music performers would one day not only touch the hearts of Chicano audiences throughout the southwest, but the heartfelt message about Chicanos and their culture would soon provide the predominate community with crucial and insightful messages they needed to hear.
     “When I first heard about Joe’s radio show, we contacted his producer, Luis Torres, and he booked my guys (TIERRA, YAQUI and Mark Guerrero) right away, said Brambila.”
Joe Ortiz (center) with the founders of TIERRA, the Salas Brothers (Steve on the left and Rudy far right)

     Ortiz, the first Mexican American to conduct a radio show on an English-language commercial radio station, was known best for promoting enterprising Latinos, groups and organizations on his shows.
     “When Joe told us no one had ever discussed nor had heard the history behind this unique emerging Chicano rock sound on American airwaves, little did we realize that the predominately white KLOS-FM audience, was being introduced to the Eastside Sound for the very first time,” added Brambila.
     “Mark, Art, Eddie, Steve and all the guys poured out their heart and soul that evening, providing our listeners with information they had never heard before,” said Ortiz. “The intelligent and easy to understand manner in which they conveyed the cultural nuances of Chicano rock music was like listening to music professors giving a lecture to their students at a major university.”
     Ortiz said those who listen to the tape will be moved by the phone-in callers and their intelligent questions, KLOS audience members who genuinely were captivated by the sound and wanted to know more about the music’s history and inspiration.
     While the birth of Chicano music goes back to the early 20th century, it began a unique and evolutionary transition in the late sixties, spurned by the Chicano Civil Rights movement. Besides the traditional I love you baby tunes that many Chicano musicians were playing in the late fifties and early sixties, this new and emerging Chicano rock music contained and was delivering messages in a Dylanesque motif about the lives, hopes and aspirations of Mexican Americans in the greater Los Angeles area.
(Mark Guerrero and his brother Dan chat with Bill Clinton after the President bestowed the National Medal of Arts to their father, Chicano music icon, Lalo Guerrero, at the White House)

     “Mark Guerrero’s involvement with Chicano music began right before that era, and much of his heart and soul for this genre is historical and runs deep,” said Ortiz. “It’s obvious he was influenced to a great degree by his father, Lalo Guerrero, who is recognized as the Father of Chicano music.”
     Yet, Mark developed his own unique style, which is still evolving; but he does credit Chicano Study classes at Cal State Los Angeles and his father for instilling in him unique pride in his Chicano heritage.   
     Prior to his death on March 17, 2005, Lalo Guerrero, the iconic Chicano music hero was presented the National Medal of Arts by then President Bill Clinton for a lifetime of achievements, the only Chicano to receive our nation’s highest arts award.
(Mark Guerrero singing I’m Brown

     The newly found Lost KLOS Interview with Mark Guerrero and Latino Legends starts off with Mark’s recording of I'm Brown, of which the lyrics bespeaks his passion for music, the emerging Chicano culture of that era, and its demand for respect.
(Yaqui members, left to right, Rudy Regalado, Larry Cronen, Ray Rodriguez, Eddie Serrano and Ronnie Reyes. Squatting left to right,George Ochoa and Art Sanchez)
     The tape also features YAQUI lead singer George Ochoa’s rendition of “Brown Baby” which also cries out the heart and soul of a Chicano culture indigenous to the East Los Angeles Mexican American community.  One of the group’s original tunes and one of its biggest hits (before Barack Obama capitalized on the slogan) was It's Time For a Change.
     "It's Time for a Change (Tiempo Para Un Cambio)," which shows all three artists on Brown Bag Productions, were also writing and recording socially relevant music,” said Guerrero.  “That song appeared on a compilation in the 90s called "Ay Califas- Raza Rock" (1998) and has also been recorded by Tierra on their latest CD.”
     Eddie Serrano (since passed away) left YAQUI and later became the lead singer for another famous Chicano rock group, Cannibal and the Headhunters, which gained international acclaim for their mega hit, Land of a 1000 Dances.
     The tape, which did not have the traditional introduction that normally opened Ortiz’ radio shows, also does not have a closing segment. Mark told Joe the tape was so old that parts of it were practically glued together and he didn’t want to chance destroying it by pulling it apart. Nevertheless, the tape ends with TIERRA's  original tune called Barrio Suite, a seven and a half minute musical anthology that virtually encapsulates the Chicano cultural ethos.
(Steve Salas being interview by Joe Ortiz on KLOS-FM)
     “To me, personally, Barrio Suite and I'm Brown are probably the two most profound Chicano tunes ever written,” said Brambila.    
     “Mark’s message in I'm Brown speaks of the deep-seeded feeling most Chicanos have about their community. Rudy and Steve Salas and the members of TIERRA at that time produced in Barrio Suite a seven and a half minute musical train that takes the listener on a  musical Mexican American culture journey through the barrios of East Los Angeles.”
     “These talented musicians are still going strong, after the forty intervening years, from when that unique interview show aired,” said Ortiz. “TIERRA and Mark are still the poet laureates of the Chicano experience they were back then, and very few if any new Chicano musicians, will ever duplicate their historical work.”
(Left to right, Mark Guerrero and Art Brambila, and Joe Ortiz in the background, meet at Las Fuentes Restaurant in Redlands, CA to discuss what to do with the tape) 
     Having found this rare tape, the three discussed the historical and educational significance of the show and what they wanted to do with it. They all agreed the tape represents a significant piece of Chicano rock history and that they should at least post it on their respective web sites for fans to download and hear the tape, and also send it out to as many Chicano media and web sites they could find.
     “At the least, for thousands of Chicano rock music fans who listen to this rare interview tape, it seems to me it will definitely bring back many precious memories!”
The 50 minute  KLOS-FM interview tape will also be available for those who want to hear or download the show on the Mark Guerrero web site, which also contains the most comprehensive information on the Internet about Chicano music, its birth and evolution throughout the last 50 years.


  1. Just visited your blog now. It’s greatly nice and informative. Thanks for writing such a wonderful blog.

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  2. Thanks for the compliment Chris; truly appreciate your kindness!

    Stay in touch: Joe Ortiz9299@gmail.com


  3. It's really nice to read about the many chicanos who advanced the East LA sound. It's nice to remember. I too spend my early years living on Clover Street, right across the street from the Salas brothers. I remember living a couple of houses away from Eddie Serrano. Clover Street also was the early home of Steve Lopez of Thee Enchantments and others and of course Art Brambila and his brother. I also remember the local catholic grammar school where it seemed we all attended. I am about the same age as Steve Salas.

  4. Phantom, thanks for your input. Those guys (Rudy and Steve) are still going strong. Great music never dies!