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Tribute Concert for Don Tosti
October 3, 2004

     by Mark Guerrero

     On Sunday afternoon, October 3, 2004 there was a tribute concert for the late Don Tosti, who passed away on August 2, 2004.  It was spearheaded by Tosti's nephew, Steven Lewis, and organized and produced by Palm Springs keyboardist/vocalist Johnny Mesa and his wife, singer Lolla Rossi.  It was held at the Riviera Spa and Resort Hotel in Palm Springs, CA.  The setting was elegant, with many large tables in a semicircle, Las Vegas showroom style.  There was also a very large dance floor in front of the roomy stage, which stood about four feet above floor level.  When I mentioned the event to legendary guitarist/producer Ry Cooder, he was enthusiastic about coming and participating.  He had recorded a new version of one of Don Tosti's early recordings on his latest project, yet to be released.  Don had done a rap in caló (Chicano slang) on the new Ry Cooder recording.  The best musician's in the Greater Palm Springs area showed up to perform in Don Tosti's honor.  Many of them had worked with Don over the years here in the desert, where Don Tosti lived and often performed since the early 60s.

     The concert started around 2:00 p.m. with a band consisting of legendary Chicano musician Manny Lopez on vibes, Alan Diaz on drums, Bill Siata on Fender and upright bass, Gil Quesada on keyboard, Rod Kokolj on sax, Steve Madaio on trumpet, and Chalo Eduardo on congas.  Ry Cooder sat in with the band for their entire set.  The band sounded great playing Latin and Latin jazz to the delight of the capacity crowd consisting of several hundred guests.  Several guest artists were then backed by the band, starting with legendary vocalist Herb Jeffries.  Herb is in his early 90s and still sounded great crooning "Night and Day" and his signature "Flamingo."  The next guest artist was legendary L.A. sax man, Gil Bernal.  Gil played on countless hit records in the 50s and 60s and played with many major artists including Lionel Hampton.  Needless to say, he was excellent.  I came up next and participated in four songs.  I brought my own drummer, Bobby Dominguez, for my mini set and he did his usual great job.  I started by singing the lead vocal on Louie Jordan's "Let the Good Times Roll," trading solo's with Ry Cooder on the slow blues shuffle.  I was very pleased and honored to play with Ry.  Next we played a Don Tosti cha cha called "Chavelita."  I sang the verses and Johnny Mesa and I sang the choruses in unison.  It's a song I like very much and it came out very well.  We followed "Chavelita" with my dad's "Los Chucos Suaves," originally written and recorded c. 1950 and utilized again in the late 70s for the play and movie, "Zoot Suit" by Luis Valdez.  My dad, Lalo Guerrero, came up and traded verses and choruses with me on the song.  At 87 years old he also managed to do a little dance during the instrumental interludes.  The place went nuts.  We follwed "Los Chucos Suaves" with Don Tosti's "Pachuco Boogie."  The rap in caló was done by two young performers, Eddie Diaz and Andres Madero.  They did a great job on the rap and the dance, while dressed in full zoot suit attire.

     Many other musicians came up and played as the day progressed including Marty Steel and Andy Fraga on keyboard, Steve Neilan on drums, and Gus Angelo on vibes.  I had to leave around 4:00 o'clock to make my 5:30 gig a couple of miles away at Las Casuelas Terraza so I missed the rest of the show.  However, other guest artists performed including blues guitarist/vocalist Kal David and his wife, blues singer, Lauri Bono.  At the time, they owned a popular blues club in Palm Springs called the "Blue Guitar."  It has since been sold.  Also performing were singer/guitarist John Stanley King, vocalist Mike Costley, saxophonist Pat Rizzo, Don Tosti's nephew Paul Wood playing some blues, singer Carole Hampton serving up some Latin jazz, vocalist Bill Farrell, and Bill Renner.  Other musicians who attended, but did not perform included former bandleader and television personality Johnny Mann, Bill Marx (the son of Harpo Marx), and drummer/composer Ed Genovese, who composed and recorded a tribute piece for Don Tosti called "Samba de Don."  It was played over the P.A. system.  The event went extremely well and the feeling was very good between the performers and with the audience.  The idea of the event was to celebrate Don Tosti's life and amazing career.  Our goal was definitely accomplished.
 


Mark Guerrero, Bobby Dominguez, Bill Siata, and Ry Cooder (2004)


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Click here for Don Tosti tribute concert videos
Mark Guerrero performing "Let the Good Times Roll" with Ry Cooder
& Mark & Lalo Guerrero performing "Los Chucos Suaves" with Ry Cooder
 

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