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Book Review:  "A World Of Its Own"

by Mark Guerrero

     I heard about this book from Dan Pollock, an original member of The Mixtures.  Although from  Ventura, California, The Mixtures were managed by Eddie Davis and were part of the Eastside sound and scene.  Their instrumental recording of a song called "Olive Oyl" is and Eastside classic, which is included in the "Eastside Sound" four-volume CD set on the Varese Sarabande label.  The collection also includes their "Rainbow Stomp (Volume One)," "Karen," on which they backed Little Ray Jimenez, and two other tracks on which they are featured.  The full title of the book is "A World Of Its Own- Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970."  It's author is Matt Garcia and it's published by the University of North Carolina Press (2001).  The book is very academic and intelligently written, but the scope and subject matter of the book in its entirety is not relevant to my website.  However, there is a chapter which is totally relevant and very interesting.  It's called "Memories of El Monte- Dance Halls and Youth Culture in Greater Los Angeles, 1950-1974."  The chapter focuses on two dance halls, El Monte Legion Stadium and Rainbow Gardens in Pomona.  These venues were quintessential and classic places for Latin music, r&b, and Chicano eastside sound bands.  Many  East L.A. and eastside bands played these venues in the early 60s, including me.  My teenage band, Mark & the Escorts played several times at Rainbow Gardens in 1964, where we were on the bill with bands such as The Romancers, The Desires, The Jaguars with the Salas Brothers, Ronnie & the Casuals, and others.

     The chapter describes the early days of Rainbow Gardens in the 1940s when it was a big band venue.  Harry James, Les Brown, Perry Como, and many others would perform there in the period.  The book points out that there was rarely, if ever, a brown or black person in the audience at the venue.  There may not have been a "white only" sign on Rainbow Gardens, but that's the way it was.  A local disc jockey named Candelario Mendoza, who played Latin music of all styles on his local radio show, suggested that Rainbow Gardens have a Latin night.  The owners gave him a chance to do it on a weeknight.  They didn't expect much of a turnout so they only hired one security guard, one bartender, and a couple of waitresses.  Cande, as he was called, had booked Beto Villa and to the owners' amazement there was a line around the block for the show.  They had to scurry and get more staff to handle the crowd.  When they counted their receipts the next day, Latin night on a regular basis was on.  Cande brought in monster Latin artists such as Tito Puente, Machito, Tito Rodriguez, Luis Alcaraz, Rene Touzet, Tin Tan, and Perez Prado!  By the mid-50s, Latin music took over the venue.  They would have rock & roll on Friday nights, conjunto on Saturdays, and a tardeada on Sunday afternoons.  As the popularity of rock & roll grew, Rainbow Gardens became a rock & roll venue.  The Mixtures, who were a racially mixed band as the name implies, became the house band in the early 60s.  Artists such as Lou Rawls, Barry White, The Rivingtons, Bobby Rydell, and The Beach Boys either opened for or were backed by the popular Mixtures during this period.  The Mixtures were a great live act and had a huge following.  Their records sold very well locally, but somehow did not go national.  There's a lot more information of The Mixtures in the chapter, including names of members, and a great photo.  There are other relevant photos including one of Cande Mendoza and a great shot of Rainbow Gardens in its prime in the 50s.  Rainbow Gardens burned down in 1965.

     El Monte Legion Stadium was another hot bed of rock & roll, r&b, and "Eastside Sound" and Chicano bands and singers.  It had originally been built in for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics to house wrestling matches.  The audiences at the venue were racially mixed as were the musical artists.  You had blacks, whites, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders partying together.  That's not to say there wasn't the occasional fight.  East L.A.'s pioneering band, The Romancers, were a house band there for a time.  Rosie & the Originals of "Angel Baby" fame also performed there often.  There's lots of information about Rosie Hamlin, who had a Mexican mother and Anglo father, including where she describes the gender discrimination that she and other female singers endured from promoters during this era.  The book also describes the pachuco/cholo culture at El Monte Legion Stadium.  The low rider cars they drove, the Sir Guy shirts and khakis worn by the teenage boys, the way the girls dressed, and the social behaviors.  A very important point is brought up in the chapter that I hadn't known or realized.  That early rock & roll promoters realized that the main market for rock & roll at that time was the teenage market.  The city of Los Angeles had very restrictive laws against teenagers congregating anywhere, let alone at dance venues.  So the promoters found venues in the unincorporated areas of the county and outlying suburbs where it was possible to have teenage dances.  Aside from some night club venues, church halls, local armory auditoriums, and high school gymnasiums were used.  This later gave rise to the East L.A. teenage music scene of the sixties which made the golden age of East L.A.'s "Eastside Sound" possible.  In East L.A., we had St. Alphonsus Auditorium, the Montebello Ballroom, the Big and Little Union Halls, Kennedy Hall, and many more.  "A World Of It's Own" is published by the University of North Carolina Press.  For ordering from a book store use ISBN 0-8078-4983-9.
 

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Mark Guerrero
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