Hello and welcome, I am the webmaster for VirtualChicano.com.
I'd like to thank you for taking the time for this interview.
This interview will be un-cut and un-censored. Let's get started.
Q, VirtualChicano: Your website, markguerrero.com, is perhaps the richest resource
on the subject of Chicano music on the internet. In the opening
paragraph, this statement is made: “This
website is dedicated to publicizing and promoting my music,
as well as Chicano music in general, which doesn't get its
share of attention in the mainstream media.” Why do
you think this is and what strategies would you recommend
to Chicano rappers that are either facing this now or are
about to realize this soon enough?
A, Mark Guerrero: A part of it is racism. The
word sounds harsh, but there’s nothing else to call
it. For the longest time, music by white artists dominated
virtually all of the mainstream. In the forties and
fifties, black artists were confined to what they called "race
records" and radio stations that played only black music.
Black artists did not really go mainstream until they started
to make records that were more commercial and somewhat sanitized,
such as Motown and perhaps Sam Cooke. Nat King
Cole is an earlier example. These artists were great,
but they were presented in a more palatable way to the general
public. Since then, it's been pretty much a black and
white industry, with not much in between. There have
been very few, if any, recording stars of Asian, Native-American,
or Latino heritage in the limelight. In the fifties
and sixties, Latino pop artists who wanted to break into mainstream
show business had to change their names to increase their
chances. People like Andy Russell, Vickie Carr, Ritchie
Valens, and Freddy Fender. Other Chicano artists were
in bands such as Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs and Question
Mark & the Mysterions. The public was not aware
they were Chicanos. My dad, Lalo Guerrero, wanted to
record in English when he started out and found that he had
to go into the Spanish language market. When he was
"allowed" to make a record in English, the record
company changed his name to Don Edwards. Of course,
in the last ten years or so there are some Latino artists
who’ve made it to the mainstream such as Gloria Estefan,
Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Mark Anthony. (Note
that two of these four don't have Latino or Latino sounding
last names.) It’s a step in the right direction
that some Latinos are now accepted in the mainstream, but
somehow Chicanos are still on the outside looking in.
As far as strategies for young artists, I would only say to
keep working on your craft and persevere.
Q, VirtualChicano: Your father, Mr. Lalo Guerrero, is well
recognized as “Thee father of Chicano Music.”
The perks here might be pretty obvious but were there ever
any drawbacks to this?
A, Mark Guerrero: Surprisingly, there were no perks
when I was trying to get into the rock & roll business
in the late 60s and early 70s. The mainstream music
business didn’t know who my dad was so there was absolutely
no advantage. There is some advantage in the Chicano
community because he is an icon there. But believe me,
anything I’ve accomplished in the music business, even
in the Chicano music field, has been through hard work and
persistence. Nobody’s going to hand you anything
if you don’t have talent. You must be able to produce.
There are drawbacks as well. People tend to sometimes
overlook you because of a more famous father. It can
also be difficult working under a shadow as large as his.
He’s a tough act to follow. However, I don’t
try to compete with him, but do what I do to the best of my
ability. I write, record, and perform my music and try
to keep his music and legacy alive at the same time.
I always do a couple of his songs in my set when I’m
in concert. I also devote a lot of space to him on my
Q, VirtualChicano: There are so many greats when it comes
to Chicano music. Who do you listen to when you feel like
relaxing and hearing some really good music?
A, Mark Guerrero: Of course, I listen to all kinds of
music. In Chicano music, I like to listen to my dad’s
music. I think it’s the best body of work
ever produced by a Chicano artist. Los Lobos, Tierra.
and El Chicano have made some excellent records I like.
I love the music of Hirth Martinez, who’s of Mexican
and Basque ancestry. He’s from East L.A. and made
two phenomenal albums for Warner Brothers in the mid-seventies
and a couple of albums in Japan in recent years. He’s
a great singer/songwriter and guitarist. Currently,
I like Los Lonely Boys from Austin, Texas. They’re
up for a Grammy for best new artist. Los Lonely Boys
are three brothers (Garza) in their early 20s who can sing,
play, and write. I think they’re the best young
Q, VirtualChicano: Please tell us how the
October 16, 2004
Day of the Dead concert at the Anson Ford Amphitheater went.
A, Mark Guerrero:
It went great. It was one of those nights where everything
fell into place for me and my band, Mark Guerrero & Radio
Aztlán. We played for almost an hour under a clear,
beautiful night sky and every song was enthusiastically received
by the audience. I was in good voice and the band played
great. I did about ten of my songs and, as usual, two
of my dad’s. I also performed a song I wrote for
the occasion called “Dia de Los Muertos,” which
was the theme of the night. El Chicano was to follow,
but rain suddenly started to come down on the outdoor amphitheater
so the rest of the show was cancelled. I was very disappointed,
as was the audience, that El Chicano didn’t perform
Q, VirtualChicano: You earned a B.A. in Chicano Studies from
Cal State L.A. How big of a role has your education played
in your career?
A, Mark Guerrero: It has played a pretty big role.
It helped influence my songwriting and the somewhat academic
approach to my writing on my website. I say somewhat
because I don’t try to make my writings for the website
overly academic like a textbook. I want to make it easy,
clear, and entertaining for the reader. My goal is to
get the information across to people of all educational levels.
I got my college education in an unorthodox way which worked
out for the best. I had completed my first two years
of college by 1969. I then dropped out and went on to
record for three major labels, Ode, Capitol, and A&M.
Six years after dropping out, I returned to college full time
in 1976. I had a whole new outlook on my education with
the six year break and what I’d learned in the interim.
I also had found a subject I could relate to and enjoy, Chicano
Studies. I had written a few songs prior to my Chicano
Studies experience that reflected my Chicano roots, “I’m
Brown” and “Allesandro” on my first A&M
album are examples. “I’m Brown” had
actually first been recorded and released in 1972 on Capitol
Records. “Allesandro” had a bridge sung
in Spanish. However, as a result of my Chicano Studies
inspiration, I began to write many more songs with Chicano
themes, both musically and in subject matter. I wrote
and recorded songs about the Aztecs and other Pre-Columbian
peoples, immigration, Mexican visual artists, cruising the
boulevard, and other songs relating to Mexican and Chicano
history and culture. I also began introducing more Latin
rhythms and song forms into my music and used more bilingual
Q, VirtualChicano: One thing I’ve noticed in your writings
is that you and your peers do not seem to be plagued with
petty rivalries. How important is it for someone to shed this
type of mentality if they are to make it in the music business,
especially in Chicano music?
A, Mark Guerrero: It may appear that way, but unfortunately
there are some petty rivalries. There are a lot of artists
who do have very good and mutually beneficial relationships
and when many of us get together at concerts where we’re
on the same bill, there is a lot of camaraderie and good will.
However, sometimes perhaps because of ego and/or competition,
some artists tend to not help each other move ahead in their
careers. It could be that it’s so difficult for
Chicano artists to find a niche, that they ferociously guard
their turf for fear of losing what they have. One of
the things I’m trying to accomplish with my website
is to bring us all together. I’m trying to help
as many Chicano artists as possible, whether they reciprocate
or not. I also want to document what we have accomplished
against the odds. For me, it’s about the music.
Q, VirtualChicano: What is “Chicano Alliance”?
A, Mark Guerrero: The Chicano Alliance was a CD put
together in 1998 by Edward Contreras , who at the time owned
a label called R-Town Records. It featured 36 songs
by 30 artists including Tierra, Malo, El Chicano, Little Joe
y La Familia, and two songs by yours truly. It was for
the benefit of two charitable organizations, Para Los Nińos
and the Quetzalcoatl Scholarship Fund. I don’t
think new Chicano Alliance CDs are being manufactured, but
copies of it can still be found around the internet, including
Q, VirtualChicano: In what year did Mark and the Escorts begin
A, Mark Guerrero: It started in 1963 as a three piece
band called The Escorts, composed of two guitars and drums.
We started out playing mostly surf instrumentals. By
1964, we were known as Mark & the Escorts and by then
were a six-piece band with a vocalist, bass guitar, and tenor
sax added. We did everything from rock to r&b to
British Invasion songs. By 1966, we were an eight-piece
band, with Farfisa organ and baritone sax added. The
original nucleus of me on guitar, Ernie Hernandez on drums,
and Richard Rosas on bass, stayed together throughout the
60s and into the early 70s. Mark & the Escorts evolved
into The Men From S.O.U.N.D., Nineteen Eighty Four, The Mudd
Brothers, and Tango. Mark & the Escorts recorded
two singles on GNP Crescendo Records in 1965. Nineteen
Eighty Four recorded a single for Kapp Records in 1969.
Tango recorded and album and single for A&M Records in
Q, VirtualChicano: When I first hit your website, I thought
Radio Aztlan was internet radio. What is Radio Aztlan and
what is the best way to find out about future appearances?
A, Mark Guerrero: The name Radio Aztlán came from a
song I wrote in 1989 about a fictitious Chicano radio station.
It was inspired by a real Chicano radio program with a similar
name. When it came to thinking of a name for my latest
band, I used it because it gives the idea of being a voice
from Aztlán, the Chicano southwestern U.S. I also came
up with the idea of the logo that goes with it, a pyramid
with a radio transmitter on top. I found out later,
that there is a Radio Aztlán radio at UC Riverside.
The DJs and the station have supported me and my music and
I’ve supported them too. The best way to find
out about future appearances of Mark Guerrero & Radio
Aztlán is to periodically visit the “what’s new”
page of my website, www.markguerrero.com.
Q, VirtualChicano: I have an online mp3 player at planetazteca.com
(no longer on line). Do you think you send us a track
to upload for fans to hear and if so, which track will you
send and why?
A, Mark Guerrero: It’s very tough to pick one
song, but I would pick from the following three favorite tracks.
“I’m Brown”, which I wrote and recorded
in 1972. It’s got some good lyrics with a message
of brown pride backed by some emotional music. I think
the record has some magic and is one of my favorites.
Another would be “Pre-Columbian Dream.”
I think it’s one of my best songs and recordings.
It was written in 1977, recorded in 1981, and later covered
by Herb Alpert instrumentally in 1983. It’s a
love song set in the Aztec pyramids of Tenochtitlán.
A third possibility would be “On the Boulevard,”
which was written in 1979. I’ve recorded four
different versions of it since, the last being in 1988.
It reflects the boulevard cruising phenomenon which has been
prevalent in many Chicano barrios for decades. For me
in East L.A. in the sixties, the cruising street was the legendary
Whittier Boulevard. “On the Boulevard” has
been used in a documentary about Chicano muralists and is
still one of the highlights of my live shows.
Q, VirtualChicano: How did it feel when Herb Alpert recorded
A, Mark Guerrero: It’s was a great feeling.
Whenever an artist you respect, records one of your songs,
it’s a great feeling of satisfaction for a songwriter.
It’s also always very interesting to see how the artist
interprets the song. It’s always going to be different
than the way the songwriter did it. I’ve recently
had songs of mine covered by Chan Romero, of “The Hippy
Hippy Shake” fame, and the legendary Trini Lopez.
My dad has also recorded many of my songs over the years.
Q, VirtualChicano: My sister, Celia, used to drool over Chris
Montez. I’m 44 and I had NEVER seen those photos of
Redbone online or anywhere else. Have you ever considered
putting a collection of your dad’s momentos together
along with some of yours and making them available for public
view on tour?
A, Mark Guerrero: My brother Dan and I would like to
eventually put all his memorabilia in a Lalo Guerrero museum.
The most likely place for it would be either his hometown
of Tucson, Arizona, East L.A. (where he spent the 1960s and
‘70s), or his current home in Cathedral City in the
Coachella Valley. We’ve already donated my dad’s
archives (photos, posters, recordings, videos, etc.) to the
University of California at Santa Barbara. However,
that’s more for preservation and research. It’s
not a museum situation. Currently, some of my dad’s
trophies, awards, and copies of photos are in the Cathedral
City library. Also, some of his government proclamations
are in the Cathedral City City Hall. By the way, the
street on which the city hall stands is called Avenida Lalo
Q, VirtualChicano: What are you working on right now, musically
A, Mark Guerrero: I just finished the sessions for the
Chan Romero and Trini Lopez covers of my songs. I
produced and played guitar on both recordings. I’m
also finishing up a song for Carmencristina Morena, who’s
one of Chicano music’s finest female vocalists.
Q, VirtualChicano: Our young people have exceptional role
models in the music industry. Your father, Mr. Guerrero, was
awarded the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.
Yet, it seems to me that a lot of Chicano rappers are adrift.
We have the role models and we have the young talent. Do you
see a gap here and if so, what do you think can be done to
help bridge this gap?
A, Mark Guerrero: Unfortunately, many young people don’t
know the history of Chicano music, which is a great source
of influence and inspiration. That’s one of the
reasons I put the time and energy into my website. I’m
attempting to chronicle the history of the artists and the
music for the young people and future generations. My
website information will also become part of the archives
at the University of California at Santa Barbara. This
will insure the information will survive. So to help
bridge the gap between young artists and the role models,
have them visit my website and read up on the history!
VirtualChicano: Thanks again Mark for the interview and
for your patience. Please let me take this opportunity to
wish you much continued success. Would you like to add any
words regarding future appearances, or maybe add
A, Mark Guerrero: To keep up with what I'm doing musically,
as well as many other Chicano artists in Aztlán, visit
my website from time to time, markguerrero.com. The website is always being
updated with new information and my continuing effort to chronicle
the history of Chicano rock and popular music.
<wow, all done J
I cannot express my gratitude. It’s a once in a lifetime
opportunity and I really wanted to get it right. Thanks Mark,
and please give my best regards to your familia. Daniel H.
de la Rosa>