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"Riot On the Sunset Strip" Book Signing Event:  September 8, 2007

by Mark Guerrero

     On Saturday afternoon, September 8, 2007 there was a book signing event at historic Vroman's Book Store in Pasadena, California.  (Vroman's has been in Pasadena since 1894.)  It was hosted by the author of the book "Riot On the Sunset Strip," Dominic Priore.  The book deals with the period of the mid-sixties on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.  It was a special time and place in the history of popular music, which produced bands such as The Byrds, Love, The Doors, and my favorite, The Buffalo Springfield.  In a chapter called "The Roots of Los Angeles Rock & Roll," Priore devotes several pages to the Chicano rock scene that was happening in East Los Angeles in the same time period.  This fertile scene produced hit bands such as The Premiers, Cannibal & the Headhunters, The Premiers, and Thee Midniters.  My teenage bands of the period, Mark & the Escorts and The Men From S.O.U.N.D., are also mentioned in this chapter.  Because of this and my role as a Chicano music historian, Dominic asked me to come and speak at the book signing.  He also invited other Chicano singers and musicians of the period including Bobby Espinoza, keyboardist of the V.I.P.s and later El Chicano; Ersi and Rosella Arvizu, two of the three member of the female vocal group The Sisters; and Mario Panagua, leader of the Jaguars and producer of many Eastside bands.  We all took the first hour of the presentation.  The second hour featured John "Chris" Christiansen from Long Beach garage band Opus 1, the 1960s proprietor of the Ice House in Pasadena, Bob Stane, and Ruthanne Friedman, the writer of the classic recording by The Association, "Windy."

     After Dominic Priore introduced me to the audience, he asked me questions about the music scene in East Los Angeles in the mid-sixties.  I gave an overview of the scene that included countless teenage bands and venues in which they could perform.  He then played a minute or so of my first record, "Get Your Baby," on a vintage record player.  After talking about the record, Dominic introduced Bobby Espinoza of El Chicano, who spoke about the history of the band in which he was the keyboardist.  His distinct Hammond organ solos was a feature of their sound, particularly their first hit record, "Viva Tirado" in 1969.  Dominic then played a segment of the record on the diminutive record player.  Next up was Mario Panagua, record producer and leader of the Eastside 60s band, The Jaguars.  He spoke about his band and how he found Steve and Rudy Salas and got them in The Jaguars.  Steve and Rudy went on to success in the 80s with their band Tierra.  He also talked about his role in El Chicano's first album, as well as Tierra's.  I mentioned that Mario is one of the East L.A. music scene's unsung heroes.  He had one of the best bands and helped on many sessions of other artists in the 60s and 70s.  Dominic then introduced Ersi and Rosella Arvizu, members of the East L.A. female vocal trio of the 60s, The Sisters.  Ersi was lead vocalist of El Chicano in the early days and later went on to sing on Ry Cooder's 2005 album, "Chavez Ravine."  She also has a solo album coming out, produced by Cooder.  Ersi and Rosella answered questions and talked about their careers and then treated the audience to a beautiful a capella performance.  These women can sing!

     The second hour of the presentation began with John "Chris" Christiansen from Long Beach garage combo Opus 1.  They had a record on Bob Keane's Mustang label called "Backseat '38 Dodge," a part of which was played for the audience on Dominic's record machine.  He was asked questions by Dominic and told the story of his band and recordings.  Next up was the 1960s proprietor of the legendary Ice House in Pasadena, Bob Stane.  At the time it was a venue for singers and bands, as well as the up and coming comedians of the day.  The Association and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were house bands and comics such as Jay Leno and Steve Martin performed there regularly.  Bob Stane was very humble about his role in helping many musicians and comedians get started.  His segment was also very interesting and amusing.  Last up was the composer one of the classic hits of The Association, "Windy," Ruthann Friedman.  Ruthann told the story of her song, which she wrote while living at David Crosby's house.  She said The Association knew it was a hit once they recorded it.  She also mentioned that she didn't have to worry about rent for years to come.  Ruthann treated us all to a performance of "Windy," accompanied by her 1968 Martin D-45 acoustic guitar.  Notables in the audience were Eastside musicians Anthony Baray of the popular 60s East L.A. band, The Emeralds, and my drummer in Mark & the Escorts and later The Men From S.O.U.N.D. and Tango, Ernie Hernandez.  After the presentation, Dominic signed books and the artists signed autographs and mingled with the guests and each other.  Both the audience and featured speakers had a great time at the event.  "Riot On the Sunset Strip" is available at amazon.com at the link below.


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