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The Men from S.O.U.N.D.:  My East L.A. Band 1966-68

by Mark Guerrero

     My first band, Mark & the Escorts, changed its name in 1966 because, in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they were a-changin'.  Names like The Escorts, The Playboys, and The Sensations were no longer in vogue.  The swingin' sixties were now in full bloom with the British Invasion, Motown, Stax-Volt, teeny boppers, mini skirts, and long hair on men.  So in the spirit of the times, Mark & the Escorts became The Men from S.O.U.N.D.  The name was a play on the name of a popular spy television show of the time, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  The "Sound" part came from a British horn band called Sounds Incorporated, who were one of the opening acts for The Beatles on on their 1965 U.S. tour.  I attended the show at the Hollywood Bowl that year, a concert that also included my hometown musical compatriots, Cannibal & the Headhunters.  The letters in S.O.U.N.D. didn't really stand for anything, but of course we made up some raunchy ones for our own amusement, which shall remain classified in the interest of good taste.  The Men from S.O.U.N.D. had at least three incarnations as far as band members and sound.  At this time we were all between fifteen and seventeen years of age.  Richard Rosas on bass and Ernie Hernandez on drums, were a fixture in all my bands in the 60s and all the way through 1974.  The first version of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. was made up of the members of the final version of Mark & the Escorts.  Aside from the core members of myself, Richard and Ernie, we had Rick Mojarro on guitar, vocals, and harmonica, Richard Morin on guitar and vocals, and Joe Cabral on Farfisa organ.  The gig that stands out for this first version of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. was when we backed up singer Dobie Gray, who was riding the crest of his first hit record "In Crowd."  It was a dance and show at the Big Union Hall in the city of Vernon.  He even came to a rehearsal with us during the day.  We were pretty excited, being a band in our mid-teens, that we got to back up a singer with a major hit record.

     The first big change for the better for The Men From S.O.U.N.D. was the addition of vocalist George Ochoa.  By this time, I was already singing lead vocals, as was Ernie and Rick Mojarro, but I felt we needed an up front, stand alone, lead singer to add to the mix.  George was already well-known on the Eastside as one of the Slauson Brothers vocal group.  George and his brother John would perform around the circuit, usually backed by a band called The Impalas.  They also had a record out called "Rosalie," which later found its way onto the now classic "West Coast Eastside Revue" album, first released in 1967.  At fifteen years of age, George was already a very good singer with some good chops.  I was particularly impressed by the way he sang r&b tunes such as The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud To Beg."  After Joe Cabral, Richard Morin, and Rick Mojarro left the band (over a period of a few months and I don't remember how or why), we added Tony Rodas on Farfisa organ.  We met Tony through our drummer, the aforementioned Ernie Hernandez.  Tony was a talented keyboard player, who had some formal training on the instrument.  This second version of the Men From S.O.U.N.D. with a line up of myself, George Ochoa, Tony Rodas, Ernie Hernandez, and Richard Rosas, became the best band I had in the 60s.  We had three strong lead singers, lots of harmony, and a solid rhythm section.  We did everything from British Invasion and Motown to r&b and doo wop.  We played virtually every weekend on the Eastside circuit and were very popular.  Our most memorable performance was at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, where I was then a junior.  It was for a two-part assembly, which accommodated the entire student body.  There were four bands on the bill, The Men From S.O.U.N.D., our chief rivals The Exotics, Euphoria (led by Conrad Lozano, later to be bassist of Los Lobos), and another band, whose name I can't remember.  We played a set that included "C.C. Rider" by The Animals, "96 Tears" by ? & the Mysterions, the doo wop classic "I Only Have Eyes For You," the aforementioned "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by The Temptations, and "Taxman" by The Beatles.  We were gigging every weekend and battle tested, so we burned through the set and played and sang very well.  Perhaps it's a testament to how memorable the experience was that I remember what songs we did forty years later.  We received an overwhelming response from the audience, which included girls screaming as if for a British Invasion band.  To perform and get that kind of reaction at ones own high school was very meaningful and satisfying.  We went over so well that the school's boy's vice principal, who was feared by the male student body since he was not beyond using corporal punishment in the form of a solid wooden paddle, carried my amp across the lunch area in full view of my fellow students, as I walked behind him carrying my guitar.  It was definitely a triumphant day for me and the band.

     The third incarnation of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. was composed of myself, Ernie Hernandez, Richard Rosas, Steve Verdugo, and Richard Morin, who returned for his second stint with the band.  Steve Verdugo played keyboard, guitar, and was a lead vocalist.  He was a talented singer and songwriter, who later made at least one solo record for Eddie Davis' Gordo Records and subsequently was a member of Olde Tyme Religion, who recorded two singles for Warner Brothers Records in the early 70s.  Interestingly enough, George Ochoa, our former singer, was also a member of Olde Tyme Religion and on those recordings.  In fact, George wrote and sang one side of each of the 45 rpm singles and Steve wrote and sang the flip sides.  This last version of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. lasted about six months to a year, ending in late 1968.  We did songs like "Magical Mystery Tour" by The Beatles and songs by Cream, Steppenwolf, and The Buffalo Springfield.  The psychedelic period was in full swing and we were caught up in it.  We played a lot of gigs, but  the most significant was a concert at Alhambra High School on the bill with The Standells, who had a big hit with "Dirty Water," and The Second Helping, whose lead singer was Kenny Loggins.  Unfortunately, none of the versions of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. made a record, however we did do one demo in 1968, after Steve Verdugo left the band, composed of two of my songs, "The Peddler" and "Lovely People."  "The Peddler" was about a drug dealer and was influenced musically by Steppenwolf and Cream.  "Lovely People" had an acoustic guitar and was influenced by The Beatles and The Lovin' Spoonful.  Ernie Hernandez sang lead on "The Peddler" and I did the lead vocal on "Lovely People."  I still have the acetate.  After the departure of Richard Morin, Richard Rosas, Ernie Hernandez, and I played as a trio for a while before adding Tony Rodas back into the band.  By this time we had changed our name to Nineteen Eighty Four, based on the title of the classic novel by George Orwell.  The story of Nineteen Eighty Four will be told in it's own upcoming article, with a photo gallery.

Members of The Men From S.O.U.N.D. (1966-68)

Mark Guerrero- lead vocals, lead guitar
Richard Rosas- bass
Ernie Hernandez- drums, lead and harmony vocals
Tony Rodas- Farfisa organ
George Ochoa- lead vocals
Richard Mojarro- lead vocals, guitar, harmonica (1966)
Richard Morin- lead vocals, guitar (1968)
Steve Verdugo- lead vocals, electric piano (1968)


Click Here For the Men From S.O.U.N.D. Gallery
 

 

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