East Los Angeles College: April 23, 2009
by Mark Guerrero
On Thursday, April 23, 2009 there was a reunion of my 1970s
band, Tango. The occasion was the celebration of the
publication of the second edition of the book "Land of
a Thousand Dances" by David Reyes and Tom Waldman.
The event was held at one of my alma maters, East Los Angeles
College. Lysa Flores and Quetzal also performed.
We had three of our four original members that night; myself
(lead vocals/lead and rhythm guitar/keyboard), John Valenzuela
(lead guitar/vocals), and Ernie Hernandez (drums/vocals).
Our fourth original member Richard Rosas, was not available
because he was on tour with Neil Young in Canada. Subbing
for him on bass was John's brother, Leo Valenzuela.
We needed a second keyboardist because many songs we recorded
for Capitol and A&M Records between 1972 and 1974 had
one or two keyboard parts. Filling the keyboard spot
with us was Alex Del Zoppo, who in the 60s and 70s was a member
of Sweetwater. Sweetwater performed at the original
Woodstock in 1969 and recorded for Warner/Reprise Records.
Originally, the event was going to take place in the foyer
of the auditorium. Due to the response to the event,
it was moved to the gymnasium. The program began with
a lecture/presentation by the authors of the book "Land
of a Thousand Dances," the aforementioned Reyes and Waldman.
The first band up was led by Lysa Flores, an alternative rock
singer/songwriter. Backing Lysa were Dr. Dre bass player
Daniel Sheef, Jaguares guitar player Marco Renteria,
and Beastie Boys drummer Alfredo Ortiz. Following Lysa
Flores was the East L.A. fusion band Quetzal, featuring lead
vocalist Martha Gonzalez. They're an excellent band
whose music fuses Mexican, Afro-Cuban, r&b, and
rock. While we were getting ready to go on, Reyes and
Waldman screened a dvd with vintage footage of my band Tango,
which was projected onto the wall behind the stage.
While I was tuning up, I looked up at the wall and saw 10
foot images of us thirty six years ago. I also glimpsed
the gigantic image of my then girlfriend Pat, who was my first
love. Seeing those humungous images of my past at the
college I attended 40 years ago was surreal to say the least.
Speaking of a blast from the past, there was a girl I spoke
with at the event that told me we had band together at Humphrey's
Avenue Elementary School in East L.A. She played violin
and I played clarinet. This goes back to the third grade!
In the audience were many talented veterans of the East L.A.
music scene of the 60s and beyond including Bobby Espinoza
(keyboardist of El Chicano), Larry Rendon (sax player of Thee
Midniters), Bill Reyes and Jesus "Xuiy" Velo (drummer
and bassist of Los Illegals), Geree (vocalist for the Village
Callers), and Eddie Ayala of the Odd Squad. I was also
pleased that Joe Wissert, who produced some of our recordings
in 1973 on A&M Records, came to the show. Before
the show, I took him and John Byrnes, a Hollywood publicist
friend of mine, to The Hat, a legendary East L.A. burger and
pastrami place, which is now near the college on the corner
of Cesar Chavez Blvd. and Atlantic Blvd. When I was
a kid, The Hat was on the corner of 3rd St. and Ford Blvd.
Back then one could buy seven hamburgers for a dollar!
It was another blast from the past and an opportunity to show
my west side friends a taste of down home East L.A. culture.
Before the show I was interviewed on camera for a new Los
Angeles television show called Liv'N DiverseCity, which will
soon began airing.
Tango closed the show with a seven song set that included
six songs I had written and recorded with the band between
1972 and '73 and one Beatle song, "Drive My Car."
David Reyes had asked me to do a Beatle song for him and Tom
Waldman. Ernie and I used to sing that song back in
1966 and had recently done it at a reunion of our previous
band, Mark & the Escorts just two months before.
So it was ready to go. Our set went as follows: "Brown
Hair Growin," "Livin' Off the Land," "Rock
& Roll Queen," "Lonely," "Walk On
Down," "Drive My Car," and "I'm Brown."
The styles covered by this list included country rock, rock
& roll, and blues rock. I think we played really
well and I was in very good voice that night. I was
able to do all the songs in their original keys and felt I
was in command of my voice. Everyone played very well
and John Valenzuela played some mean guitar, particularly
his slide guitar work on "Rock & Roll Queen""
and "Walk On Down." Of course, we missed not
having our original bassist Richard Rosas, but Leo did a great
job filling in. It felt like 1973 all over again.
I was reminded that this is a special band with a style all
its own. It funky and in the pocket. It has county,
rock, and blues elements. We also played so many years
together that we know what each other does and feel comfortable
playing together. We can get together after years apart
and the music and style is still there and it falls together
immediately. The response to our set was great in terms
of applause and especially comments we got at the venue and
later on in e mails and phone calls. We signed a lot
of autographs on our CDS and the "Land of a Thousand
Dances" books that were purchased that night. It
was a great night filled with nostalgia, but also the feeling
and belief that band and the music I wrote back then is still
vibrant, relevant, and alive. Hopefully, we'll play
together more in the future and that Richard Rosas will be
available for the next show.
of event from PBS website below
By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
April 30, 2009
The Chicano rock tribes gathered at East L.A. College's gym
last week. There in the bleachers sat sax player Larry
Rendon of Thee Midniters and keyboardist Bobby Espinosa of
El Chicano. Eddie Ayala of Odd Squad and a couple of
members of early 80s punk rockers Los Illegals walked around
among fans, signing pages from the new edition of "Land
of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock 'n' Roll from Southern
On stage, Mark Guerrero (who as a
teenager led Mark & the Escorts) tore it up with his band
Tango. Mean guitar player Lysa Flores rounded up a few
of her frineds to perform: Dr. Dre bass player Daniel
Sheef, Jaguares bass player Marco Renteria, and Beastie Boys
drummer Alfredo Ortiz. Later, Martha Gonzalez stomped
a fusion of jarocho and Chicano beats on the cajon as she
led the East L.A. fusion band Quetzal.