Presents Latin Music Legends: November 11, 2008
by Mark Guerrero
On Tuesday, November 11, 2008 there was a taping of a PBS
special called "Trini Lopez Presents Latin Music Legends,"
which took place at the beautifully refurbished Orpheum Theater
in downtown Los Angeles. I was hired as a talent coordinator
for the show and paid tribute to my late father, Lalo Guerrero,
by performing his late 1940s pachuco classic, "Los Chucos
Suaves." The producers gave me a list of artists
they wanted me to pursue and I acted as a consultant on other
possible acts for the show as well as musical and cultural
issues. I first contacted Rudy Salas of Tierra, Fred
Sanchez of El Chicano, and Little Willie G. & Thee Midniters,
all bands with roots in the East L.A. music scene of which
I was also a part in the 1960s. These three bands all
signed on for the show. Trini Lopez had already been
signed on as the host and a performer on the show before I
was involved. I'd known Trini for many years.
We both live in the Palm Springs area and in 2004, he recorded
one of my songs, "Oh Maria." There are many
artists I tried to secure, but they either were not available
or declined. These included Chris Montez, Malo, Rosie
Hamlin of Rosie & the Originals, Sam the Sham, Question
Mark of ? & the Mysterions, Los Lonely Boys, and Los Lobos.
In the case of Los Lobos, they ultimately participated by
providing a video to be inserted into the show. This
was also the case for two artists the producers pursued, Jose
Jose and Julio Iglesias. The last band to be added to
the "live" show was the Gregg Rolie Band.
Rolie was the original organist/vocalist for Santana, which
gave him great credentials as a "Latin Music Legend"
even though he's not Latino.
The taping of the show was phenomenal. It was a first
class production with seven high definition cameras, a great
sound system and crew, and superb lighting. Every band
and individual singer and musician came through with excellent
performances. We had approximately 1200 enthusiastic
people in the audience, which gave the show and performers
a lot of energy. Little Willie G. & Thee Midniters
opened the show with their original songs "Love Special
Delivery" and "Dreaming Casually," and closed
with their hit cover of "Land of a Thousand Dances."
Thee Midniters' lineup included Little Willie G. on lead vocals,
Jimmy Espinoza on bass, Bobby Robles on guitar, Jacob Garcia
on drums, Larry Rendon on sax, Bobby Loya on trumpet, Bobby
Navarette on sax, and Charles Williams on keyboards.
El Chicano followed with their hit cover of "Brown Eyed
Girl," their first hit "Viva Tirado," and their
1973 hit "Tell Her She's Lovely." El Chicano
brought in their original drummer, John DeLuna, and original
guitarist Mickey Lespron for the show. They also had
original leader/bassist/vocalist/manager Fred Sanchez, organist
Bobby Espinoza, percussionist Rudy Regalado, and vocalist
Jerry Salas, who was with the band from 1973 to 1978 and sang
lead on their aforementioned hit record, "Tell Her She's
Lovely." Their current guitarist, Ray Carreon,
also performed with the band as well as Don Tai on congas.
El Chicano was followed by Tierra, who played their 1981 hit
"Memories," an up tempo song with a kick ass salsa
ending section, and their biggest hit, 1980s classic ballad,
"Together." Tierra's line up included original
vocalist Steve Salas, vocalist Billy Mondragon, Rudy Salas
on lead guitar and vocals, Aaron Ballesteros on drums, Steve
Falomir on bass, Joey Navarro on keyboard, Jeff Lewis on
trumpet, Victor Cisneros on sax, and Dale Villavicencio on
congas and timbales. Rudy Salas introduced the tribute
to my father, Lalo Guerrero, which got a tremendous crowd
reaction. Rudy then introduced me. I came out
and performed my dad's classic pachuco song, the aforementioned
"Los Chucos Suaves" backed by Tierra. They
did a tremendous job on the song, which featured great solos
by Jeff Lewis on trumpet and Joey Navarro on piano.
This performance was accomplished with one rehearsal in which
we went over the song three times and the dress rehearsal
the day before the show in which we did the song once.
Our performance on the show was the fifth time we'd done it
and everyone nailed it. I was very pleased with the
reaction to it also. All three East L.A. bands Thee
Midniters, El Chicano, and Tierra played great and got great
responses. It was a great day for East L.A. and "Eastside
Trini Lopez followed with a large band consisting of drums,
bass, guitar, percussion, keyboard, three horns, and three
female background singers. He opened with his hit "Lemon
Tree" followed by the Mexican classic "Cielito Lindo."
Then he played his mega hit "If I Had a Hammer"
followed by "America" from the musical "West
Side Story." The finale was his hit version of
"La Bamba" on which many of the vocalists came out
to join him including Little Willie G., Jerry Salas, Tierra
vocalist Billy Mondragon, Rudy Salas, bassist Jimmy Espinoza
of Thee Midniters, and yours truly. I sang a verse in
the finale, as did Little Willie G. and Jerry Salas.
Although this finale will undoubtedly be shown at the end
of the eventual television broadcast, it wasn't the last thing
taped on this night. The Gregg Rolie Band came on last
and were phenomenal. They played a short set that included
Santana classics "Evil Ways," "Black Magic
Woman," and "Oye Como Va." Santana alumnus
Alphonso Johnson was on bass and on timbales was Adrian Arias,
the son of the original Santana timbalero, Chepito Arias.
The band was great and people responded, some dancing in the
aisles. What went on backstage before, during, and after
the show was also a lot of fun. The camaraderie between
musicians is always a blast, particularly when so many of
us go back so far. It was one of the greatest experiences
I've had being a part of a show. Many of us stayed at
the nearby Biltmore Hotel, where the celebration continued
in the lounge until it closed at 2 a.m. I would like
to give special thanks to Janie Hughes, a longtime friend
and also a talent coordinator on this project. She's
a supporter of Chicano music and the "Eastside Sound"
and was instrumental in suggesting including "Eastside
Sound" artists when the project was first being planned.
The final cut of the show, which had to be reduced to under
an hour, included "Memories" by Tierra, "Los
Chucos Suaves" (sung by yours truly and backed by Tierra),
"Tell Her She's Lovely" by El Chicano, "Land
of a Thousand Dances" by Little Willie G. & the Midniters,
"Oye Como Va" and "Evil Ways" by the Greg
Rolie Band, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before"
by Julio Iglesias, and "If I Had a Hammer" and the
"La Bamba" finale by Trini Lopez. The show
will air on PBS stations nationally starting in August of
2009 and will be available on CD and DVD. The first
airing was on KVCR in San Bernardino, California on August
14, 2009. The DVD also contains bonus material which
includes "Together" by Tierra, "Viva Tirado"
by El Chicano, "Bamboleo" by Julio Iglesias, "Black
Magic Woman" by Greg Rolie, "Kiko and the Lavender
Moon" and "Mexico Americano" by Los Lobos,
"making Ends Meet" by Thee Midniters with Little
Willie G, and "America" and "Cielito Lindo"
by Trini Lopez.