You know we had to have a second part to our popular “7 Chicano Heroes of Rock and Roll” roundup. The following musicians are Mexican-Americans who made their mark, and influenced, rock and roll (look for similar posts in the future exploring Chicanos and Latinos in other genres including soul, R&B, doo-wop, rap, and more).
— Groove-tunes.blogspot.com (@GrooveTunes7777) November 24, 2020
Born Baldemar Huerta, Grammy Award-winning musician Freddy Fender was the San Benito, Texas-born son of migrant workers. He gained fame singing songs across several genres (including rockabilly, Tejano, country, and pop) in both Spanish and English, including a Spanish cover of “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” “Vaya con Dios,” and “Before The Next Teardrop Falls.” “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” hit number one on both the pop and country Billboard charts, marking the first time in history an artist’s first single reached the top spot on both charts. It is also the first bilingual song to make it onto the country charts.
Hailing from Lincoln Heights, Eastside L.A., The Romancers were a Chicano rock/garage rock/R&B/soul group from the 1960s. They were the first East L.A. Chicano band to record an album and were the main influence of the mid-sixties East L.A. sound, paving the way for bands such as Cannibal & the Headhunters, and the Premiers.
The More I See You Chris Montez pic.twitter.com/6lpqZMHPSU
— RADIOWRS (@wrsarthe) November 18, 2020
Hawthorne, California’s Ekeziel Christopher Montanez sang in the rock, Latin, and pop music genres during the 1960s and ‘70s. In 1962, he scored his first hit, “Let’s Dance,” which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1963, Montez’s second single, “Some Kinda Fun,” went to number 10 on the U.K’s Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Call Me,” a ballad, reached #2 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
Photo: Way Back Attack
“Farmer John” is the hit that put The Premiers on the map. The cover song, by the San Gabriel group, was released in 1964, reaching the 19th spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
— The Regent Theater (@RegentTheaterLA) May 31, 2016
The band Thee Midniters is another Chicano group who scored a hit during the 1960s with their 1965 cover of “Land Of A Thousand Dances.” It was a local hit, and reached #67 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The band also had success with the instrumental “Whittier Boulevard.” Thee Midniters’ Chicano rock went beyond just the sounds, with songs about Chicano issues, such as “Chicano Power,” and “The Ballad of César Chávez.”
Cannibal & the Headhunters
1965- Cannibal & the Headhunters LP Land of 1000 Dances… Mexican-American band outa East LA ( I was born there too ! ) They opened for The Beatles and played their epic Shea Stadium show… https://t.co/ud3BuL1qcU pic.twitter.com/4mBeowL7iF
— DC Rambler (@irishrkr) July 4, 2018
Hailing from the Ramona Gardens and Estrada Courts Housing Projects in East L.A., Cannibal & the Headhunters also scored a hit with “Land of a Thousand Dances.” Their version reached #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965. When lead singer Frankie Garcia forgot the words, he added the “na, na, na, na, na,” which became the hook, and a the most recognizable part of the song.
Sir Douglas Quintet
The Sir Douglas Quintet came from San Antonio, and scored a hit with “She’s About a Mover,” which reached #13 in the U.S. and #15 in the U.K., on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Part of the “Westside Sound,” the group is also known for songs including “The Rains Came” (#31), “Dynamite Woman” (#83), and “Mendocino,” which reached #27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
When the Circus Comes, Los Lobos, ‘92
David Hidalgo & Louis Perez returned from songwriting sessions w/ Rick Danko, Levon Helm & Garth Hudson & proceeded to write Kiko, their best album. This one sounds like a lost outtake from Stage Fright. pic.twitter.com/YDkGqd4bwe
— Rob Rivielle (@Rob_Rivielle) November 24, 2020
When Los Lobos covered Ritchie Valens’ hit, “La Bamba,” in 1987, their version became the first of only three Spanish songs to become number one in U.S. history. It hit #1 in the U.S.,and in other countries, including the U.K., Australia, France, Canada, and Ireland. The East L.A. band, who is still together, releasing new music, and touring, was nominated for induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015 (for the Class of 2016).