Legendary radio host Art Laboe is coming back to Anaheim for his annual Chicano Soul Legends concert this weekend! His immortal, velvety voice is heard across the airwaves of Aztlan six nights a week, but taking requests and dedications isn't all that he does. Laboe's been just as famous for his concerts as he has for coining the phrase “Oldies But Goodies.” In the 1950's the deejay began promoting his legendary nights at El Monte Legion Stadium that saw everyone from Ritchie Valens to Rosie & The Originals grace the stage. Decades later, Laboe continues to emcee shows all throughout the year bringing the music from his radio program to live audiences.
This Saturday, Chicano Soul Legends assembles classic bands like Malo, El Chicano, Tierra with soulful brothers like The Notations and The Mad Lads at the Honda Center. Don't be a menso and miss the experience. In celebration of Chicano Soul Legends and all things Art Laboe, the Weekly brings the ten best Chicano oldies to dedicate on the Art Laboe Connection. Catch some of these firme rolas live this weekend!
10. Sunny Ozuna & The Sunglows – Put Me in Jail
Sunny Ozuna first hit the music scene in San Antonio Texas as the vocalist for The Sunglows. The band formed in 1959 and began recording Tejano-flavored rhythm & blues songs the following decade. In 1966, they released “Put Me in Jail,” a relaxed tune that slinks along a nice guitar lick while Ozuna pledges to get tossed in la pinta for any romantic failings. How's that for dedication! Fifty years later, Ozuna is still playing his songs and will be part of Art Laboe's Chicano Soul Legends concert this weekend. When he takes the stage, get close to your beloved, confess a feeling, or risk getting locked up with the key thrown away!
9. Los Rondels – La La La Te Amo
In the world of oldies, the rarer the song, the mas firme! Now, everybody knows the Delfonics' 1968 classic “La-La Means I Love You.” But how many have played the Spanish version recorded that same year by Los Rondels? The Laredo, Texas band dabbled in ranchera, bolero and Chicano Soul for their Capri Records debut Eres Casado. “La La Te Amo” stood out on the album with Carlos Landin's vocals striking all the right notes with the measured hum of the Hammond B-3 organ and timely horn section making for the perfect oldie to dedicate to the one you love.
8. Lil Julian Herrera – I Remember Linda
Little Julian Herrera's “I Still Remember Linda” is a certified Art Laboe “Oldie But Goodie.” Born Ron Gregory, the Jewish Hungarian kid moved west from Massachusetts where a Boyle Heights family ultimately took took him in where he became “Julian Herrera.” The crooner emerged as an early East Side heartthrob two years before Ritchie Valens. “Lonely, Lonely Nights” is Herrera's most eternal oldie, but “I Remember Linda” is the singer's heartbreaking lament for Linda, the one who got away.
7. Cannibal & The Headhunters – Please Baby Please
A little known fact around these parts is that Cannibal & The Headhunters' mega-hit “Land of 1000 Dances” was born in Fullerton. Back in the day, Frankie “Cannibal” Garcia began improvising the Chris Kenner cover at the Rhythm Room in Fullerton. Garcia blanked out and filled the quiet mic with a “Na, na, na, na, na,” intro that propelled the song to new heights and helped the East LA band tour with the Beatles, no less! Their 1966 album Land of 1000 Dances also featured the soulful ballad “Please Baby Please.” Hit those high notes like Garcia and you won't have to beg that special someone!
6. Rene Y Rene – Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero
Like Los Rondels, Rene y Rene hailed from Laredo, Texas and blazed new pathways for Chicanos in the music industry. Friends Rene Ornales and Rene Herrera teamed up to become a successful Latin pop duo, thanks to their timeless classic “Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero.” The song alternates verses in English and Spanish long before it was cool to do so and the duo were among the first Chicanos to appear on American Bandstand with Dick Clark. Herrera passed away in 2005 but Ornales still carries on the torch for the duo this weekend with Art Laboe.
5. Tierra – Together
Tierra got its start after Brown-Eyed Soul's hey day but traces its roots directly from it. Started by El Chicano's Salas brothers, the band scored its biggest hit with a remake of The Intruders' “Together.” Chicano Soul critics throw shade on the genre's predilection for cover songs, but Tierra's 1980 take shimmers as bright, if not brighter, than its original inspiration. “Together” peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and allowed the band to tour the world over. Triumphant trumpets and saxophone solos make it Brown-Eyed Soul's sexiest song. And then there's that break down with the classic “I remember” line from The Intruders' other song, “Cowboys to Girls” -pure genius! Hear it live at the Honda Center with your hyna by your side….together, baby!
4. Ritchie Valens – Donna
Art Laboe booked Ritchie Valens for his legendary concerts at El Monte Legion Stadium where Donna Ludwig came to see her boyfriend play. The Pacoima star recorded “Donna,” a ballad to his beloved in 1958. Every Chicano knows the opening lines, “I had a girl, Donna was her name,” by heart, and if they don't they should have their Chicano credentials stripped at once! Ludwig was a real-life rebel who dated the Mexi musician over her father's objections. And if that doesn't inspire a tune, nothing will. Double up on the Valens' dedications with “We Belong Together.” Oh, and “Riiiiiiitchieeeeee!” 🙁
3. El Chicano – Sabor a Mi
El Chicano is the funkiest out of the Chicano Soul bunch with grooves like “Tell Her She's Lovely.” And for as catchy a tune it is, their interpretation of the classic Mexican bolero, “Sabor a Mi” is immaculate. Ersi Arvizu's smokey, sultry vocals accentuate the song's burning theme, “in your mouth, you'll carry a taste of me.” Whew! What more is needed?
2. Thee Midniters – That's All
Thee Midniters is one of thee most legendary bands to emerge from East Los Angeles. Little Willie G's vocal prowess remains hard to rival. The band has so many timeless hits, they've been immortalized in a box set necessary for every Chicano's music collection. Thee Midniters make the ladies swoon with many of their songs, but best among them is “That's All.” Little Willie G sings, “I can only give you love that lasts forever and a promise to be near each time you call.” Fellas, that's all she really wants to hear.
1. Malo – Suavecito
Many of Aztlan's best rolas have come from Texas and East Los Angeles. But the unofficial Chicano National Anthem arrives courtesy of San Francisco. Malo released “Suavecito” in 1972 with timbale player Richard Bean lending a poem he'd written for a high school crush in vain. Jorge Santana, Carlos Santana's talented brother, played lead guitar in the band that fused Chicano rock with Caribbean percussion. The “La, la, las” are every bit as whimsical as a newly consecrated love affair.
Art Laboe Presents Chicano Soul Legends featuring Malo, El Chicano, Tierra, Joe Bataan, Thee Midniters and more at the Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, hondacenter.com; (800) 745-3000, Sat. 7:30 P.M., $31.25-$77. All ages.