Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles podcast episode 34

Chuco Got Soul

..... that sweet soul music, enunciated by the disciples of James Brown, powered by horns sections that washed away the gloom. Beautiful friend, this is the end.... of a six part series covering the El Paso/Las Cruces, borderlands music scene in the 1960s. I feel like a time traveler, having been deeply immersed in 60s culture for weeks on end.... Farfisa organs rattling 'round my brain. I thought that I knew 60s rock and soul music, but I knew nothing. “Can't see a thing till you open your eyes... clear my eyes, make me wise” and a tip-of-the hat to YouTube, our great, infinite smorgasbord of musical gluttony. Nothing expands your musical knowledge like knowing where music has been. “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”

For reasons lost to time, El Paso Mayor Judson Williams declared July 9th 1967 “Steve Crosno Day” A high honor for a young man at the very pinnacle of a career that would span six decades. Indisputable evidence that Steve ruled the local airwaves, broadcasting on KELP, El Chuco's Top 40 juggernaut. Local entrepreneur, Bernard Tanchester, perhaps sensing an opportunity to make a quick buck, lured 4,000 loyal Crosno fans and “the seven hottest R&B bands in the area together under one roof” to a steamy El Paso Coliseum for the landmark event. The evening's proceedings were recorded for posterity and resulted in an iconic album “Steve Crosno Day, July 9th 1967” a veritable time capsule of a time and place, long ago, but not so far away. “The best thing I can do is shut up and play music”

That a disc jockey was being recognized in this extraordinary manner was rare indeed. Djs, often lumped together with lowlifes such as robbers, muggers and thieves, were making a comeback. Following the Payola Scandal and subsequent congressional hearings of 1960, radio stations set out to rebuild the reputation of platter spinners. The broadcast industry wanted to drive home the fact that disc jockeys weren't all miscreants, pimps and deviates. This gave rise to the slick, clean cut, interchangeable disc jockeys of the “The Good Guys” and “Boss Radio” era. These exuberant bastards were groomed to be a cut above the corrupt jocks of 1950s. Steve Crosno was a good guy, but he played by his own rules and KELP, at least while the going was good, let him roll with it.

Bobby Rosales and The Premiers, introduced by Bernard Tanchester as “One of the greatest bands in the El Paso area, for that matter in any area” took center stage. Bernie was in the moment and working the crowd. Though in the vacuum left by the death of Bobby Fuller, Bobby & The Premiers did work their way to the upper echelon of the El Paso scene. Their first single, credited to The El Paso Premiers “This is The Beginning” b/w “Let Me Call You Darling” (which features James Patterson not Bobby Rosales on lead vocal) was released on Crosno's own Frogdeath Record label. They signed with C.L. Milburn's Souled Out Records and released two more singles as Bobby & The Premiers “Mess Up My Mind b/w What About One More Time” and “Man About Town b/w Gotta Have a Reason”

Gene Willis & The Aggregation recorded one single on Coronado Records “We Got It b/w Shing-a-Ling's The Thing” which combined with the three tracks on “Steve Crosno Day” make up their entire recorded output. Haven't been able to find any biographical info on them either. But, Goddamnit! they were good. “Old Red” shows that Long John Hunter could work a soul groove when the notion hit him. Lou Pride, is easily the most celebrated of all El Paso based soul singers. He's represented by his best known song “I'm Com'un Home in the Morn'un” though anyone of his Suemi Records tracks would have been just fine. The Groove Merchants, a group of Ft. Bliss soldiers, were Lou Pride's back-up band. They recorded one single for Suemi “There's Got To Be Someone For Me” was the a-side.

Across the American Southwest, a definitive style of music incorporating R&B, Soul with Mexican musical influences emerged..... brown eyed soul. As expected, El Paso was well represented. Bobby Rosales & The Premiers, of course... Sonny Powell & The Nightdreamers, who's claim to fame was their brown eyed soul version of Otis Redding's “Mr. Pitiful” Donald Ray & The El Paso Chessmen and The El Paso Drifters with or without Martha Sifuentes, a Rosie Hamlin sound-a-like vocalist of which little is known. Not to be left out, Las Cruces had The Starliners and The Majestics. What they all had in common was the horns. Hypnotic brass, red hot and in your face. Automatic, systematic, captivating, stimulating... tuned and channeled to your vibes. Press play for full effect. 

We Got It- Gene Willis & The Aggregation
I'm Com'un Home in the Morn'un- Lou Pride
There's Got To Be Someone For Me- The Groove Merchants
I'm A Practical Guy- Bobby & The Premiers
Old Red- Long John Hunter
I Wanna Know- Lloyd Nash & The Cavaliers
The One That's Hurting Is You- The Starliners
Guess Who- Bobby & The Premiers
All In My Mind- The El Paso Drifters w/ Martha Sifuentes
Mr. Pitiful- Sonny Powell & The Night Dreamers
Can't You See- Donald Ray_The El Paso Chessmen
Papa's Got A Brand New Bag- The Majestics
Steve Crosno Day Theme pt. 1- The Majestics
Steve Crosno Day Theme pt. 2- The Starliners
What About One More Time- Bobby & The Premiers
Shing-a-Ling's The Thing- Gene Willis & The Aggregation
Your Love is Fading- Lou Pride
Why Did You Leave Me- The Ravons
This Is The Beginning- Bobby & The Premiers
Close Your Eyes- The El Paso Drifters w/ Martha Sifuentes
Tramp- The Starliners
Instrumental Intro- Gene Willis & The Aggregation
I Dig Girls- Bobby & The Premiers