While African Americans did the brunt of heavy lifting when it came to soul music in Houston, it’s a common misconception that they were alone in their musical direction at the time. Houston had its share of multicultural groups in the sixties and seventies that played along the same lines like Soul Bros INC and Masters of Soul. But, it was largely the Chicano groups that found inspiration and then their own interpretation with the genre.
I’ve asked compatriot, I’m Shakin Blog Man and Bayou City Soul Assistant Extraordinaire, Alex LaRotta to contribute a moment of his time to expound on the subject. LaRotta sent me three MP3s for your downloading pleasure and the following story that explains what happened when Chicanos put down the Accordion and started listening to James Brown records. -BK
Tejano Got Soul
As La Onda Chicana (The Chicano Wave) musical movement spread wide in America’s southwest in the mid ’60s, Texas was a breeding ground for a young generation of Chicanos making soul music their own groovy thing. Adding R&B beat and rock instrumentation into their musical repertoire, Tex-Mex soul/rock music legends like Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs, ? and the Mysterians (though from Michigan, recorded/produced in San Antonio with a distinct Tex-Mex sensibility), Doug Sahm and Sir Douglas Quintet, and El Bebop Kid (known popularly as chicano country star Freddie Fender) rose to pop prominence and inspired leagues of young Latinos to cut their own American-styled rock and soul records. In a matter of speaking–move over bajo sexto and accordion, I’ll take my guitar with an electric pickup.
Houston, by all accounts, is no slouch in Chicano soul power output. Though not as widely known as San Antonio’s ‘Westside Sound’ or L.A.’s ‘Eastside Sound’, the Bayou City certainly had its fair share of Chicano recording artists and subsequent record labels. It may come to no surprise then, that the man at the helm of the Tejano, Ranchera, and Chicano rock/soul recording industry in Houston (and the greater TX/Gulf region, for that matter), was none other than Crazy Cajun record mogul, Huey Meaux. “Editor’s Note:You Can Read more about Meaux Here.” With his famed Tear Drop and Crazy Cajun record labels, Huey signed and produced some of Texas’ most well-known names in Chicano/Tejano music, from crossover hit-makers Sunny and The Sunliners and Little Joe and The Latinaires to south Texas’ favorite Tex-Mex country crooner, Freddie Fender. Here are a short few of my favorite Houston-based Tejano souleros.
Rocky Gil and The Bishops-Soul Party (Tear Drop 1968)
With its funky, riveting horn blasts, party-themed swagger, soul shouts, and Tighten Up styled solos, Rocky Gil’s Soul Party makes for some of the finest in Chicano soul. It truly doesn’t get better than this, Houston or elsewhere.
Little Joe and The Embers-Soul Finger (Discos Jesna 1969)
Covering The Bar-Kays’ instrumental funk monster, Soul Finger, Little Joe and his Embers cut this funky 2 minute workout in a car garage-gone-recording studio in North Houston.
The Starlights (feat. Bobby Morales)- Boot Leg (Tear Drop 1966?)
Another Memphis instrumental soul cover, The Starlights answer Booker T and The MG’s organ-heavy Boot Leg with their own funky rendition–an additional fine release on the Tear Drop label.
Thanks Alex, You can read more of his work over at I’m Shakin.
One response to “When Tejano Found Its Soul Power”
My dad was a member of the embers. He’s the guy far left. David Rodriguez. He passed away Feb 20,2017. Do you have any memorabilia of this group? Pictures or music they played? I’d love if you reach out to me via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks. My name is Jessica Rodriguez.