Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Collection: The East Side Sounddotdotdotdotdot
artworkThis fine compilation contains the A-side of Gene Gray & His Stingrays first single. Now, this label did not issue surf, it was strictly an East LA Mexiband label. However, Gene had already met label owner Ed Davis, so he asked him to do the single, and the deal was done. Dot picked it up for National distribution. Gene Gray's sound was primal raw and way cool.

If you're a fan of early sixties East LA R&B, this will knock your socks off. East LA was a very productive music bed during the late fifties / early sixties, producing such notables as Richie Valens (Valensuela), Thee Midnighters, and Cannibal & the Headhunters. The teen bands there developed a unique and readily identifiably sound based heavily on soul, particularly James Brown and Buster Brown, but with a strong Latino accent and a street-wise sensibility. Where the Flair label was cutting the L. A. Doo-Wop sounds of Richard Berry et. al., the major labels of the Mexican bands were Del-Fi (Richie Valens & the Romancers), Faro / Rampart (Cannibal & the Headhunters / the Premiers), and Chattahoochee (Thee Midnighters, the Pretenders). This comp focuses on the output of Eddie Davis' Faro / Rampart / Linda family of labels. The recordings here span eleven years from '57 through '67. The earliest track is a throwaway from the teen-monster fad called "Teen Age Brain Surgeon" by label master Ed Davis himself. I think it says volumes why he stopped recording his own stuff. The next early track is "So You Want To Rock" from '59 by Chick Carlton & the Majestics. It's heavily Richie Valens indebted, but with a more soulful feel and a great rockin' sax. It's really quite surprising to hear just how similar this late fifties track is to the bulk of the tracks here from the early / mid sixties, which sounded very contemporary then. The mid sixties period is well represented with a cross-section of bands that defined the sound and fury of the period. The big hits "Farmer John," "La La La La," and "Land Of A Thousand Dances," are augmented with great lesser singles and the Atlantic's banned instro "Beaver Shot." The standout is the shear makeover sound of the Premiers' 1966 Garage Fuzz Psych monster "Get On This Plane." I remember hearing this for the first time, expecting some great "Rhythm Room" Rhythm 'n Blues and being blown away by one of the best punk-psych singles ever recorded. In under two years, these dudes had transitioned from that great horse slightly off-key East L. A. Soul sound to huge major sustain FUZZ! My only complaint is that it's from vinyl sources, and that's a shame since much of this still existed on tape in the early eighties when Rhino and others issued now out-of-print compilations. Still, this was a magical period for what we called then "Pachuko Soul."
Picks: Surf Bunny

Track by Track Review


Surf Bunny dotdotdotdotdot
Surf (Instrumental)

"Surf Bunny" is one of the great surf obscuros, full of raw power, spirited vocal eruptions from Gene, and a really grungy sound. This record has been on my top 20 list since it's release in '63.