In the early 1960s a vibrant Chicano R&B scene emerged in Texas. Places like La Villita or the Cadillac Club featured the hottest local groups. Chicano, Black and White teenagers dressed in their best threads mingled on the dance floor. But the sharpest looking vatos in the place were of course, the musicians. Chicano – Mexican American - bands like Sunny and the Sunliners, the Royal Jesters, and Little Joe and the Latinaires created a scene that had its own R&B sound.
In 1963, this vibrant scene made it into the spotlight with Sunny and the Sunglows – fronted by a young Sunny Ozuna. Their hit song “Talk to Me” made it to #11 on the Billboard charts. Sunny “Lil’ Mr. Brown Eyed Soul” later left the band and formed the Sunliners who became one of the hottest groups around. Check out “Should I Take You Home” recorded in 1968.
Chicano soul groups were springing up everywhere in Texas. San Antonio had a popular scene known as the “Westside Sound.” This sound was a combination of orquesta horns and the Hammond B3 organ topped with sweet soulful vocals.
Check out this example by Dimas Garza and the Royal Jesters called “You’ve Succeeded” recorded in 1968. The horns have a quality like earlier orquestas of Isidro Lopez and Mexican Mariachi. The organ in the background holds everything together.
In 1968 “La La Means I love you,” a hit by Philadelphia soul group, the Delphonics – was redone by Los Rondels, a band from Laredo, Texas. Los Rondels changed the lyrics to Spanish and added the organ drone in place of orchestral strings that were in the original.
Conjunto groups were also throwin’ in some R&B tunes. Check out this cover of The Sumpremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” done in 1967 conjunto style by accordion virtuoso, Esteban Jordan.
By the 1970s the soul scene changed astejano music, known then as “Tex-Mex” took over. Also funk music was becoming popular. Bands like the Latin Breed or Tortilla Factory were playing a mix of Funk and Spanish tunes. Check out this song by Tortilla Factory called “Cookin” recorded in 1973 a la tejana.
Another band “Machismo” recorded, “Everybody’s Getting So Funky” in 1977. This song is in English and Spanish with funk and disco elements tied into the tumbao of the conga.
Augustine Ramirez, a well-loved Tejano singer recorded a handful of R&B tunes including this funky cut “Pack My Bag.” You wouldn’t know just by listening that this guy is Chicano.
These artists have been a Texas secret for many years kept in the hearts of Chicanos from Texas to Los Angeles.