Chicano band The Premiers, out East Los Angeles, California, epitomized the garage rock movement of the early 1960s.
Despite their ephemeral career which produced the enduring hit song -- 1964’s “Farmer John,” a rocked-out cover of an R&B song by L.A. duo Don and Dewey -- The Premiers remain influential to this day as early pioneers of the Chicano rock genre.
Formed in San Gabriel, an L.A. neighborhood, by teenage brothers Lawrence and John Perez and their neighbors, George Delgado and Frank Zuñiga, The Premiers began attracting audiences during their backyard rehearsals until the Perez’s mother landed them an audition for Chicano producer Billy Cardenas. He liked their sound and signed the young band, modeling their breakthrough hit after “Louie Louie,” a popular rock n’ roll reinterpretation of Richard Berry's R&B classic. In 1964 “Farmer John” reached Number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was the first breakthrough hit for the Eastside Sound, launching The Premiers onto the national scene. The song broadcast the unique East L.A. style with claps, screams, and energy generated by the girl fans from the Chevelles's car club that functioned as an instrument to contrast with the blatty brass and vocals evocative of the falsette of Mexican ranchera.
For the next few years, The Premiers toured the U.S. in support of larger acts like The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, including a spot in Dick Clark's concert tour Caravan of Stars. They released more singles but The Premiers were forced to break-up in the late-1960s when Lawrence Perez and Zuñiga were drafted.
In 2001 The Premiers returned with three of their original members, both Perez brothers and George Delgado, for limited recording and touring.
The Premiers’ unique version of “Farmer John” remains the highlight of their professional career and has been covered by numerous artists including Neil Young and The White Stripes. The Premiers were instrumental in the early Chicano rock scene of L.A. and their national success helped advance the genre, which still exists in popular American music today.