Our good buddies at Remezcla just published an article we wrote aboutViva Las Vegas and the phenomena of Rockabilly’s resurgance and what role American Latinos may have played. It’s highly entertaining and informative if we say so ourselves
and if you don’t then “go to hell!”… just joking.. say so… we can take it, but be gentle please.
Below you will find the complete, uncensored and “RAW” video interviews from Viva Las Vegaswhich helped to comprise the article. Special thanks to DJ Del Villareal, DJ Rockin Vic, Victoria Inez Rivera and Boom Boom L’Roux for their participation.
DJ DEL VILLAREAL
DJ Del Villareal
DJ Del Villareal is a Mexican American hailing from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and host of Motorbilly Radio, a popular online rockabilly radio station. DJ Del got into rockabilly by hitting some of the local weekenders in the Midwest. Not surprisingly for a DJ perhaps, music was his entry point and a facet of the culture he feels is most important. Here is DJ Del Vilareal’s complete interview with Punk Outlaw.
1) WHAT IS YOUR ETHNIC & GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND?
I’m what I like to call “hispanic” or Mexican-American. My mother is 100% Mexican (both her parents were from Mexico and she was born in Texas) and my father is mainly French-Canadian (there’s actually some Native American in his gene pool -we think Chippewa). I was born in the small town of Bay City, MI.
2) WHAT IS MOTORBILLY RADIO?
Motorbilly Radio is my online rockabilly music radio station, hosted by Live365. The name “Motorbilly” comes from a combination of the words “Motor City” (I began DJing at clubs & shows primarily in Metro Detroit) and “Rock-A-Billy” -the best kind of American rockin’ music! I’m happy and proud to say that Motorbilly Radio is the top rated rockabilly station on Live365, with over 10,000 regular listeners and 1,100 + “favorite station” selections. We’re a deep mix of classic & contemporary rockin’ music, with the emphasis on the more traditional side of rockabilly music.
3) HOW DID YOU GET INTO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
I think I’ve always been into the culture, but didn’t really know much about it until I first started going to shows in Detroit and eventually, my first “weekend” events; The Indiana “Rockabilly Rebel” weekenders and the NJ “We Wanna Boogie” festival back in the mid 1990′s. I admired the looks, styles and attitude of the people I befriended and eventually, I just fell into it! The music was (and still is) the main entry point for the rockabilly scene and I absorbed and ingested more and more of the modern day rockabilly artists as they toured and recorded. Thanks (blame?) need to go to the Europeans for keeping the music scene alive during the 60′s through the 80′s and for the treasure trove of reissue albums that have steadily been imported back into the USA.
4) WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY LATINOS GRAVITATE TO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
My own opinion is that many of the California Latino families (I’ve heard the term “taco-billies” used -it’s kinda funny to me, but probably a tad racist…!) grew up exposed to and enjoying the sounds of honking Rhythm & Blues music through the 40′s and early 50′s as well as smooth/romantic DooWop/Early Soul into the 50′s and 60′s, and so many may be naturally predisposed to 1950′s American music and culture. Add to the mix the flashy retro fashions and the vintage car culture scene (which crosses over with the rockabilly scene) and I think you’ve got an attractive mix of the past and present, especially with so many excellent Mexican American rockin’ acts performing and recording today (Omar Romero & The String Poppers, Pep Torres, The Side-Wynders, Luis & The Wildfires, The Rhythm Shakers, etc.)
5) DO YOU FIND IT SURPRISING THAT WHAT MANY PERCEIVE AS A SOUTHERN, BLACK/WHITE REDNECK CULTURE IS EMBRACED BY LATINOS?
There’s a Western Americana aspect to the culture that may resonate here as well. I think that there’s always been a similarity between the Latino subculture and the African American subculture (both have been institutionally marginalized, romanticized and relegated as “outside” the mainstream) and you’ll see Latinos pick and choose the best aspects from both of these cultures. You may not see Confederate Rebel flags flying, but Latinos will often emulate the hair styles, the sexier & coolest clothing, partner dancing, traditional tattoo patterns, vintage motorcycle & more styled period cars and hot rods -and they/we will always do it well!
6) DO YOU SEE THE PHENOMENA OF LATINOS IN ROCKABILLY CONTINUING TO GROW?
I think so. With so much of the US “rockabilly scene” centered in & around California and the American South West (Texas, too!), it’s bound to just grow and grow. It’s practically a geographical inevitability! And as Latino performers continue to rise in popularity and cross over into different musical territories (I can see WILD recording artist Gizzelle gaining fans outside of the retro “roots” audience, for example), you’ll have more new converts and perhaps even older fans migrating back into rockabilly.
7) WHATS YOUR SENSE OF ROCKABILLY CULTURE DOWN IN LATIN AMERICA? IS IT BIG OR GETTING BIGGER?
My initial observation is that it will become bigger. It’s hard for me to say how big it is at the moment, but there are definitely exciting new bands making a lot of noise South of the border (Los Benders, Mystery Trio and Los Dorados to name a few) and are starting to attract fans here in America as well as abroad. I hope things will get bigger! As technology reaches further and connects fans with favorite acts, I can see the more dedicated and talented acts easily crossing the Equator and perhaps opening up channels & venues for American or Northern bands to migrate South! It’s definitely and exciting time!
8) DO YOU THINK THE ROCKABILLY SCENES IN THE U.S. WOULD BE AS VIBRANT AS IT IS WITHOUT LATINOS IN THE SCENE?
No! Not at all! I’ve known and seen a strong, vibrant Latino-billy presence in the U.S. scene since I first became involved more than 15 years ago. So many of the best DJ’s in our rockin’ scene are of Latino origin, I can’t imagine how things would be without them! DJ’s Topper, Rockin’ Vic, Doo Wop Edgar, Caveman Leo, Jive Bomber and Wine-O are big influences on dance floors and record hops and I like to think that my regular record hops and radio programs have helped inform the current and next wave of rockabilly fans (and maybe artists!). We’re here, we love the scene and I can’t see us leaving anytime soon!!
9) WHAT ARE THE BIG POCKETS OF ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
Hmmmmm…. obviously California, up and down. Texas: Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas come to mind. New York and the nearby New Jersey areas. England has always had a rather vibrant scene and lately Paris, France is on the rise. Berlin, Germany. Spain has some of the world’s best festivals these days as well. I think South America, in particular Brazil, will soon be making more rockin’ noise as well!
10) WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP OF PSYCHOBILLY WITH ROCKABILLY? ARE THEY RELATED SCENES OR DO YOU SEE THEM AS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?
There’s a definite connection, but in my opinion, it’s a younger and more of a “punk”-y connection (the ‘outlaw’ spirit, the louder, brash and faster rhythms are similar in some aspects). Crossover bands like the Reverend Horton Heat, Three Bad Jacks and the Chop Tops spring to mind as closer connections. Some people say that rockabilly is the punk rock retirement plan (maybe it’s the psychobilly retirement plan, too!) and with some mediocre bands, I guess the argument can be made that psychobilly music is just sped up rockabilly music. It’s not my favorite of the “sub-billy” genres, but there are some great bands out there. Done well, it can be just as entertaining as traditional styles of music to me
VICTORIA INEZ RIVERA / BLOGGGER AND VINTAGE ENTHUSIAST
Blogger & Vintage Enthusiast Victoria Rivera @ VLV
Victoria Inez Rivera is from East LA and a self-described “voluptuous vintage Mexican gal” who writes and publishes a vintage inspired blog at www.VivaVictoriaVintage.blogspot.com which covers everything from upcoming area events to her take on vintage fashion and the vintage lifestyle (which covers more than just clothing by the way).
View her raw video interview below:
DJ ROCKIN VIC
DJ Rockin' Vic & Wife at the "Bettie Page" Screening at Viva Las Vegas
A big name rockabilly DJ spinning tunes at Los Angeles events is DJ Rockin Vic. Rockin Vic was born in LA and is ½ Mexican and ½ Ukranian. Rockin Vic estimates that as much as 80% of rockabilly followers in LA are Latino. Now when you consider that roughly 50% or so young people in LA are Latino, then you can see how Latinos greatly over represent in this subculture.
DJ Rockin Vic adds that Latinos have been an influence on American music since rock n roll’s first wave.
Below is his full interview with Punk Outlaw about Latinos in Rockabilly:
1) WHAT IS YOUR ETHNIC & GOEGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND (I.e. Where are you from)?
My Mother was born in Mexico and my Father was born in the Ukraine. I was born in Echo Park and I grew up in Highland Park in a working class L.A inner city neighborhood in which was predominantly Mexican.
2) HOW DID YOU GET INTO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
There are several reasons why. I have always been into music. My father had a vast record collection that included Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Elvis. I gravitated towards those records. It definitely planted the seed, as well as watching the John Carpenter movie made for TV starring Kurt Russell as Elvis. I remember being 5 years old in awe of the flashy clothes and swagger and my father telling me that this is “real rock and roll, son.” That did it for me. Later in the early 90’s, I took it a step further and started buying and listening to original 1950’s rockabilly like Gene Vincent, Joe Clay, Glen Glenn, Johnny Burnette trio, and Benny Joy. As a teen growing up I identified with the teenage angst expressed in the music and energy evoked in the songs. I was already into punk rock and realized that this was the “original” punk rock and appreciated the fantastic musicianship. There is nothing like those original timeless cuts. With few exceptions, I thought the music of the day was bland, contrived and predictable.
On a side note: When I first got into rockabilly in the early 90’s it was considered un-cool and weird. The “house party” scene was a prevalent style and sub culture for young Latinos. Illegal back yard parties organized by Party crews sprouted everywhere and it became very trendy. Ironically, the guys kind of dressed rockabilly with the faded jeans, cut off sleeve pendletons, and sported quiffs with side burns, but the similarity stopped there, they listened and danced to 80’s new wave and mostly techno/house music. That is why in my opinion Morrissey became so popular amongst Latinos in Los Angeles in later years. My friends and I wanted to separate our selves from these so called “Rebels” and painstakingly did our research and stayed true to the real deal 1950’s music, cars and clothes. For us it was not nostalgia, it was something new, original and counter culture. We took a lot of ridicule and flack from people in those days, now in Southern California it is common to see a young kid “into it,” which is a positive thing.
3)WHY DO YOU THINK ROCKABILLY IS SO BIG IN LOS ANGELES?
Latinos have contributed greatly to its popularity. It use to be a sparse and predominantly white working class subculture but that all changed when a few Latinos embraced and popularized it. Word spread fast and more and more Latinos got into it, from that point on, it caught on like wildfire. Also, a great milestone that deserves honorable mention is when D.J Tom Ingram (Viva las Vegas organizer) moved from England to Southern California in 1996. When he started djing the now defuct night club “Rudolphos, ” which was ran by promoter Vido in Silver Lake, California, he introduced a predominately mexican crowd to an excellent selection of boppers, jivers, and strollers in his record hops. Prior to that time people danced only to live music and dj’s where considered just filler between bands. Dancing had now become an integral part to the scene, which therefore encouraged its popularity. We have a long history of being great dancers and having the opportunity to strut our stuff on the dance floor is a no-brainer. Many of the regulars who frequented the rockabilly clubs have now become accomplished musicians playing “rockin”music, this has now doubt made L.A an epicenter. There is also a cult like following to Reb Kennedy’s “Wild Records” independent record label. It formed out of Hollywood California in 2001. The Label highlights many Latino rockabilly artists and the fan base has grown exponentially through out southern California and into Europe.
4) WHY DO YOU THINK SO MANY LATINOS GRAVITATE TO ROCKABILLY CULTURE?
The obvious answer is we can easily indentify with the look and style since Latinos for the most part are invested in there own heritage and proud of there traditions. The Mexican American experience in the 1940’s and 1950’s left an indelible impression on to popular culture in cars, music and fashion that never died and has been passed on to generation to generation. Just take a look at the 40’,50’s, 60’s cars Latinos take pride in fixing up. Practically every other house in my neighbor has an old chevy or ford in their driveway. There is a long proud history to it. Mexican Americans have played a vital role to the early development of the 1950’s Kustom Car. Gilbert “Gil” Ayala was a legendary custom car builder and painter. Gil was the younger brother of Al Ayala, Al was two years older, and the pair was known as the Ayala brothers. These two genius’s made history when Gil at age 20 in 1945 opened up a custom body shop named Gil’s Auto Body Works at 4074 E Olympic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. They built together some of the most beautiful Kustom mercury cars. A dream car for cats and kittens into rockabilly. For example, the Ayala brothers performed all of the customizing on the first edition of the Bettancourt Mercury. The Ayala’s, together with Sam Barris and Jerry Quesnel, where the first to chop a 1949 Mercury. Ayala chopped the top and created a very smooth flowing roofline and just as Sam did on his personal ’49 Mercury. Ayala also created the famous full fade away fenders.
If you revisit the history of American music there are many unsung Latin heroes of the 1940’s and 1950’s who played jump blues, doo wop, rockabilly, and rock and roll who incorporated latin elements to their song structure. To name a view, Lalo Guerro, Don Tosti, Trini Lopez, Freddy Fender, Tito Guizar, Danny Flores (aka Chuck Rio), Chan Romero and of course Richie Valens. Many Latinos already know some of these artists from their parents and grandparents. Also Dj’s like Art Laboe and Huggy Boy have played oldies for generations of Latinos on am radio and often included in their sets, 1950’s rock and roll, doowop and rhythm and blues. If you are a Mexican American from east L.A, chances are, you more than likely grew up on oldies in your house. To get into rockabilly, really isn’t a far stretch.
The “hepcat” look and style never faded away. Some of my friends’ grandparents who where hip still wore the “dixie peach in the hair” and donned 1950’s style button down shirts. You can say, we inherited the rockabilly style from our families. If you look at The Golden age of Mexican cinema with movie stars like Resortes and Tin Tan they had that 1940’s Zoot Suit style, that today is a look some still take on. The longest running syndicated televison show is “I love Lucy.“ We have admired icon Desi Arnez for decades with his slick black hair and “Ricardo” Jackets, this today is considered a rockabilly look. It is no wonder we can relate to the fashion. And Don’t forget Ladies they also look hot adopting the “rockabilly fashion” in its many variations and interpretations. Latinas are generally more curvaceous and the “pinup look” adopted by the ladies compliments their body frame quite nicely.
5) WHAT TYPE OF EVENTS DO YOU END UP WORKING AS A DJ? I have been djing greater Los Angeles for over 11 years. I have DJ’ed countless car shows, night clubs and rockabilly weekenders. Currently, you can dig my record hops every Saturday night at the Viva Cantina in Burbank California.
DJ Rockin Vic Spinning @ Viva Las Vegas
6)WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS TO SPIN OR LISTEN TO?
I love Doc Starkes and the Nightriders, the Dudroppers, Roy Brown and Ronnie Self. However, I like everything from Earl Bostic to the Sonics. My musical palette has advanced over the years from being just into 1950′s rock and roll. I dig roots 40′s hillbilly, jazz, and blues but tend to be on the African American side of things. Good friends of mine have turned me onto western swing. I also dig wild 60′s northwest garage, newbreed and popcorn. 17 years ago I was really into neo rockabilly, like the Nitros and the Deltas but have I evolved since then. I have always loved the 1950’s classics first and foremost, I learned quite a bit from am radio. The famous 50′s DJ Art Laboe was instrumental in my musical upbringing. I will never forget hearing Sanford Clarks “the fool” the first time or Big Joe Turner’s “Chicken and the Hawk”. Right now in L.A, desperate late 1950′s rock and roll is hot as well as Blues boppers. I play them all.
7) WHAT % OF THE ROCKABILLY SCENE IN LA WOULD YOU GUESS IS LATINO?
8) DO YOU EVER LISTEN OR SPIN ROCKABILLY IN SPANISH?
Yes, I am one of the few that does and is very knowledgeable of it. I play songs by Johnny Tedesco, Los Gibson Boys, Los Silver Rockets, Gloria Rios, Los Llopis, Los Xochimilcas, Los Apsons, Los Teen Tops, Los Camisas Negras and Eddie Con Los shades to name a few. The crowd “gets it” because the beat is tops and most of us can speak Spanish.
9)WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK ABOUT YOUR ROCKABILLY LIFESTYLE?
They love it! They think the music, furniture and the cars are fantastic. I was raised to understand that “made in America” especially stuff from 1950’s meant high quality and durability. My father is very knowledgeable of antiques; therefore my family can appreciate and admire my life style. For example, I take pride in my clothes being well tailored. I am a full-blown Hepcat who loves dressing in the Memphis “Lanksy” look that was popularized by Elvis in the 1950’s. In my opinion, that look is timeless, slick and will never go out of style.
10) WHAT ABOUT YOUR PLACE OF WORK?
I work in the entertainment industry and I am a Broadcast Engineer/Video Editor by trade. My job loves my style, in fact, they even featured my self in a promo a couple of years back highlighting “my rockabilly style”
BOOM BOOM L’ROUX / BURLESQUE DANCER & PIN UP MODEL
Boom Boom L’roux is a Puerto Rican burlesque dancer from New York City currently living in Seattle. She originally got into burlesque when she happened upon a performance by dancer “Dirty Martini” at the famous Slipper Room in NYC. The performance influenced Boom Boom so much that it led her to become a professional burlesque dancer and pin up model herself and precipitated her move to the west coast where the scene was more vibrant.