When Mark Guerrero delivers a lecture, performs or teaches at one of the two Cal State University San Bernardino campuses, he has some of the best first-hand knowledge to draw from. At a moments notice, Guerrero can conduct a two-hour, multi-media presentation about the history of East Los Angeles music of the 1960’s or about the Beatles.
Guerrero fronted the group, Mark and the Escorts from East L.A. in the 60’s and was a part of a style of Chicano music that was heard from Whittier Boulevard to New York City. Although Guerrero has appeared on many recordings with fellow chart toppers, he never received the international notoriety like neighbors, Cannibal & The Headhunters, Thee Midniters, the Premiers or the Blendells. He did have top notch producers and managers like Billy cardenas and rock and hall of famer Lou Adler.
“It was amazing and exciting to be witness to that huge music scene coming from such a small, low-middle class area of unincorporated Los Angeles. It was like the music boom in Liverpool that was happening simultaneously in the music hotbed of East L.A,.” said Guerrero. “It promoted our culture and gave us a sense of pride.” He listed others from the area like Los Lobos, Tierra, and El Chicano who had million sellers a few years later. Guerrero named a lot of others with great talent from the area but who never had big hits such as “Little Ray” Jimenez.
Guerrero feels that his generation of revolutionary East L.A. musicians and those just prior had the benefit of living in a prime location at a prime time. “Rock was still young in the early 60’s. We were a half hour away from Hollywood recording studios, TV and radio stations and there were plenty of places to play. Bands could get gigs at teen night clubs, parties, or dances. There are hardly any teenage venues today,” said Guerrero.
He told of a whole new wave of Chicano musicians who are carrying on the tradition of East L.A music. “There are many new bands who are representing East L.A. very well such as Chicano Batman.”
Guerrero is considered the leading historian on the 1960’s East L.A. sound. It was his famous father, Lalo Guerrero who created the sounds preceding the East L.A. rock music explosion.
The late Lalo Guerrero, whose career started in 1939 is nationally recognized as the “Father of Chicano Music.” Lalo Guerrero originated a style of Chicano music that honored his Mexican heritage through many styles including ballads, parodies and children classics. He composed music that used pachuco slang on tunes like Marihuana Boogie and Los Chucos Suaves.
Much the same, the younger Guerrero performs concerts, benefits, tributes and lecture/performances. He was in Santa Cruz last month for a benefit show at the Resource Center for Non-Violence for the local day worker center. There, he screened the documentary, “Lalo Guerrero-The Original Chicano” and performed a concert of his and his father’s music.
Mark Guerrero feels there are pros and cons from being the son of an icon to Chicanos. At first, he never mentioned it because he didn’t want to use his father’s name to advance his own career. “I am proud of my father and his talents but I never wanted people to minimize my accomplishments because of who my father was. As I got older there was no way to separate us.”
At his lecture on race and racism at Cal State University San Bernardino, he lets his songs tell some of the story such as his Capitol Records release, “I’m Brown,” and some of his father’s like, “No Chicano’s on TV.” At the CSUSB, Palm Desert Campus he just finished teaching a class on the History of the Beatles Part 1, for the school’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
He is preparing to teach Beatles Part II. “The Beatles revived rock and roll and made it into an art form. They did everything well,” said Guerrero.
In his bio, it lists that Guerrero had “I’m Brown” included with songs of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger, etc.at the Grammy Museum in a 2009 exhibit called Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom. He earlier consulted and contributed material to an exhibit for the Smithsonian Institute entitled American Sabor: Latinos in Popular Music.
Guerrero has been a performer non stop since 1963. Now approaching an age when most think retirement, he’s got the stamina to do shows six nights per week at Lavender Bistro in La Quinta, plus all of his other ventures.
He recommends to younger musicians to play everywhere you can even if it’s for free. “Never dog it and don’t let your ego get in the way.”
He said he never liked hard drugs, cigarettes or alcohol and thinks that is why he’s still going strong. Like other’s who lived in the 1960’s, he witnessed the already well documented story of drug abuse. He tells serious musicians that drugs will hurt their career. “It’s hard to remain dependable if you become a drug user or an alcoholic. To keep working you have to be disciplined.”