El Chicano grew out of the burgeoning Latino music scene from the streets of East Los Angeles. Originally “The VIP’s”, founded by Freddie Sanchez, the group would become “El Chicano”, one of the most successful of the L.A. Latino Rock recording artists. Their 7 album run for MCA Records included classics such as Viva Tirado, Celebration, Revolución and Cinco. Viva Tirado (a tribute to Mexican bullfighter, Jose Ramon Tirado) composed by Maestro Gerald Wilson was their big crossover smash. It was significant also for charting in all music chart categories, apart from country and western, and garnered the group their first gold Record in 1970. The group was voted the #1 Jazz group of the year by Billboard and Cashbox publications.
The Revolución album featured a beautiful ballad “Sabor A Mi”,that would become an Eastside anthem. The Celebration album featured knockout versions of Cream’s “I Feel Free”, Joe Zawinul’s “In A Silent Way”, and a superb cover of Van Morrison’s composition “Brown Eyed Girl”, highlighting the vocals of Freddie Sanchez and Steve Salas with a Latin rock groove – another classic cut. Their recordings showed a versatile and wide ranging adaptation of all that was currently hip and happening in the 70’s USA music scene.
“Tell Her She’s Lovely”, featuring the strong vocals of Jerry Salas, was another Top 40 hit in 1973 on the self-titled LP, El Chicano, that also went gold for the group.
Over a 40-year span, the group has garnered five gold records and recorded ten albums and over 50 compilations with their music also being used on several major movies. El Chicano has been recognized several times for their contributions to the community and charities that help children and the arts and most recently performed a benefit for veterans.
El Chicano has performed in different venues worldwide with many major artists including the Allman Brothers, Chaka Kahn, Jose Feliciano, the Jacksons, Lou Rawls, Sonny & Cher, Earth Wind & Fire, Santana, Rare Earth, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Three Dog Night, Rod Stewart, the Guess Who, James Brown, the O’Jays, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, and the Four Tops – almost too many more to mention, including a long list of Jazz and Latino Artists.
The group has recorded with many musical legends over the years and is still active in the recording studio. Freddie Sanchez, Mickey Lespron and Jerry Salas rejoined forces to work on new music for an upcoming CD with many special guest artists featuring the distinctive El Chicano sound .
Original El Chicano was driven by the swirling, bluesy shades of the Hammond B3 organ. Bobby Espinosa’s distinctive sound was up there with some of the best organists around, and integrated the sounds of Jimmy Smith and other Hammond B3 greats into the Latin Rock pantheon. Add to this the underpinning bass of Freddie Sanchez, and the atmospheric jazz flecked guitar chording and lead lines of Mickey Lespron. Pulling the top line together was the hot rhythm foundation of Andre Baeza on congas, Rudy Regalado on timbales, and John De Luna on drums. The band’s cooking live shows always mixed hot band originals with their carefully crafted cover versions, which never failed to hit the spot!!
Freddie Sanchez is coordinating the release of their upcoming autobiographical book, “Through The Eyes Of El Chicano”.
Currently available on Thump Records are the “Latin Legends Live CD” with Tierra and Malo, and the CD “Painting The Moment”. The latest CD release is included as part of the “20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection”, featuring new “Best of” albums from the most significant music artists of the past century. The Collection has become the most successful artist series in music history.
El Chicano performed in front of over 100,000 fans celebrating a special performance at the 40th anniversary of “Woodstock, the WestFest” at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in October 2009, where the group actually celebrated their own 40th Anniversary. The audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation and shouts of “Viva El Chicano”!
Three live videos will be released in 2011: “In The Eye Of The Storm”, a retrospective of the group’s career; “Latin Music Legends” with Trini Lopez; and a live performance at The Warwick Theater in San Francisco for “The Voices of Latin Rock” Autism Awareness Benefit.
Currently El Chicano is still performing to sold out audiences and bringing the energy and passion to their performances that have always been the group’s strength, making them a popular draw for over four decades. Still going strong, El Chicano’s music has proven to be timeless. El Chicano Vive !