Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: Burbank HomeCollections

60s rock band finds new life

Members of the Premiers recall past days and look ahead to more music.

June 07, 2013|By Jonny Whiteside

The soulful 1960's Chicano rock 'n' roll sound that put East Los Angeles on the musical map was one of Southern California's most distinctly urban, joyful styles. Yet one of the movement's earliest, most influential and successful groups, the Premiers, first came to life in a small-town San Gabriel backyard over 50 years ago. Within 24 months, the casual, mostly instrumental outdoor rehearsals started by Lawrence and John Perez had transformed the siblings into leaders of a nationally known act, one with a devastatingly catchy Top 20 hit, "Farmer John".

Along with Richie Valens and Chris Montez, the Premiers, who perform on Saturday, June 15 at Burbank's Viva Cantina, were at the forefront of the explosive Chicano rock scene. As teenagers in 1962, guitarist Lawrence Perez and his drum playing brother John drafted neighborhood pals George Delgado and Frank Zuniga. With their mother's encouragement, the band regularly jammed out behind the Perez home. Crowds gathered, and steady small time local gigs soon followed.

Advertisement

"It happened fast," Lawrence Perez recalled. "We were playing out in the backyard, then playing dances and the occasional wedding and all of a sudden you're traveling all over the place. We were only like 15, 16 and, at that age, you usually don't do that stuff like that. It was quick and it was exciting."

"Farmer John", with it's simulated "live" feel and unusual double lead vocals, was an irresistibly atmospheric record that took on a life of its own and became the de facto party anthem for the entire Eastside. The Premiers version (it had been composed and introduced by Pasadena duo Don & Dewey in 1959) climbed to No. 19 on the pop charts in 1964.

The Premiers swapped their barrio khakis and Pendletons for sharp matching suits and hit the road.

"What was weird was, we had this attitude — to us it was no big deal, but we didn't know how big it was," Perez said. "But now and I look back and I just say 'shoot!' Because we were up there, playing shows with Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Zombies, Dave Clark Five, the Crystals, the Dixie Cups — we toured all over with those guys."

Burbank Leader Articles Burbank Leader Articles
|
|
|