Like many regional music scenes, the West Coast Eastside Sound was a one-of-a-kind confluence of artists, managers, record labels, entrepreneurs, nightclubs, radio DJs, and commercial and social circumstances. As detailed in this setâ€™s introductory liner notes andÂ label history, a keyÂ sociological spark that informed the Eastsideâ€™s musical development was race restrictions in Los Angeles clubs that led African-American artists to gig on the Eastside. This seeded the areaâ€™s Mexican and Chicano musicians with an R&B foundation to which they added flavors of Rancheras, Nortenos, and Salsas, and jacked up with the energy of doo-wop and rock â€˜nâ€™ roll. Local labels, including Del-Fi, Chattahoochie, Whittier, Faro, Linda, Boomerang, Prospect, Valhalla, Gordo and Rampart built a recording scene, and itâ€™s the latterâ€™s catalog of singles that is featured here.
Eddie Davis, Rampartâ€™s founder, first entered the music industry as a child member of the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir, appearing in a 1941 documentary (Forty Boys and a Song) and backing Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My Way. He joined the Navy in World War II, studied music at the College of the Pacific, owned a succession of restaurants, and returned to a quickly aborted singing career before founding his first label, Faro, in 1958. Faro led to the founding of Rampart in 1961 with the debut of Phil & Harvâ€™s romantic ballad â€œDarling (Please Bring Your Love)â€ and its joyous New Orleans-tinged flipside cover of Cole Porterâ€™sÂ â€œFriendship.â€
Davis initially employed the mixed-race, Oxnard-based Mixtures as a backing band, but also pulled in A-listers from Los Angeles. A third label, Linda, was established in 1962, the same year that Davis branched into the promotion of teen dances. As with the Los Angeles club laws that incentivized bands to book shows on the Eastside, the cityâ€™s prohibition of for-profit teen dances led Davis to promote shows in Pomonaâ€™s Rainbow Gardens, outside the reach of the big cityâ€™s restrictions. And as with the club shows, the teen dances exposed the Eastsideâ€™s Mexican-American audiences, and more importantly,Â its local musicians, to the cream of Los Angelesâ€™ R&B acts.
Rampartâ€™s early years included a Ray Charles-styled cover of â€œHome on the Range,â€ hot guitar and sax-led instrumentals, and with the Atlanticsâ€™ B-side â€œBeaver Shot,â€ the introduction of a horn section. The label hit its commercial apex with Cannibal & The Headhuntersâ€™ 1965 cover of Chris Kennerâ€™s â€œLand of 1000 Dances,â€ memorably built on the incantory â€œNa, Na Na Na Naâ€ improvisation, and on its original, uncut version, a revival-styled intro. Both the original and edited-for-radio single are included here. The singleâ€™s success led Cannibal and the Headhunters to television appearances and an opening slot on the Beatles 1965 U.S. tour – including shows at Shea Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl – yet the group was unable to extend their commercial breakthrough. Three follow-up singles, including the â€œ1000 Dancesâ€ knockoff â€œNau Ninny,â€ and the sunny, King Curtis-backed â€œFollow the Music,â€ failed to click, and the band moved on from Rampart to Date.
Rampart continued its releasesÂ the 1960s with singles by the Atlantics, Souljers, Summits, and Four Tempos. There were Sam & Dave-styled duets, boogaloo workouts, uptempo soul, beseeching ballads, and even the socially-conscious philosophy of Pvt. Randy Thomasâ€™ â€œThe Great Crusade.â€ In 1968 the Village Callers released the oft-sampled (and recently â€œOnce Upon a Time in Hollywoodâ€ soundtrack featured) â€œHectorâ€ with a sophisticated soul organ lead backed by a powerful rhythm track and horn chart. The soul turned swampier on the B-side â€œMississippi Delta,â€ and the East Bay Soul Brass worked out with sax, trumpet and organ on â€œThe Cat Walk.â€ The label continued to imaginatively mix 50s-styledÂ throwback ballads, airier mid-tempo late â€˜60s soul, and foreground Latin flavors, pulling in both original and cover material for an evolving slate of artists.
A four year break from 1972 to 1976 found the label returning with the Eastside Connectionâ€™s update on the traditional â€œLa Cucaracha,â€ and kicked off a short string of disco singles. The labelâ€™s sporadic subsequent releases included rock, new wave, uptempo Spanish-language synth dance numbers, but without the earthy soul of the earlier years essayed on the setâ€™s first three discs. In addition to the introductory notes from Luis Luis J. Rodriquez and label history from Don Waller, the 102-page book includes a photo essay of Cannibal and the Headhunters on the road in shows promoted by Murray the K, Dick Clark and Motown, opening for the Rolling Stones and the Beatles in 1965, and performing on televisionâ€™s Hullabaloo and Itâ€™s Whatâ€™s Happening.
Originally released in 1969, this debut outlined the wide musical grasp and irreverent sensibility that would grow the bandâ€™s legend over the next 49 years. 49 years in which this initial explosion of creativity sat in the vault unreissued. 49 years in which either the groupâ€™s continuing activity diverted their attention from a reissue, or in which lawyers intermittently haggled over muddy contractual rights. Either way, Omnivore has finally liberated the album from its resting place and reissued the fourteen songs in a tri-fold slipcase with original front and back cover art, Donn Adams period liner notes, and contemporary notes by Jay Berman. Berman characterizes the bandâ€™s repertoire, even at this early point in their career, as including â€œnearly anything,â€ and the eclectic mix of covers and originals bears that out.
This first studio lineup included long-time members Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato (the latter then credited as Jody St. Nicholas), along with vocalist Frank Gadler, guitarist Steve Ferguson and drummer Tom Staley. The group stakes out the audacious corners of their musical omniverance with covers of Eddie Cochranâ€™s rockabilly â€œCâ€™mon Everybody,â€ Sun Raâ€™s avant garde jazz â€œRocket Number 9,â€ Sonny Terry and Brownie McGheeâ€™s folk blues â€œCâ€™mon If Youâ€™re Cominâ€™â€ (which the group revisited on 1972â€™s Workshop), and a country soul arrangement of Bruce Channelâ€™s 1962 chart topper, â€œHey! Baby.â€ Few bands at the time would have even known this range of material, let alone find a way to make it fit together on an album.
The original material from Adams, Spaminato and Ferguson is equally ambitious. Adams mashes up trad jazz and rock â€˜nâ€™ roll for â€œKentucky Slop,â€ boogies hard on â€œMama Get Down Those Rock And Roll Shoes,â€ captures the melancholy of Carla Bleyâ€™s 1964 jazz instrumental â€œIda Lupinoâ€ with original lyrics, and closes the album with the piano-led â€œStay With Me.â€ Fergusonâ€™s trio of originals include the pop and soul influences of â€œI Didnâ€™t Know Myself,â€ the gospel rocker â€œStompâ€ and the country, folk and gospel flavored â€œFergieâ€™s Prayer.â€ Spampinato offers the albumâ€™s most ebullient moment with â€œYou Canâ€™t Hide,â€ a title the band would revisit ten years later on Tiddlywinks.