Gary James' Interview With Mark Guerrero Of
Mark And The Escorts
Mark And The Escorts formed in 1963. In 1965 they recorded two 45s for GNP Crescendo Records, "Get Your Baby" and "Dance With Me". Mark And The Escorts frequently shared the bill with
Cannibal And The Headhunters, The Premiers, The Blendells and The Midniters. By 1966 Mark And The Escorts became the Men From S.O.U.N.D. It's quite an interesting story Mark Guerrero from Mark And The Escorts had to tell.
Q - Mark, you were around just before The Beatles hit. When The Beatles came to America, everything changed, didn't it? Now groups had to write their own material and not depend on a producer to find it for them.
A - I'm not sure you had to, but I think things did change that way. People started writing their own material more. In my case I would've written anyway because my Dad was a songwriter. It wasn't unusual for me to write. Most people didn't get the inkling until The Beatles started doing it. And of course The Beatles were influenced by Buddy Holly who wrote his own stuff.
Q - What was it like to be in a band in Los Angeles in the early to mid '60s? Was there a lot of work?
A - Oh, yeah. We worked almost every weekend because there were teenage dances everywhere. We were lucky. There were tons of venues in East Los Angeles and around East Los Angeles that were for teenagers. No booze of course. You would pay $1.50 or $2.50 to get in. There would be a line-up of like five or six bands and each band would do one set. So it would be my band, Mark And The Escorts, The Midniters, The Premiers, The Blendells, The Counts. There would be a lineup of groups. Sometimes we would do two gigs in one night. You'd play some place else later. The Midniters would sometimes do two or three gigs a night. So that was wonderful. Everybody got paid. Money then was worth a lot more. We got $5, $10, $15, $20 a piece, whatever it was, each band got paid. Back then you could do a lot with ten bucks or fifty bucks. Not like now. It was amazing. There were tons of venues, St. Alphonsus Auditorium, Kennedy Hall, the Big Union, the Little Room, the Montebello Ballroom. Just tons of places and small halls. Church Halls. Parties. Weddings. There were tons of bands. It was unbelievable. It was a great period. The you had everybody from The Beatles to James Brown to Stax/Volt to Doo Wop all happening at the same time.
Q - As you got older were you able to take your act into The Whiskey A Go Go and Gazzarri's?
A - Oh, yeah. I played at Gazzarri's in 1968. I had a band called The Men from S.O.U.N.D. We got the name based on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. We're The Men from S.O.U.N.D. I was only about eighteen, nineteen years old then. A few of the East L.A. bands ventured out to Hollywood and played some of those venues. I played at The Roxy in the early '70s. There were various venues that some of the East L.A. bands played in Hollywood, but many of the East L.A. bands stayed on the East side and didn't go over there.
Q - When you would play one of these Hollywood clubs would anyone like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin come in?
A - Not in my case. I didn't see that. Pat and Lolly Vegas, who were Mexican American who started Redbone later, before they were Redbone they played at a place in Hollywood called The Haunted House way back in '64 and all kinds of stars would come in there. Then when they played a long run at Gazzarri's, yeah, The Doors and all those people came in. In fact, I think Redbone helped book The Doors there. By the way, one more thing, we played Gazzarri's on the Sunset Strip. It wasn't a lot of money. The whole band, a four piece band for six nights got paid $200 total. We got $50 a man for six nights at Gazzarri's and we were thrilled. Nowadays people actually pay to play those places.
Q - How many sets a night did you do for that money?
A - I'm trying to think... There was another band. We alternated so we did four sets and the other band did four sets. It might've gone eight hours.
Q - You were Mark And The Escorts for how long?
A - From 1963 to early 1966. Then we changed our name to The Men From S.O.U.N.D. from '66 to '68. Then we became "1984", named after the George Orwell book. Sometimes it would be written out in words, sometimes it would be the numbers. We recorded a couple of singles for Kapp Records in '69 and then I went solo. I recorded for Lou Adler, Capitol. And then I had a band called Tango that recorded for A&M in '73 and '74.
Q - That brings us up to today. What occupies your time these days?
A - I couldn't be more Classic Rock, but because I happen to be Mexican/American and because my Dad happens to be well-known as a Mexican/American singer/songwriter (Lalo Guerrero), and then I later majored in Chicano studies in college. Then I started to emphasize that a lot because I wanted to tell the world all that Mexican/Americans have accomplished in Rock 'n' Roll against the odds, and so that has all those histories and my radio show now does the same thing. I'm working on another project now that does the same thing on video tape. So, I've been very invested in promoting the history of Chicano - Rock and of East L.A. Rock where I grew up. But, at the core I'm an American Classic Rocker and most of the music I've produced is in that category. In recent years I'm branching out. It's really wonderful the way it's happening because now I've been in a lot of books on Rock history, Classic Rock history that have nothing to do with Chicano. I've been in a book on Rock in L.A., one of The Beatles books, one on Neil Young being quoted and I'm being quoted and asked to write pieces on different groups like The Doors and The Band and The Beatles' "Revolver" album. So, I'm becoming sort of a person who is asked for comments on general Rock history, which I'm glad.
Q - Because you were in the center of it all.
A - I was in the center of it. I have a totally unique position because as a radio show host and historian, I'm almost unique. I'm one of the people. I'm a peer and a contemporary of the people I'm interviewing and I'm interviewing them not just as a historian or a writer, but as a fellow musician, a fellow songwriter, so it gives it a unique perspective to what I do. My radio show is the best example of that. You can hear it every night on CRNlive.com. It's on every night at 7 o'clock Pacific time. CRN stands for Chicano Radio Network. The show runs for a month. So, I recently did a show with Louie (Perez) of Los Lobos. I did a show with Trini Lopez. I've done El Chicano. A lot of the Classic guys from the '60s. I did War, Lonnie Jordan from War. So, I'm talking to them about the music. I'm talking to them about the sessions from a musician's point of view as well. So, I'm interested in further branching out to the general rock world a well, 'cause I'm just as much about that stuff.