The Moe Howard School of Child Rearing, where you line the little gum chewers up and slap ‘em all at once, is definitely out this year. And don’t expect anyone to cover the old Ramones tune, “Beat On The Brat” at the Fifth Annual Rockabilly Roundup at the Red Dog Saloon in Santa Barbara on Saturday night. As usual, this wingding is a benefit for C.A.L.M. (Child Abuse Listening & Mediation), the nonprofit agency in Santa Barbara whose aim it is to prevent, assess and treat child abuse.
Headlining will be those East L.A. roots rockers, the Blazers. Also on the bill for the third time is Ronnie Dawson, a Dallas-based rockabilly guy just back from a successful European tour; the Frantic Flattops are driving all the way from Rochester, N.Y., in a 1962 Cadillac hearse for the event; and opening at 9 sharp is the gig’s organizer, Tony Balbinot and his band, the Roadhouse Rockers. There should be enough slick-backed hair at this gig to get Brylcreem stock sliding back up to 1959 levels.
The Blazers have a new album just out on Rounder Records, and will surely be blamed for an outbreak of widespread dancing when they play songs off their “Short Fuse” release. The band includes a dual guitar attack featuring Ruben Guadarrama and Manuel Gonzales. Lee Stuart is the bass player and Ruben Gonzalez is the drummer. The Blazers are the latest in a long line of Latino rockers out of Los Angeles from Richie Valens to Thee Midnighters to El Chicano to Los Lobos. Guadarrama discussed his favorite band during a recent phone interview from his La Verne home.
“We grew up in Los Angeles and had the common thing with the neighborhood where there were a lot of different cultures. We’d be listening to mariachi music in the morning, then Chuck Berry in the afternoon, then country-Western would be on TV at night. The Mexican culture in East L.A. is just a little bit of everything. It’s just the folk music from different cultures. Is it roots rock? I don’t know, but I really don’t know what else to call it.” Since the Blazers sing in English and Spanish, incorporating blues and country, Western, early rock, plus traditional cumbias and a more recent norteno sound, the comparison with Los Lobos is inevitable.
“We’ve known those guys for a long time because we’re from the same neighborhood,” said Guadarrama. “I know they mean it as a compliment to compare us to Los Lobos, but it’s scary. I mean, I’m a fan of those guys. It puts pressure on us, but it’s good pressure. One thing, I guess, is that we don’t have an accordion. If we did, none of us could play it as well as Dave (Hidalgo) does, anyway. If people see us, and have a good time before they walk away, that’s good enough for us.”
The mutual admiration society goes both ways here. Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos was the producer of “Short Fuse.” The Blazers have other famous fans. One night a few years ago at a gig, Bob Dylan showed up and ended up inviting the band to open for him.
“Oh man, that was a lot of fun. We met him a few days before when he came to our gig at the Palomino and hung out. He was cool.”
Musicians tend to live in the salvageable future, unlike the crowded present, which is littered with broken MTV dreams and the reality of not getting signed. Not the Blazers. They had an unusual method of pursuing a deal, one that worked.
“It was sort of a fairy tale how we ended up on Rounder. We sent demo tapes to everyone just like everyone does, then we heard that Rounder was kind of interested. So we printed up these little postcards with Rounder’s address on them and passed them out at our gigs. We told people if they liked our music to send the cards to Rounder. They were getting bombarded by those postcards. Then last June, someone from the label came to see us in New Orleans, and we got signed.
It may take some time for Blazer to take off, but then Guadarrama and Gonzales have nothing if not patience. They’ve been jamming together since 1971 or when they were still attending Roosevelt High School. Countless bands in countless incarnations followed until the Blazers took shape about six years ago.
“We were doing this regular club thing--a casino in Bell; I don’t even know if it’s still there. We were there for like a year and we had a new name every week. So after we became the Blazers in 1988, we realized that we hadn’t changed the name for a month, so we figured we had something there and decided to hold onto that one.”
* WHAT: Fifth Annual Rockabilly Roundup featuring the Blazers, Ronnie Dawson, the Frantic Flattops, Roadhouse Rockers.
* WHERE: Red Dog Saloon, 110 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara.
* WHEN: Saturday at 9 p.m.
* COST: $12, general admission, $20 dinner and show or $25 dinner and show plus priority seating.
* ETC.: Call 965-2376.