Monday, June 1, 2015

Exciting new ‘Eastside Heartbeats’ musical celebrates L.A. Chicano rock sounds

Just two weeks remain for classic rock fans that remember and love the music of the 1960s, to join in launching an exciting new rock musical, “Eastside Heartbeats.” If you appreciate the finest classic rock music of the 1960s, if you loved “Land of 1,000 Dances” by Cannibal and the Headhunters and can sing the chorus, and if you remember the roots of East LA’s phenomenal music scene, then there’s a groundbreaking project that you can take part in: “Eastside Heartbeats, A New Rock ‘n’ Roll Musical.”

The story of Cannibal and the Headhunters and how they came to help establish a new kind of music stemming from California proved inspirational to writers David Reyes and co-author Tom Waldman, who released the book “Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock and Roll from Southern California.”

On June 2, 2015, author David Reyes shared with that enthusiasm for this special music genre lives on. Interest in Chicano Rock is such that it has launched the development of a musical in fact, which found inspiration from the 2009 book.

Inspired by the story, Tom Waldman recently wrote a musical around a fictional story centering on "one young man's dreams and the vibrant East LA music scene of the 1960s." The musical therefore takes audiences “from the barrio to the Hollywood Bowl,” where the legendary band Cannibal and the Headhunters were indeed the opening act for The Beatles. Though Waldman’s book is true, the musical is fiction, but it seems a more than natural extension or next step of a day and time in which those born in East Los Angeles had to overcome economic, social, and even California surf rock music barriers to make their marks on the genre known today as Chicano rock and roll.

This incredible sound belonged to those of Mexican-American and Latino heritage, to be sure, and it was embraced by a nation that blended cultures to come together and celebrate a sound that was as uplifting as it was unique, and still is today. Check out the Indiegogo site for “Eastside Heartbeats” to learn more about how you can participate in being a part of this great project.

For as little as $10, you can be part of this exciting project telling the story of the musical and cultural heritage of Latino and Mexican-American musicians, who grew up in East Los Angeles (East LA), California. Sharing their musical gifts and talents helped define East LA as a music scene and coast within the coast, standing proudly together with surfer rock from SoCal studios.

If you’re a seasoned classic rock fan, you remember, back in 1965, when The Beatles played the Hollywood Bowl and their opening act was the dynamic band, Cannibal and the Headhunters. Okay, confess: right now the “na, na, na, na, na—na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na—na, na, na, nanhhh,”—the captivating hook from their biggest hit, “Land of A Thousand Dances”–is running through your head. Right? And you can still hear that sound on Sirius XM "60s on 6" almost daily, as well as classic rock radio stations and internet radio around the country. Those rich, powerful sounds stemming from East Los Angeles hold the memories for many who grew up to become part of the music industry, creating new music still today.

Acclaim and preliminary interest for "Eastside Heartbeats" led Waldman and Reyes to reach out to classic rock hitmakers, songwriters James Holvay (founding member of horn band, The MOB), whose songs put The Buckinghams consistently on Billboard’s charts for years), Rudy Salas (founding member of Latino group Tierra, who put Gamble & Huff’s “Together” on Billboard’s Hot 100) to become involved.

Songwriter James Holvay, best known for penning “Kind of a Drag” for The Buckinghams on Chicago’s USA Records, shared exclusively for readers what drew him to join with Rudy Salas (founding member of Tierra) and composer David Reyes, author Tom Waldman, and co-producer Nancy Bianconi, in making sure that people remember the roots of music that was created and shared by the East LA musicians whose Mexican-American and Latino community remains defined, permanently, as relevant.

Holvay said, “I’ve walked through the neighborhood of East L.A. so many times, and am very uplifted to see what’s happening today. Like most urban areas in the cities, it’s being redeveloped with young Latinos opening small shops and restaurants.” Jim noted, “It’s really good to see the revitalization, but we also have to preserve the history of the music that helped put East L.A. on the record charts as well.”

During the 1960s heyday of rock and roll, Holvay was busy performing with his band, The MOB, helping to shape a horn rock sound that would quickly become popular in performing venues, moreso than recordings at the time. Holvay used his spare time, collaborating with fellow “MOBster” and good friend, Gary Beisbier, in writing more chart-topping hits for The Buckinghams, including “Don’t You Care,” “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Songs,” and “Susan.” all three songs of which share coauthoring credit with producer James William Guercio on the Columbia label.

Of the popularity of Cannibal and the Headhunters, Holvay said, “At the time, their music had just come from the projects to initially tremendous national attention, but through the years the band was never quite given their due for what they did to inspire their community as well as for making their mark in the music business.” The East L.A. radio stations played their music, but they couldn’t catch a break to make it onto radio stations in the Eastern United States.

Like so many other bands of the day, the hours were long, the struggles at times seemed insurmountable, and Cannibal and the Headhunters “had considered throwing in the towel and just going on their way,” Holvay said. What saved them was “After Paul McCartney heard “Land of 1,000 Dances” on the radio, he directed Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein to find out who these guys were and then wanted them to open their U.S. tour.”

Added Jim, “That’s some heavy validation considering it’s coming from the biggest band in the world at that time, and they kept going.” Holvay has written 15 of the 23 songs in the play, including some he wrote with the play’s author, Tom Waldman. Holvay is clearly enthusiastic about his active role in helping create a new musical, especially in a vehicle that insures that the musicians of East L.A. will be celebrated and receive their due, at long last.

The project's full funding goal is set at $30,000; now when you look and see that only $2215 has been raised by 23 people in four weeks’ time, that’s not the only money that’s expected to come in. Experienced fundraising and development professional Maria Elena Yepes has been hard at work making a great case for investment among individuals, corporations, and foundations devoted to promoting relevant historical work in music and the arts.

The show will go on, and is expected to open in November 2015, for an initial six-week run at Casa 0101, a Boyle Heights arts center in East L.A. Next step is to head even further east, to Off-Broadway and who knows, maybe one day a film version will follow. Click on the accompanying video to learn more.

What’s most relevant and dynamic about this project is that the same fans who bought Cannibal and the Headhunters records can participate, the same fans who regard and revere James Holvay and Rudy Salas and David Reyes as musicians and songwriters can be a part. Frankly, if you bought Top 10 music singles at your local record store in the 1960s, you can jump in for $10, $25, $50, and even more, and some nice perks await those who act in the next two weeks. Indiegogo is different from Kickstarter in that you can make your gift today and have it make an immediate impact. It’s a donation, not a pledge, you’re making.

For $50, you’ll receive a limited edition poster signed by all the cast and crew. Just $75 will get you the poster plus a digital download of all the songs. And even for $10, you’ll get a real thank-you e-mail and the sincere gratitude of people you haven’t met (yet) for believing that what they think is important is relevant to you. Think about when the last time someone wrote you a truly proper thank-you letter. It’s worth the $10 just to get one, even if by e-mail, the preferred communication today.

You know you’re singing it. So just admit it. The song worm is in your head: “Na, na, na, na, na—na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na—na, na, na, nanhhh,” “Jump in for just $10,” says Holvay. And be a part of history-making inspiration, today.

Update: Author's clarification added 6.3.2015

The author regrets that the original story, published June 1, was potentially and, most assuredly unintentionally, misleading in ascribing or implying that Robert Zapata and his group, Cannibal and the Headhunters, endorsed the musical "Eastside Heartbeats." As a good faith public apology, the author adds the following: Per written communication from Mr. Zapata, received this day at 5:31 p.m., please be advised that: "On the contrary, Mr. Zapata, the owner of the trademark 'Cannibal and the Headhunters, and his group are not involved with the musical and do not endorse it."