Though "La Bamba" is said to have African roots and been written well over 100 years ago, its 20th century form came into being as a Veracurz wedding dance, the earliest known recorded version was released in 1939 by El Jarocho (Alvaro Hernandez Ortiz). Most of us know the song from the late L.A. rocker Ritchie Valens' 1958 version which turned the song into an electrified rock 'n' roll classic. In 1965, Tucson's then-popular Los Elegantes recorded the track at Copper State Studio, giving it a mariachi flavor with a unique edge; their amazing four-part harmonies which also give the track an American folk flavor.
The flipside, "Lonely Street" is a beautifully harmonized, echo-y ballad. Both tracks were produced by George Richey, who later became country singer Tammy Wynette's manager and husband. Los Elegantes featured brothers Frank, Johnny and Freddy Perez, Roman Delgado, Willie Santa Cruz and Seferino "El Yaqui" Flores. The group performed at Tucson establishments such as Gus and Andy's and the Saddle and Sirloin. Los Elegantes traveled all over the United States, performed in Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines and U.S.O. shows in Viet Nam. The Perez Brothers (as Los Hermanos Perez) and Roman Delgado are fondly honored in the Tucson Musicians Museum.
Lee Joseph grew up in Tucson. He's a DJ (Luxuriamusic.com), marketer of cool shit (Reverberations Media) and founder/CEO of internationally respected Dionysus Records, an indie that has long specialized in releasing super-rare music, and more. He came of age in the first wave of Tucson punk rock and is an expert on Tucson music. He now lives in California. Vintage Vinyl is a ecurring addition to the Tucson Weekly.