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Mexican rock and roll. Does your abuela have a poodle skirt?

Mexico embraced rock and roll in 1956 and hasn’t stopped since.

The first rock and roll record ever recorded in Mexico was  “La Cama de Piedra” by Pablo Beltran Ruiz in 1956.  It featured a full orchestra and a men’s chorus belting out the words “Rock and Roll” with smoking  sax and electric guitar  solos.  A few months later Luis Marquez  recorded “Let’s Bop”, Mexican rock and roll instrumental also heavy on sax, but with a rockabilly-style piano solo.

That same year Sun Records , home of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and many others,  released “Mexican Rock and Roll” by UNKNOWN SINGER who sang with a Mexican accent and finished the song with “Olé!”  This was three years after Presley’s first songs  were released on  Sun, “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”.  Neither of them rock and roll, but they presaged and maybe gave UKNOWN SINGER a shot at stardom (didn’t work, we still don’t know who he was).

Before all of that however, the songwriter s Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers  wrote “(We’re gonna) Rock Around the Clock” , made famous by Bill Halley and His  Comets in the film Blackboard Jungle in 1955.  The Mexican bands caught on quick, releasing “La Cama de Piedra”  and  “Let’s Bop” less than a year later.

Now 60 years later, Rock and Roll is alive and thriving in Mexico, and we hear a lot of it in here in Lakeside.  Much of the local rock is from Mexican and gringo cover bands giving an older audiences the music they danced to in high school gyms, but the Mexican bands manage to sneak in original songs that blend rock, alt rock, mariachi and boleros.  It works, as long it stays  in (mostly) a 4/4 beat that you can dance to.

Bands like Alfonsina, the female rock-fusion band killing it in Guadalajara and Lakeside is a great example.  The Mexican Standoff, a Mexico City/LA-based frequently sardonic rock en bilingual band  is another. And of course, there are the current chart-toppers Maná , Kinky, Café Tacvba, Malidta Vecindad, Zoé, and the alt pop but really rock,  Hello Seahorse.

And Mexico isn’t stopping there. A slew of post-rock bands has emerged, many from  up the road from me in Guadalajara.  Chief among them ae my friends in The Wohl Band, which has not only built a huge audience in Mexico but toured  Europe and is making inroads into the US. Others pushing the boundaries of post- rock in Mexico include Kanguu, and Chivo Negro.

Given this rich history of the Mexican embrace of rock and roll, I am very curious about  a live performance coming up here next Friday, the “Happy 60’s Party”.  The event is a fundraiser for DIF, a government-based social services charity organization.  For a $500peso  ($25US) ticket you get dinner, dancing and a 60’s floor show.  I talked with the organizer last week and he wasn’t able to give me the band lineup, or the acts in the “Show”, but the poster is Elvis and Ann-Margret from the 1964 movie Viva Las Vegas, so I think it will be early 60’s, pre-Beatles and Stones, just before the British invasion hit US rock…before  skinny ties  gave way to hippie beads

Since the newspaper I write for here in Ajijic has purchased a table at the event I will be going and hopefully shooting some video and photos for you all. I have no idea what to expect, but I know the 20-something female reporters  at my paper are asking their abuelas if they have poodle skirts in a trunk somewhere.  Should be fun. Full report next week.

(banner: Ela Conta El Tigre, Mexican rock band at FIMPRO this year)

Patrick O’Heffernan

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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (348 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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