LA’s Eastside sound blends R&B, doo-wop, Chicano rock, punk

By Kathryn Barnes

The 1960s gave rise to the ‘Eastside sound,” which refers to new musical styles created by groups coming out of Boyle Heights and neighboring areas at that time.

“The Eastside sound, I would say, is rhythm and blues with an edge,” says Rubén Guevara, the lead singer of Ruben and the Jets. “Although we emulated Black music, we had our own style.”

East LA bands like Thee Midniters, The Romancers, Cannibal & the Headhunters were influenced by Motown groups. Ruben and the Jets carried on that R&B tradition in the 1970s, blending its Chicano and Pachuco roots with styles influenced by doo-wop era artists like The Penguins. They put out two albums in 1973 and 1974, one of which was produced by Frank Zappa.

The 1970s and 1980s brought Chicano punk groups like The Brat, headed up by Teresa Covarrubias. 

“Most punk bands did not have women, and they were political,” says Guevara. “The war in Nicaragua, U.S. imperialism, very political, and they wrote their own material.”

Guevara is currently working with The Paramount Ballroom, which opened in Boyle Heights in 1925, to develop a permanent Hall of Fame archive honoring the musicians who played there, including Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lalo Guerrero, Don Tosti, and Stevie Wonder.