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Thee Midniters were an American rock group, among the first Chicano rock bands to have a major hit in the United States. They were one of the best known acts to come out of East Los Angeles in the 1960s, with a cover of "Land of a Thousand Dances" in 1964 and the instrumental track "Whittier Boulevard" in 1965. Thee Midniters were among the first rock acts to openly sing about Chicano themes in songs such as "Chicano Power" and "The Ballad of César Chávez" in the late 1960s.
Thee Midniters are a 1960s band from East Los Angeles influenced by "surf music to rhythm and blues to Mexican music," embodying a Chicano identity, a "mixture of Mexican heritage but living in America." The band was one of the first to integrate horns, an unusual combination of trombone and sax, congas, keyboards and electric guitars to produce a sound similar to better known bands popular in the late 1960s such as Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
Most band members attended Salesian High School located near the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Soto Street in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. George Salazar, the drummer on the first album, attended Garfield High School. Danny LaMont, the drummer on all subsequent recordings attended Montebello High School and sax player Larry Rendon attended Cantwell High School.
Thee Midniters were largely school trained, highly professional and musically sophisticated in comparison to many of the surf bands of the day. Willie Garcia and Thee Midniters were regarded in the East LA of the 1960s as The Beatles on a smaller scale, though they sounded (and still sound) more like a big, soul-gospel review group with a hefty dose of salsa.
Thee Midniters continue with a combination of original and new members and appeared in Raven Productions' PBS pledge break special Trini Lopez presents the Legends of Latin Rock, along with El Chicano, Tierra and Gregg Rolie (of Santana and Journey fame) in the spring of 2009.
Thee Midniters were an East LA band. For a brief period of time the lead singer for the group was Little Ray aka Ray Jimenez. In 1964, Jimenez left the group. Willie Garcia, aka "Little Willie G.", then took over as the lead singer. Garcia took obscure soul ballads such as "The Town I Live In" or "Giving Up On Love" and gave them his own special delivery. Garcia, after years away from the band, returned in the 1990s. The lead guitarist was George Dominguez, whose forte was blues rock. Cesar Rosas, later to gain fame as one of the leaders of Los Lobos, would stare at George on stage to see how Thee Midniters' guitarist played leads and riffs that Rosas could not figure out on his own. Roy Marquez played rhythm guitar. Trombonist Romeo Prado was the band's music arranger and was a huge influence on the overall sound of Thee Midniters.
Thee Midniters have continued to play through the decades under the leadership and management of bassist Jimmy Espinoza and saxophonist Larry Rendon, the two original players remaining in the line-up from the original 1960s group. Since 2006, they have featured Greg Esparza as lead vocalist along with longtime Midniter mainstays through the years such as Bob Robles on lead guitar, Aaron Ballesteros playing drums, Bobby Navarrette on sax, Bobby Loya on trumpet, Samuel Trujillo on trumpet and valve trombone and Bob Luna playing keyboards. Eddie Torres was the Producer of every original album that was recorded in the 1960s; he also designed their album covers. Moreover, Eddie Torres was Thee Midniters Manager for many years.
In 1962 Lil' Ray & The Midniters recorded "Loretta" and "My Girl" for Tony Hilder's Impact label. The song was actually a title change of the Smokey Robinson composition "My Guy" which was a hit for Mary Wells. In 1964 they released a cover of "Land of a Thousand Dances" which had been a hit by both Chris Kenner and Wilson Pickett. In 1969, they released the single "Chicano Power". Among the group's other songs to either achieve national or regional success are "Whittier Boulevard", "Love Special Delivery" and "That's All".
Lil' Ray and The Midnighters singles
Thee Midniters singles
- "Land Of A 1000 Dances" (Parts 1 & 2) / "Ball Of Twine" – Chattahoochee 666 – 1965 (#67 US Billboard)
- "Heat Wave" / "Sad Girl" – Chattahoochee 674 – 1965
- "Heat Wave" / "Sad Girl" – Chattahoochee 675 – 1965
- "Whittier Blvd." /" Evil Love" – Chattahoochee 684 – 1965 (#127 US Billboard)
- "I Need Someone" / "Empty Heart" – Chattahoochee 693 – 1965
- "It's Not Unusual" / "That's All" – Chattahoochee 694 – 1965
- "Brother, Where Are You?" / "Heat Wave" – Chattahoochee 695 – 1965
- "Are You Angry?" / "I Found A Peanut" – Chattahoochee 706 – 1966
- "Love Special Delivery" / "Don't Go Away" – Whittier 500 – 1966
- "It'll Never Be Over For Me" / "The Midnite Feeling" – Whittier 501 – 1966
- "Dragon-Fly" / "The Big Ranch" – Whittier 503 – 1966
- "Never Knew I Had It So Bad" / "The Walking Song" – Whittier 504 – 1967
- "Jump Five And Harmonize" / "Looking Out A Window" – Whittier 507 – 1967
- "Chile Con Soul" / "Tu Despedida" – Whittier 508 – 1967
- "Breakfast On The Grass" / "Dreaming Casually" – Whittier 509 – 1967
- "Make Ends Meet" / "You're Gonna Make Me Cry" – Whittier 511 – 1967
- "The Ballad Of Cesar Chavez" (Part 1) / "The Ballad Of Cesar Chavez" (Part 2) – Whittier 512 – 1967
- "Chicano Power" / "Never Goin' To Give You Up" – Whittier 513 – 1967
- del Barco, Mandalit (November 29, 2018). "The Story Of 'Whittier Blvd.,' A Song And Place Where Latino Youth Found Each Other". NPR News. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
- Reyes, David and Tom Waldman (1998). Land of a Thousand Dances. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. pp. 85, 86.
- University of California, Riverside Today April 9, 2012 Little Joe & La Familia to Headline 16th Annual Radio Aztlan Music Festival on April 14 by Ross French
- On the Record October 18, 2013 Thee Midnighters - Everybody Needs Somebody
- Global Dog Productions 45 Discography for Impact Records
- You Found That Eastside Sound Saturday, May 5, 2012 Eastside Legends - Little Ray Jimenez
- Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles by Steven Joseph Loza Musical Life: Los Angeles 1945-1990 pp. 99–100
- Global Dog Productions 45 Discography for Impact Records
- Soulful Kinda Music Thee Midniters
- "Green Man Review". Archived from the original on 2013-01-25.
- "Mark Guerrero's latin legends website".
- "Thee Midniters Website".
- Phil Gallo (September 27, 2010). "Ponderosa Stomp Day One: The Trashmen, Thee Midniters, more in New Orleans". Sound Spike.
- Little Willie G. Interview NAMM Oral History Library (2019)