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Thee Midniters were an American group, among the first Chicano rock bands to have a major hit in the United States. Also they were and 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", and the instrumental track, "Whittier Boulevard" in 1965. They 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 the only 1960s band from East Los Angeles that released a greatest hits album. The band was one of the first to integrate horns,unusual combination of trombone and sax, congas, keyboards and electric guitars to produce a sound somewhat on the order of Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears, albeit a few years before those bands were "big". Most band members attended Salesian High School, off the corner of Whittier Blvd. and Soto St. during their times with the exception of drummer(first album only) George Salazar who attended Garfield High School, drummer Danny LaMont(all subsequent recordings) Montebello High School, Larry Rendon(sax) Cantwell High School.
Highly professional and musically sophisticated compared to the surf bands of the day (they were largely school-trained), 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.
A well-known disc jockey, Casey Kasem, said, "They were the best band I ever hired". Kasem filled a regular slot on KRLA AM top forty radio in the 1960s and promoted concerts and dances at the time
Thee Midniters continue to be impressive with a combination of original and new members and will appear 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, a.k.a. "Little Willie G.", was the lead singer. "Willie G. was one of the most soulful Latin persons I ever heard," said the singer Brenton Wood. "He could really deliver a sermon, and he had a lot of feeling in his vocals." Garcia took obscure soul ballads such as "The Town I Live In" or "Giving Up On Love" and made them more beautiful by his own special delivery. After many years away from the band, Garcia returned in the 1990s. 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.
Trombonist Romeo Prado was the band's music arranger and was a huge influence in 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 and Bob Luna playing keyboard. Among the group's other songs to either achieve national or regional success are "Whittier Boulevard", "Love Special Delivery" and "That's All". Eddie Torres was their 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 Wilson Pickett's "Land of a Thousand Dances". In 1969, they released the single "Chicano Power".
Lil' Ray and The Midnighters singles
- "Loretta" / "My Girl" – Impact 30 – 1962
Thee Midnighters singles
- "Land Of A 1000 Dances" (Parts 1 & 2) / "Ball Of Twine" – Chattahoochee 666 – 1965
- "Heat Wave" / "Sad Girl" – Chattahoochee 674 – 1965
- "Heat Wave" / "Sad Girl" – Chattahoochee 675 – 1965
- "Whittier Blvd." /" Evil Love" – Chattahoochee 684 – 1965
- "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 Caesar Chavez" (Part 1) / "The Ballad Of Caesar Chavez" (Part 2) – Whittier 512 – 1967
- "Chicano Power" / "Never Goin' To Give You Up" – Whittier 513 – 1967
- 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".[dead link]
- "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.