ANGEL OROZCO JR:
The life and times of a Latin Rock drummer…………
Angel Orozco Jr. Norwalk, Ca
Angel Orozco; although not known in the forefront of the Latin Rock vanguard, is a sterling example of a versatile drummer whose musical career has traversed a varied gamut of bands and players thru the seventies and eighties and into the nineties. He has played with, among others, Poncho Sanchez, El Chicano, Evil, Thee Midniters with Willie G, Changing Times, Chepito Areas and Cobra, Rubicon (with Jerry Martini), Attitude (with Chepito, Mike Carabello, Karl Perazzo and David Brown) and Puro Bandido as well.
Please note this an honest, unflinching account of hard, riotous times in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Those of a more sensitive disposition can choose not to read. It contains stories of hard drug usage plus the resultant crazed behaviour that comes with this territory. Many people from that Latin Rock era fell foul of these new narcotics (especially the revival in wide spread cocaine and heroin use) that engulfed the USA from the early 1970’s onwards. If the Latin rock scene is a microcosm of the entire USA music scene, then God help musicians and others, then and now! Particularly then, as the encroaching dangers from these drugs, were not entirely evident to these musicos; at least at first.
As someone who has been in recovery and clean and sober for nearly twenty-six years, a day at a time, my heart goes out to these dazzling young persons, who fell foul of this modern-day pestilence that destroyed their talent and opportunities and that has and is sweeping our world! The historic bubonic plague has got nothing on this horrendous, malevolent epidemic!
Angel describes his early days in Norwalk, Los Angeles and how he got involved in the music game. Angel is an engaging and “ Voice of Latin Rock.
To start off with, I started on the trumpet that my father taught me. He was a big fan of the big band jazz orchestras and he always played that music and old jazz classics. I was 5 years old when I started to actually play every day. By the time I was in 4th, 5th and 6th grade I was asked to play the, call to the colors of the rising of the American flag at D.D. Johnston Elementary School in Norwalk, Ca. I never missed a day. My mother made sure of that!
By the time I was in 6th grade the song Wipe Out that had that cool drum solo in and out thru the song. I fell in love with the sound of the drums. Then The Beatles came out and Herb Albert, The Monkees and so many other cool bands during that time. My mother bought me my first snare drum at a garage sale. I picked the drums like I knew I would. I taught myself and my 1st song was, you guessed it, Wipe Out. I was so popular for playing that song. So with that, I wanted a drum set and I would use old pots and pans or what ever worked and started jamming away.
During all of my school days I always was in the school bands playing the trumpet from 4th grade up until the 10th grade. I only played trumpet in the 9th for the Excelsior High School Band.
I auditioned for the school drum squad and got the part starting with the bass drum but that did not last long, maybe two months then I was moved up to the snare drum. I was so happy. I even auditioned for the jazz band and got the part!
My grandfather bought me my first drum set for Christmas in the 9th grade so I started practicing a lot. I drove our neighbours crazy!!
Ramon Banda was my school friend that played drums but mostly the timbales. He turned me on to the sounds of salsa, Santana and other Latin music. Man I feel in love with that sound and I said to my self I got learn that type of music. I started to jam with Ramon and listening carefully to that sound and practiced my ass off. Ramon went off to play with another Norwalk friend, Poncho Sanchez. Ramon & Poncho were very tight friends. I got to know Poncho real good. We used to jam, house parties and concerts all around the Los Angeles area.
Ramon Banda is the same age as I. We went to school and graduated together. Ramon did not get involved in the high school band like I was. Ramon was more into Latin jazz/salsa kind of music/style that I was not aware of back then!
I spend all the time with the marching band, pep band, jazz big band, and the orchestra band. Rehearsing even before classes in the mornings and after school practicing our marches or the drummers practicing our drum cadence and so on. I was very fortunate to be able to participate in all of those class’s that kept busy and out of trouble. I did not get to know Ramon Banda until I graduated. Poncho was introduced to me by Ramon who in my senior year. They had both had started a band called, Sabor. Sabor was a mix of salsa and a bit of James Brown, whom they both liked so much; otherwise it was all salsa Latin jazz. Poncho did not go to the same school as I did and I think if I remember right, Poncho dropped out of high school? Ramon and Poncho are pretty alike, they are both funny and they liked to go fishing a lot, eating lots of Mexican food but somewhat reserved.
Ramon and Poncho are just some of musicians back then, man there where a lot of talented musicians back in those days in the Norwalk California.
I was in that band Evil and I was doing or playing with a lot of groups and attending different colleges that kept me busy so I did not hang out with them that much.
I am very proud of both Ramon and Poncho. I here from them once in a while, mainly Ramon Banda! There are both doing very well. Ramon Banda played with Poncho until sometime in the 90s, I don’t know exactly?
Once in a while I would call Ramon to do drum gigs when and if I could not make them. I was gigging a lot back then.
When I moved to the Bay Area I was pretty much not in touch with them.
I asked Angel about his early influences.
My influences! Let me see, there where so many and still are. Elvin Jones, Sonny Pain from the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Ralph Humphreys from the Don Ellis Electric Orchestra, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine, Steve Gadd, Airto and Louie Bellson who was my old drum teacher that used to teach at the Hollywood Drum Shop. Also, David Garibaldi from Tower Of Power, how could I forget Dave G. Who I did have the honor of meeting and spending time with him and DG showed me some of his drum beats. What a hell of funky drummer. And that is to name but a few!
I was very fortunate at my High school because after my 9th grade that I was playing trumpet, our music teacher quit and a new music teacher was hired. John Prince was a wonderful teacher. He gave me the chance to audition on the drums even though the other kids told the music teacher that I played trumpet. He told the kids that I had the right to audition for the drums and if I did good, it would only be fair to give me the chance! Our music teacher spend a lot of time with the students and during the summer he would let us know that there are summer school music classes and work shops at different college’s. This helped me to know where all the good schools and musicians were at!
Our high school even won 1st place in a band competition. That was my 1st record that I recorded on a trap drum set. I wish I had a copy but I lost that with some other cool things a while back, too bad!!! The year was 1970 when Excelsior High School Jazz band under the direction of John Prince!
We won 1st place that year
The Corona Jazz festival/competition in Corona, Ca. was where that event was held. Creative World Music was the one that recorded that concert performed by 1st, 2nd and 3rd place band winners. I think for it was so long ago but the Stan Kenton band also performed that night.
That was so exciting for the band to win 1st place. We cheered all the way back home on the school bus GO PILOTS GO, for we are the Excelsior High School Pilot band!
When I graduated high school in 1972. I immediately attended Cerritos College, East Los Angeles City College, Rio Honda College from 1972 to 1974. E.L.A. City College went to Mexico City for a tour that had one College Jazz Big Band and from each state. East Los Angeles City College was picked to represent California. That was a lot of fun. We also played at other small pueblos near by Mexico City.
I was a very active drummer. I never could play enough and or go to listen with my college band companions to check all kinds of great different types of music/bands.
The Stan Kenton Summer Clinics were my favorite music school. I attended the one at Irvine California in 1971 and Sacramento in 1972. The Irvine Stan Kenton Clinic was my 2nd recording on the trap drum set. That recording was done by Stan Kenton’s and was calledCREATIVE WORLD MUSIC CORP.
1970 was the first time at the Corona High School jazz band competition at Corona, Ca with the Excelsior High School jazz band. The second recording for the Creative World Music recording was done when I attended the Stan Kenton clinics in the summer of 1971. I had to audition to be able to attend the clinics and I made playing it into the Mike Vax clinic band. Mike Vax was one of the five trumpet players for the Stan Kenton Band
The way it worked is that you would audition and you would get so many points and then you get placed depending how good you were. The teachers were the musicians from Stan Kenton’s band. I met a lot of great drummers there and other musicians threw the S.K. clinics. At the Stan Kenton Clinics at Redlands, Ca, it was five days from Monday to Friday. Friday was the concert and recording from Creative World Music of all the bands that where under the direction of S.K. band members. As I said I was with the Mike Vax clinic band. There is where I met Peter Erskine who later played with Stan Kenton’s band, plus Maynard Ferguson and many other students. Jeff and Joe Porcaro was also two of many others that attended the clinic. Jeff went on to do the TOTO band and also many other greats.
When Stan Kenton passed away he donated all of his music arrangements and creative world music, records and archives to Texas State University. At least that is what I was told! Our High school teacher John Prince left one year later after my graduation. He was hired at Long Beach State University. I called him up and asked him if I had a chance to audition or if I was good enough. Well I auditioned and attended the Wednesday night Jazz band. I only attended for one year and that was in 1975.
As I mentioned to you before, I was a very active drummer and also played with different bands in the LA area. I was also a member of the Musician’s Union Local #47.
My passion for playing drums was pretty intense. I even decided to start my own band. Lynn Farney/bass, Ron Vermillion/trumpet and I started our band EVIL during my first year in Cerritos College back in 1973. I’ll Get to the Evil Band a bit later to continue to stay in order!
Attached are, E.L.A. City College Band concert photos. Me on drums and Pete Christlieb from at that time, the Doc Severson Big Band for the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and also tenor sax on all of Steely Dan’s Asia Album. The other picture is fro l to r, Roland Mendoza/Friend, Ramon Lopez/congeuro for Stan Kenton Band, Roy Reynolds/Baritone Sax for Stan Kenton Band and me.
The 3rd album that I recorded on was SIMPLY MACRAME with the Bobby Rodriguez Latin Jazz Band. That was a hot band and a hot recording. (Released on Jazzman Records and still available to buy on eBay and various vinyl sites on the web).
Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler played drums and that is when I met him and he introduced me to a lot of people. One of my favorites was the George Duke band whom he played drums with; they were great and still are!!!
Bobby Rodriguez also introduced me to a lot of other great musicians and bands and that is when I met Bobby Espinosa of El Chicano; who I will later tell you about.
As I mentioned before, during Cerritos College we put the band Evil together. Well, this band got pretty popular and we even recorded at Wally Heiders Studios in Hollywood next to Shelly Mann’s Jazz hole, I think that was the name. It is so long ago that I can’t believe that I can remember some of these things but as I go along with our interview my brains somehow kicks out all of those old great memories.
Anyway, Evil played everywhere from L.A. to Palm Springs and all kinds of nice venues back then. Well, the band fell apart because our lead singer/guitar got into an accident. Brian Evens quit the band and told us that he has found God and turned to a Christian way of life. Brian was the main part of the act and was hard to replace. We tried but finally we broke up!
One day I got a call from Carmelo Garcia (the feted timbalero) and I could tell it was him because of his low raspy voice. Well he tells me that there are these three brothers from East L.A. that are looking for a drummer, Changing Times is the band and I am to be playing timbales and congas. I thought to myself, how can you play timbales and congas together at the same time. I knew Carmelo was a fantastic timbalero and also I thought, boy another band to play with and I’m still going to college. I did not care, for I had to see or should I say hear this, timbales and congas at the same time and it sounded like a pretty cool band as he kept telling me about it. I told Carmelo, sure I will go and check it out to see if I like it or even more important if they like my drumming. I could not believe it; Carmelo was playing timbales and congas. Next thing I am rehearsing twice a week and played gigs and recorded with them.
We even met Stevie Wonder because Carmelo recorded an album with him. I think it was the one with one with the butterflies, I do not remember. (Jim note; Hungria Carmelo Garcia is credited on Songs In The Key Of Life. Mike Carabello also told he played on those recordings but was uncredited on the sleeve). Anyway, we got to go to Stevie Wonders studio and meet the band. We tried to get him to back us but some how that did not work out. I think it had to do with Carmelo’s behavior at the end. He got pretty raw, there where so many embarrassing moments that I could not tell them all and maybe it should be left like that. God bless you Carmelo but boy could he play.
Carmelo Garcia was a very talented timbalero and conguero. His cocaine problem was all a new thing to me and I would not get involved with that at all, at least back then.
I remember after practice with the Changing Times band, we would take turns taking him home and during the ride home he would ask if I knew anybody so he go and score. I always smoked pot and he really did not care for that and I would tell him that is all I can get!
At times toward the end at the gigs he would find a way or someone would show up to the gig and hook him up with coke. Immediately right after he would get weird and start stroking his cock in public. Very embarrassing it was.
I used to carry around a couple of baseballs, softball, baseball bat and a couple of baseball mitts in the trunk of my car. I found out when one night at band practice in LA during the Changing Times band that Carmelo loved baseball. He told me that he was in a baseball team in Dominican Republic when he was young and that he was good at it. He sure proved that when I asked to do some catching of the baseball and hitting the ball. For a short cat he sure could throw that ball really fast and hit good. Carmelo, the band, and I loved baseball. I wish we would have done that more often, Carmelo would say, NOT TODAY!
If it was not for music I myself would of maybe went pro?
I sure love baseball up to today. Always have!!
Armando Peraza is the same way but only he is from Cuba, he told me that himself a while back at S.F. when one day I was hanging out with him.
Angel went on to another LA based group called Changing Times….
Changing Times was a Latin, fusion, jazz band. This when I met Wayne Bergeron trumpet player that is one of the top trumpet players in L.A. Check out his site on Facebook. There is lots of good info.
During Changing Times day’s back in 1973 thru to 1975, this would be the time that I met Willie G’ from Thee Midniters. I also got to play with that band and if it would not have been for Carmelo and Willie G I would have not ever played with that band. Thank you Willie wherever you are. Thee Midniters band were a bunch of cool guys.
The line up for the Changing Times band was and I can not remember all of there last names and the most important one are the three brothers that started the band. I will try to remember or look for some more info if I can? I remembered the last name of the last name of the three brothers that started Changing Times band, They were the Valenzuela brothers; Jaime, Javier, and Carlos Valenzuela.
But anyway the line up was for the picture I will attach is Jamie/singer & guitar, Javier/guitar, Carlos/bass, Wayne Bergeron/trumpet, Steve Price/trombone, Freddy/piano, Willie G/lead vocal & front man, Carmelo Garcia/timbales and congas and myself on drums!
Evil Band! This band as I mentioned before keeping it in that order was a doing funk and cover material like Tower Of Power, Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Kool & The Gang, Earth Wind & Fire, Santana, Malo, Azteca and our own material.
I told you earlier about the Evil band and how it got started by Lynn Farney, Ron Vermillion and myself on drums and I was also the band director and did the booking, how long and why the band broke up was also mentioned earlier, we lasted from 1972 /73 to 1975.
The band line up was: Brian Evens/lead singer and guitar, Lynn Farney/bass. Gabriel Padillas/B3 & piano, Roland Mendoza/conguero and vocals, Ron Vermillion/trumpet, Richard Torres/Sax, Rocky Robles/trombone & music arranger, & my self on drums & vocals. Sometimes we would use David Luell/tenor & baritone sax who played with Cold Blood and also with LA Express, when he was not busy. What a sax player he is, WOW!!!
We used to rehearse in Santa Fe Springs at Gabriel Padillas house once a week in the evening time from 7pm to 10pm sometimes 11pm but the neighbors would complain, so we would cut it short. I had a lot of fun with that band and I do miss my old partners from that time.
So like I said the band broke up because of Brian Evens automobile accident. That was too bad!!!
Thee Midniters and Willie G…………
Thee Midniters Band & Willie G’! It was an honor to get to play with those guy’s. They had a hit, LET’S TAKE A TRIP TO WHITTIER BOULEVARD. This song was very popular with the Chicano low riders. I used to play at a lot at the low rider magazine events with these guys. I was only the back up drummer so I did not become a full-time member and anyway, they ended up taking a break after many years of playing.
Huggy Boy was the name of their manager and he was the Bill Graham of East L.A. back then. Huggy Boy had a theater on the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Whittier Boulevard, in East L.A. That was his office and also the Midniters headquarters. Wow, I can’t believe I am remembering this, It’s all a kinda’ blur to me!
(The band was also promoted by Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg on local radio station KTYM, Inglewood and by his fill-in Godfrey [Godfrey Kerr]. Huggy Boy was later the most popular DJ on KRLA.)
Willie G’ Then moved to the Bay area and joined the Malo band. I think he recorded 2 albums? (Actually he recorded on Malo’s final Warner Brothers recording Ascension – Jim note). Willie told me that El Chicano was looking for a drummer and that is how I joined up with that band.
PART 2: Coming soon……………………..…….
Tags: Angel Orozco
Angel plays with El Chicano, Santana, Cobra, Chepito Areas, Rubicon (with Jerry Martini) Attitude (with Mike Carabello and David Brown), Puro Bandido and more…..
, Carlos Santana
, Changing Times
, Jim McCarthy
, Latin Rock
, Los Angeles
, Poncho Sanchez
, Ramin banda
, Thee Midniters
, Voices of Latin Rock