Writer, Tom Waldman

Tom Waldman, writer, Eastside HeartbeatsIn 1981, Tom Waldman and David Reyes interviewed Frankie Garcia, “Cannibal” of the 1960s vocal group Cannibal and the Headhunters.  They met Frankie to learn the history of the group, including the incredible story of how four Latino kids from the projects got to open for the Beatles on the second half of their 1965 American tour.

Much of the material Frankie provided went into Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock and Roll from Southern California the book by Waldman and Reyes that University of New Mexico Press published in 1998, with a second edition in 2009.

Almost 35 years after that interview, the musical Eastside Heartbeats, featuring a book by Waldman, opened at Casa 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights.  Eastside Heartbeats uses the true story of Cannibal and the Headhunters opening for the Beatles as the springboard for a fictional account of the vibrant East LA music scene in 1965.  Waldman wishes that the late, great Frankie Garcia was alive to see the show.

In addition to the book, Waldman served as associate producer on the documentary Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East LA, which aired nationally on PBS in 2008.  He was interviewed on camera for the 2009 PBS documentary, Latin Music USA.

Waldman is the author of four books, including We All Want to Change the World, Rock and Politics from Elvis to Eminem (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2003), and Not Much Left: The Decline of Liberalism in America (University of California Press, 2008).

Read More

Music Composer, James Holvay

Reprinted from liner notes written by: Clark Besch Music Writer/60’s Pop Historian based in Omaha, NE

“Jimmy Holvay and Chicago Pop, Rock & Soul of the 60’s”

James Holvay, Eastside HeartbeatsThe Chicago pop music scene in the mid-1960’s was an exciting time. With the blending of old Chicago blues with the new British Invasion, a whole new sound was being created in the Windy City. Small, Chicago, indie record labels gave local teen talent a chance to get their music heard for the first time. One of the most prolific young writers and producers of the day in Chi Town was Jimmy “Soul” Holvay. He composed, produced, arranged and played on some of the best music to come out of the city during that period of time. Jimmy showcased talent that was established recording stars as well as young artists looking for their first “big break”.

Ral Donner an Elvis sound-a-like had been a star in Chicago for years with national hits, “Girl Of My Best Friend”, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” and “She’s Everything”.
Holvay penned 2 sides for Ral (“It Will Only Make Me Love You More” b/w “If You Love Him”, released on Red Bird Records, a Leiber & Stoller owned label out of New York.

Dee Clark began his career in Chicago in the late 50’s and had dozens of pop releases and several national hits. (i.e. “Hey Little Girl”, “Just Keep It Up” and “Raindrops”.)
Clark was ready to adapt to the times and now looking for a Motown-styled sound. His producer Bill “Bunky” Shepherd of the soul classic “Duke Of Earl” and many others, along with former label CEO of VJ Records Ewart Abner reached out to young Holvay. Jimmy provided them with “She’s My Baby” b/w “I Can’t Runaway”, released on Abner’s Constellation Records.

Bryan Hyland had scored big with “Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and “Sealed With A Kiss”. While touring with the “Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars” he met Jimmy (working as the back-up guitarist). Together they wrote “Stay Away From Her”, which was released on Phillips Records.

The Beatles had not only changed pop music but inspired a number of teen combos (often referred to as “garage bands”) all over the country. One of the many Chicago “garage bands” that benefited from the Beatles influence was a group called The Buckinghams. After getting a recording contract with a local label (USA Records), the group cut 13 tunes, which were mostly cover versions of songs they had performed at their live gigs. After 3 failed records, they had one more release left in their contract, which would fulfill the labels commitment to the band. Against the labels plans, they managed to convince them to release “Kind Of A Drag” as their last single. As fate would have it, the song went to #1 nationally and has sold well over a million copies.

With a #1 record on the Billboard charts the group was now free from their recording contract with USA Records. Chicagoan, Jim Guercio (a friend of Holvay’s from the Dick Clark tours and bass player), was contacted thru a relative of The Buckinghams, to manage the band. At the time Guercio was playing bass behind Chad & Jeremy, while also acting as their road manager. He immediately saw the opportunity, signed The Buckinghams and took them over to meet the newly appointed head of A&R at Columbia Records, Clive Davis.

With the group now inked w/a major label, Jimmy G. reached out to Holvay for more material and headed into the studio. Holvay provided him with more songs, all of which became Top 10 hits. (i.e. “Don’t You Care”, “Hey Baby They’re Playin’ Our Song” and “Susan”.) With the success that Guercio had achieved using a horn section (ala’ Holvay’s band The MOB), with the Buckingham’s songs, Clive D. asked him if he could work his magic with a group who’s first LP had not done well. (i.e. “Child Is Father To The Man”)

Again, Jimmy G. saw an opportunity and produced the extremely successful album, “Blood, Sweat & Tears”. Following the success of the album, he had musical differences with the band and they parted ways. Guercio, in search of another artist to produce signed a MOB influenced horn band from his hometown called The Big Thing. They later changed their name to C.T.A. and due to a copyright infringement again changed their name to CHICAGO.

Read More

Music Director, Gary St. Germain

Ground Control Gary.

Gary St. Germain, music composer, Eastside HeartbeatsBorn at an early age in Tokyo, Keyboardist / arranger Gary St.Germain wanted to be Ringo Starr when he grew up.That didn’t come to pass (being Ringo or growing up), so he became an elementary music teacher. After attending CSU Fullerton and CSU San Bernardino (BA, MA, Dr. Pepper, Magna Too Loud), Gary’s teaching style developed into a combination of Mr. Holland and Mr. Kotter.

Playing drums in garage bands through junior high and high school, the highlight of Gary’s career to that point was opening for Strawberry Alarm Clock at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino with his band Touch in 1970. There was a huge crowd of almost 50 people in attendance!

Outside of school, Gary has composed radio jingles and currently performs with the Taiko Center of Los Angeles playing Japanese taiko drums, touring Japan and performing throughout out the US. He can be heard performing on the soundtracks for the video games Jade Empire, StrangleHold and the movie Battleship. The hit single Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas also features his taiko playing. TCLA opened for Yoko Ono and the Yellow Magic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011. Gary was thrilled to be able to perform on the same stage that once featured The Beatles and Cannibal & the Headhunters.

Read More

Director, Benjamin Perez

Benjamin Perez, Director, Eastside HeartbeatsBenjamin Perez (Director) originated the role of Hal Fisher in the acclaimed and sold-out 2016 production of EASTSIDE HEARTBEATS. He went on to cover the role of Carlos Ramirez in the May 2016 extension. In 2015, he played “Senator Max Evergreen” in the national tour of NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, with original direction and choreography by Kathleen Marshall. Previously, he played “Kevin Rosario” on the 2nd national tour of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS, with direction by HAMILTON creatives Thomas Kail, Alex Lacamoire and Andy Blankenbuehler. Last year, he won a “Scenie” and 9 Inland Theater League awards for his production of IN THE HEIGHTS, which he directed at the Candlelight Pavilion in Claremont.

Regional roles include: Merelli in LEND ME A TENOR, Ziegfeld in FUNNY GIRL, and Rooster in ANNIE. He has worked with such distinguished writer/directors as Ed Begley, Jr., Ray Cooney, and Jules Aaron. He is currently playing “Kevin Rosario” as well as serving as dialect coach for PCPA’s fall production of IN THE HEIGHTS in Santa Maria/Solvang. Born in Montebello and raised in Hacienda Heights, this LA native is proud of his Latino roots and is eager to share some of the incredible stories that have risen out of his culture and his glorious Ciudad de Los Angeles. As always, for my dear Papa, Moe, who gave me his love and passion for music.

Read More

When Tom Met James

Tom Waldman, writer, and James Holvay, music composer, Eastside HeartbeatsWaldman was also the creator and host of Rock and Roll Stories, a 60-minute interview show that ran on KLCS, the only PBS station in Los Angeles, from 2013 to 2015.  In 2014, he had as his guest, James Holvay, who wrote  ”Kind of a Drag,” “Don’t You Care” and other national hits for the Buckinghams in 1967.

The two became fast friends, and a few weeks later, Tom asked James if he would be interested in writing original songs for Eastside Heartbeats.  James said yes, and the show was a go.

Here’s a video of Tom’s interview with James:


Read More