Thee Midniters: Jump, Jive and Harmonize + Hey Little Girl
From In Thee Midnite Hour (Norton, 2006)
Thee Midniters: That’s All
From Giants (Whittier, 1967). Also available on their Greatest Hits.
Since I’ve been in L.A., I’ve tried to start learning about the bands with local roots down here and one name that kept popping up was Thee Midniters. I quickly learned why: they were the Chicano rock n’ roll band of the 1960s – not just locally in their hometown of East L.A. but nationally too, with hits like “Whittier Blvd.” and a version of Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances.” Their exploits are well-chronicled in David Reyes and Tom Waldman’s history of Chicano rock, also entitled Land of 1000 Dances.
Silly me though…I’m so used to lowrider-type soul that I just assumed that an East L.A. band would be some suavecito tip but while the group certainly had their share of ballads, such as the mellow “That’s All”, they also had an impressive catalog built off of some beautifully rough, rollickin’ garage rock singles. I’m talking about some of the hardest sides I’ve heard in a while – fuzzed out, crunchy, but packing a wallop. Just listen to “Jump, Jive and Harmonize” and how vicious those opening guitar lines are from George Dominguez. Then you throw in George Salazar (or was it Danny Lamont?) attacking the drums while Little Willy G screams down the vocals.
If you dig that sound, the entire In the Midnite Hour disc collects those songs (no slow jams, just the ruff stuff) and what really impresses me isn’t just the energy of the singles but also how sophisticated many of the rhythm arrangements are. Especially with a song like “Hey Little Girl” (a previously unreleased single), I can hear all kinds of similarities to some of the ideas James Brown was working out on his songs like “Night Train.” These are just my initial impressions – I’ll have to dig deeper, maybe take myself to the aforementioned Whittier Blvd.
Here’s a bonus video of Little Willie G singing “That’s All””