Author Topic: God's Children reissue featuring Little Willie G.  (Read 344 times)

Offline njwolf

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God's Children reissue featuring Little Willie G.
« on: February 16, 2018, 04:44:20 pm »
 I thought this press release about a forthcoming reissue of music by the East Los Angeles group God's Children could be of interest to some fans of Los Lobos. It was sent to me by a publicist I know:
 Music Is The Answer: The Complete Collection is the first full length release of long lost 1971 sessions from the East-L.A. supergroup God's Children. Featuring eight never-before-issued tracks as well as six from long out of print 45's, Music Is The Answer is being issued by Minky Records on CD April 13 with a strictly limited edition on brown vinyl for this April 21, Record Store Day. "With God's Children, we thought we could speak to the people out there who were hurting, experiencing life and its battles" states the outfit's co-founder "Little Willie G." Garcia. It was a lofty mission, higher than simply acquiring luxury items or celebrity stature, but in 1969, it was a reasonable aim. While the Beatles called out "Revolution" and Sly and the Family Stone asked listeners to "Stand!" music, as a generation's dominant artistic expression, was not only raising the questions, it was providing inspiration, information, and answers. For young Latinos Willie Garcia, Ray Jimenez, and Lydia Amescua - the main voices in God's Children-the door was abierto, and the time was ahora for a mixed-gender, multi-racial Southern Californian combo to stake their claim in rock 'n' soul redemption.
  God's Children was conceived of by Garcia and "Lil' Ray" Jimenez who had already experienced great regional success with Thee Midniters, crowned princes of the Eastside Los Angeles music scene. Swinging their repertoire from the evolving rock standards, to wild and loose garage jams and back to traditional barrio, they cast the mold for brown-eyed soul and helped define West Coast low rider music in the early '60s, post-Ritchie Valens-era of Mexican-American music. The sound would come to be known as "Chicano rock" and ultimately Latino rock 'n' roll, the kind practiced by second, third and fourth generation groups with diverse make-ups, but ultimately rooted in the fully alive culture of Spanish-speaking California.
  Thee Midniters eventually ran its course and Lil' Ray left to pursue his songwriting dreams under the aegis of Seymour Stein, landing a staff position at Columbia Records in New York. Little Willie G. stayed on as singer for Thee Midniters, but eventually he too grew frustrated with the inherent limitations of a rock band. "We weren't evolving. There was so much going on around us and I just personally felt, in order to grow, I needed to move on and start experimenting with other musicians," he explains.
 Ray's family never adjusted to city life and he inevitably brought them back to California and began performing in the Central Valley which is where Willie tracked him down. After several telephone conversations both agreed to work together on a new project, adding a teenage girl with a big voice, Lydia Amescua - to be known as Amesqua in the group -- to the mix. It was she who christened the band on a car ride between LA and Bakersfield, "Because, well, we're all God's Children," she said.
  Inspired by the work of artists diverse as Johnny Rivers and Stevie Wonder and seasons of festivals like Monterey Pop and Woodstock that introduced heavy showmanship to the stage, God's Children began to blend doo wop, funk, and choreography into their new brand of soulful sound. "There seemed to be a freedom of expression and I wanted to experiment with that," says Little Willie G. He and Lil' Ray envisioned a new morning for a Latino-led rock band that would not only be mixed gender but bi-cultural, adding two more women- Fawn and Stacy Rymal.
 A local music entrepreneur Eddie Davis booked studio time for God's Children and arranged for a 40-piece orchestra to be present at the session. Soon, the band was signed to the UNI label and sent into the studio for more recording. This time Phil Spector's famed Wrecking Crew assisted at the sessions: Bassist Carol Kaye, guitarist David T. Walker, drummer Paul Humphrey, percussionist Victor Feldman and Leon Russell on piano.
 At the time, two singles came out on Uni, but soon, dealing with label hierarchy disillusioned the band members who went their separate ways. Garcia would join the progressive Latino rockers Malo and eventually contribute to recordings by Ry Cooder, Los Lobos and others. Till just recently Amescua continued performing live under the name Lydia Verdugo and Jimenez still regularly works at his L.A. studio.
 As you listen to these holy relics of Latino Rock and think about the circumstances and conditions under which they were made, you may also hear the sound of right now: Elation and heartbreak, pride of celebration and the ceremonies of Spanish-speaking Californians, living their lives out loud, contributing to the evolution of Chicano rock from Santana and El Chicano, to the Zeros and Ozomatli.

Offline rovalle

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Re: God's Children reissue featuring Little Willie G.
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2018, 10:31:15 am »
thanks for this...as an Eastsider I'm very interested in this...
2nd groucho-priest encounter, nyc hotel lobby
priest "aren't you groucho marx?"
groucho "yes i am"
priest "i want to thank you for all the joy you've put in the world"
groucho "and i want to thank you for all the joy you've taken out of it"

Offline hellpups

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Re: God's Children reissue featuring Little Willie G.
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2018, 11:21:46 am »
Hmmmm, brown vinyl...
Hellpups

With one shoe on
And one shoe lost
Stands a wounded man
Who just laughs it off

       -Angels With Dirty Faces

Offline njwolf

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Re: God's Children reissue featuring Little Willie G.
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2018, 06:19:29 pm »
Here are the liner notes for this release:
 LINER NOTES TO God's Children, Music Is The Answer:

"Music is the answer," sang Little Willie G., and he delivered his words with the root fire and conviction of someone who needed the cure.
 
"With God's Children, we thought we could speak to the people out there who were hurting, experiencing life and its battles." It was a lofty mission, higher than simply acquiring luxury items or celebrity stature, but in 1969, it was a reasonable aim. While the Beatles called out "Revolution" and Sly and the Family Stone asked listeners to "Stand!," music, as a generation's dominant artistic expression, was not only raising the questions, it was providing inspiration, information, and answers. For young Latinos Willie Garcia, Ray Jimenez, and Lydia Amescua-the main voices in God's Children-the door was abierto, and the time was ahora for a mixed-gender, multi-racial Southern Californian combo to stake their claim in rock'n'soul redemption.
 
Like the Gospels themselves, the God's Children story, from the group's genesis to its revelation, varies in its telling, though it's largely agreed that Little Willie G. and Lil' Ray were bound for glory as crowned princes of the Eastside music scene. Growing out of Salesian and Garfield High School's car clubs and musical combos to become rock'n'roll sensations, Thee Midniters, their revue-styled show, charged up by guitar and horn rhythms, boiled with intensity.
 
Swinging their repertoire from the evolving rock standards "Land of a Thousand Dances" and "Whittier Blvd.," to wild and loose garage jams-"Jump Jive and Harmonize" and "Love Special Delivery"- and back to traditional barrio balladry like "Sad Girl," they cast the mold for brown-eyed soul and helped define West Coast low rider music in the early '60s, post-Ritchie Valens-era of Mexican-American music. The sound would come to be known as Chicano rock and ultimately Latino rock 'n' roll, the kind practiced by second, third and fourth generation groups with diverse make-ups, but ultimately rooted in the fully alive culture of Spanish-speaking California.
 
Lil' Ray was originally from Delano, the Central Valley town known as the seat of the United Farm Workers union. He began his career at age seven, an Elvis imitator who cut his first record at 11 (Big Jay McNeely's "There is Something on Your Mind" for the Dore label), and was spotted by bandleader Johnny Otis, who knew talent on the rise when he saw it. Relocating from Delano to LA, in high school he met his band mates, but they couldn't hold a talent as big as Lil' Ray for long, and after a few short years, he left Thee Midniters to pursue his songwriting dreams. Under the aegis of Seymour Stein, he landed at Columbia Records in New York, though city life didn't agree with his wife and young family. Prioritizing their needs, Lil' Ray returned to California with few prospects, though "The one thing I knew for sure I could do was sing," he says. Settling in Bakersfield, he got together a band and pursued a showman's life in and around the Central Valley, Los Angeles, and as far afield as Las Vegas.
 
Native Angeleno Little Willie G. stayed on as singer for Thee Midniters, but eventually he too grew frustrated with the inherent limitations of a rock band. "We weren't evolving. There was so much going on around us and I just personally felt, in order to grow, I needed to move on and start experimenting with other musicians," he explains. While he envisioned working with someone like Lil' Ray again, he also worked on his own as a singer-songwriter. "The whole idea musically is to have a platform where you can work your creativity, see your ideas manifest,, and hone the craft," he says. Tailoring his act to fit into the scenes at the Troubadour and the Ash Grove, Little Willie G. became a folk rocker, opening shows for his friend Luis Valdez and Teatro Campesino, the farm workers theater group. Fuelled by consciousness-raising efforts and the growing empowerment of the Chicano community, Little Willie G. expanded his repertoire to reflect his interest in material with cultural and traditional cachet. With Thee Midniters, he'd already recorded the topical "The Ballad of Cesar Chavez;" as a solo act for the Gordo label, he brought home the message on the soul pride side, "Brown Baby" (backed with the lush "Lonely Lullaby"). Between gigs, he busied himself creatively with friends Alan Flores and Steve Gutierrez, likeminded musicians, who were also looking to bust out of the barrio and into the big-time. He remembered Lil' Ray as "an incredible entertainer, composer and singer," and after several telephone conversations both agreed to work together on a new project. They drove down to the Wagon Wheel in Oxnard, a roadhouse once situated literally at the junction of freeway and farmland, to view and listen to the prospects for the new band. They liked what they saw and heard. Lil' Ray brought in a teenage girl with a big voice, Lydia Amescua, raised up on the Latino vocal stylings of the day, including those of Thee Midniters. "They called me Tiger," said Amescua (her birth name was originally Amezcua). Hanging out at the Topper Club in El Monte, when she was far too young to even be in the place, "I used to see Willie G. cruising down the boulevard in his Cadillac," she remembers. A local estrellita in her own right, Amescua was the first-ever Latina to be titled Miss Montebello: It was she who christened the band on a car ride between LA and Bakersfield, "Because, well, we're all God's Children," she said, and there was no arguing with her on that. She could hold her own beside the talents of Little Willie G. and Lil' Ray.
 
Practicing duets and rehearsing the ensemble tirelessly, "We worked with the band to really get it tight and explore our options," explains Little Willie G. Inspired by the work of artists diverse as Johnny Rivers and Stevie Wonder and seasons of festivals like Monterey Pop and Woodstock that introduced heavy showmanship to the stage, God's Children began to blend doo wop, funk, and choreography into their new brand of soulful sound. "There seemed to be a freedom of expression and I wanted to experiment with that," says Little Willie G. He and Lil' Ray envisioned a new morning for a Latino-led rock band that would not only be mixed gender but bi-cultural: Adding two more women-a redhead, Fawn and a blonde, Stacy-"Visually, we looked cool," says Lil' Ray. "We all had long hair, the long hair of the time. So it was three girls and two guys," for a grand total of five singers-a little like "a Latino 5th Dimension or a Three Dog Night with female singers," as noted by the band.
 
"The plan was to come back to LA and start rehearsing and getting a fan base," explains Little Willie G. "In between, we did some recordings for Eddie Davis," says Lil' Ray. Depending on who you talk to, this the period during which the troubles for God's Children began...
 
Davis was a local music entrepreneur: Among other ventures he'd released Little Willie G.'s solo recordings on his Gordo label and would ultimately launch the Rampart imprint. While he may've meant well, booking young, bi-racial bands into his multiple Southland ballrooms, he was first and foremost a businessman. Showing up at one of Little Willie G.'s recording sessions with a guitar and flute arrangement for the singer to consider, the merits of the song, "Hey, Does Somebody Care," were apparent, but Little Willie G. had a different idea for its execution. He asked Davis, "How about we do 'Hey, Does Somebody Care' as God's Children, and you allow me to infuse into it some of what we're doing in Bakersfield?"
 
Davis went for la gran idea, big time: He immediately booked the studio time and arranged for a 40-piece orchestra to be present at the session. Conducted by arranger Arthur Freeman whose credits range from Johnny Mathis and Liberace to Swamp Dogg and Solomon Burke, the players breezed through "Hey Does Somebody Care" in one take. "The whole orchestra stood and applauded," remembers Little Willie G. "Freeman said, 'I've never witnessed anything like this.'"
 
"That experience and the song really heightened my aspirations to keep working. It was like a gift that fell into my lap," says Little Willie G. With the new band up and running, it was time for Davis to work some of his Hollywood magic on God's Children: First he got "Hey, Does Somebody Care" picked up as the theme song for the obscure TV series Matt Lincoln, starring Vince Edwards, which ran one season from 1970-1971. "It was about a guy who helped runaways and people on drugs," remembers Little Willie G., and thematically it was a good fit for the group given its handle and vision to uplift people.
 
The band was also signed to the UNI label and sent into the studio for more recording. This time Phil Spector's famed Wrecking Crew assisted at the sessions: Bassist Carol Kaye, guitarist David T. Walker, drummer Paul Humphrey, percussionist Victor Feldman and Leon Russell on piano. They cut "If You Ever Go Away," written especially for Lydia Amescua by Lil' Ray. "It was supposed to be like Bacharach, in a showy style," he explains, and they did a couple of takes of Little Willie G.'s anthem, "Music Is The Answer," which serves as this collection's centerpiece. Recording as the God's Children Band, Lil' Ray contributed "It Don't Make No Difference" and "I Just Wish," and Ray and Willie paired up on "Dream." "I don't remember much about that song. Everyone tells me I wrote it," says Lil' Ray. "I had a lot of kids by then, real busy running the band, trying to be a father and husband at the time..."
 
Little Willie G. and Amescua gave "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," and Billy Preston's inspirational "That's The Way God Planned It," the old school try, accompanied by the session players, but the resulting tracks revealed a gap between the record company's desires for God's Children and what Little Willie G. and Lil' Ray were trying to achieve as artists.
 
"When you listen to 'Put Your Head on My Shoulder' and 'That's The Way God Planned It,' you get the idea how they were trying to showcase us," says Little Willie G., bemused but mercifully not bitter. "Who knows what the corporate mogul is thinking, but the artistry got lost in the mix."
 
Lil' Ray concurs. "Our vision deteriorated," he says, "But the vocal style is still there-you can hear it."
 
"They tried to paint us into a corner," says Little Willie G. of the suits on the label side. "They didn't get what we were trying to do. They wanted us to dress a certain way, they wanted to promote us a certain way. We tried to be as cooperative as possible but after awhile we had to say, 'This isn't really us.' A lot of the material they were bringing didn't really resonate with us and our friends, our fan base and followers," he says. "The cards began to fall, and not in our favor."
 
"There was a lot of potential. It wasn't like we didn't try," explains Lil' Ray. "Things got in the way...drugs will do that...plus I had responsibilities as a parent." Caught in a cultural and generational gap, at a time when modes of performing had shifted away from vocal groups to self-contained singing and songwriting rock bands, God's Children were out of time.
 
Once again, Little Willie G. and Lil' Ray parted ways, while Amescua and Little Willie G. kept the act going, appearing in clubs. One night after a show at Santa Monica Civic by the Chicano rock band Malo, the party raged on at a gig at the Kabuki in Eagle Rock where Little Willie G. was singing. "Malo dug the energy of the band so much and came up and started jamming with us," remembered Little Willie G. And just like that, he joined Malo in San Francisco and sang lead on the Ascension album, though soon after he notoriously lost his way. Confronting his own hurts and life battles, Little Willie G. walked through hell, though he never stopped believing. Eventually he found his way back toward a little piece of heaven on earth and became a minister in the Victory Outreach church. He remains a lifelong musician with a mandate to sing, contributing to records by Ry Cooder, Los Lobos and an all-star tribute to Doug Sahm. "My wife loves me, I love my wife, my life...those successes can't be measured...God's been good to me," he says.
 
Lydia Amescua continued to spread good works and words through song: Until very recently you could find her most any night of the week performing in the San Gabriel Valley as Lydia Verdugo. And Lil' Ray also retains an active musical life in his LA studio where he shows up daily for a dose of song. While God's Children didn't make it in the way American culture perceives success as a rock band, as individuals, they shine their lights through love of family and friends, and in a shared culture and community where music still provides answers.
 
As you listen to these holy relics of Latino Rock and think about the circumstances and conditions under which they were made by pioneering Chicano musicians in a changing world, in changing times, you may also hear the sound of right now: Elation and heartbreak, pride of celebration and the ceremonies of Spanish-speaking Californians, living their lives out loud. The vocals, oh, the vocals, and the assemblage of musical elements, recording styles and musicianship were visionary in their way, the whole package contributing to the evolution of Chicano rock from Santana and El Chicano, to the Zeros and Ozomatli.
 
"There was a time we were untouchable," says Amescua. "There was no one else like us. There was only one God's Children."
 
May their victory hymns reach beyond Southern California and ring throughout the entire state, nation and into the world now, where the next generation of brown innovators await their turn at the table. Viva God's Children. Music is still and always shall be the answer.
 
- DENISE SULLIVAN
Coastal California, 2016