Thirty years ago, I was walking home one evening from my job in the Richmond to my rooming house in the Haight. I came to Watusi Records, about a block from where I lived, and decided to kill half an hour riffling through the dollar bins.
About ten minutes in, I pulled out a horribly, crudely designed LP with the title “Pachuco,” by Jonny Chingas, issued by Billionaire Records in L.A. The cover was simply off white with the title, Jonny’s name, and a picture of an old vehicle from maybe 1910. Then I looked at the type on the license plate, saw the words “Se me paro,” and said to myself, “Holy shit! I gotta have this!”
I went home, put it on, and wasn’t disappointed. “Se me paro” was a doo-wop Spanglish tune every bit as explicit as the title suggested (“I have a hard on”). Most of the other tunes (in English, Spanish, and Spanglish) were cool, too. Mostly very funny, and pretty good musically.
I was working as the buyer at The Record Factory, the second biggest record store in SF at the time (after Tower), and the next day immediately went through the catalogs hoping to order more Chingas. But nada. Absolutemente nada.
Ten or twelve years later, right after the Internet came in, I ran a search for Jonny Chingas on Alta Vista, and got one hit, from a little indie record company in East L.A. I sent them a message asking, basically, “Hey man, you got any more Chingas records?” They sent me a one-sentence reply (here reproduced exactly–it’s burned into my memory): “Hey man, I think the vato’s dead.”
And he was. I later heard he was killed in a drive-by. Another victim of the vicious, stupid, pointless war on poor people masquerading as “the war on drugs.”
Fortunately, there are a few videos on youtube of Jonny performing, and also a greatest hits CD, featuring one of the funniest songs ever recorded (“El corrido del bato loco”–it’s even clean, but all in Spanish), “Se me paro,” and probably the filthiest song ever recorded in any language, “La Dolencia.” (again in Spanish).
Here at Pinche Blues Band, Jonny is still one of our influences.
Several years ago, I wrote to Gustavo Arrellano (“Ask a Mexican”) asking him to do a column on Jonny. He did, and added some significant info–including Jonny’s real name, Raúl Garcia. Check it out when you have a chance. Gustavo and his column are very cool. But, for now, look up Jonny Chingas on youtube and check out the CD. You won’t be disappointed.