The musical is inspired by the story of Cannibal and the Headhunters, a four-piece Latino rhythm and blues vocal group that opened for the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1965. Using that true life rock and roll fantasy as a hook, I wrote a largely fictional account of the vibrant East LA music scene of the mid-1960s.
What type of musical research did you do?
I have been writing about the Mexican-American rock scene in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. In 1998, David Reyes (one of the producers of this musical) and I published “Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock and Roll from Southern California,” still the definitive history from Ritchie Valens through Los Lobos. A second edition of the book, which is published by University of New Mexico Press, came out in 2009.
Was there a character or situation you wanted explore but didn’t make it in the show?
No. I was able to create characters and situations that I feel capture the story and the environment well.
What was it about music in the 60s that made it important to the Mexican-American community?
Rock and roll and soul music was the centerpiece of an incredibly energetic social scene for Mexican-American teens in Southern California during the 1960s. Every weekend across East LA at that time kids flocked to dances and concerts featuring local performers. For these teens, the music also represented a cultural and social rebellion against their parents, many of who had emigrated from Mexico.
What is your next upcoming project and do you have a web site or Facebook page people can log on to?
James Holvay, who composed nearly all of the songs for “Eastside Heartbeats,” and I are working on a new musical called “Aspirations.” The story involves a young African-American woman who moves from South Central Los Angeles to Orange County in 1966 to write the Great American Novel.