Latinos have been part of the scene all along. “If you look at the history of the genre, you will find that Latinas and Latinos have been die-hard rock & rollers since the early years,” Centino says. The most famous, of course, was Ritchie Valens, of “La Bamba” fame. Born in the San Fernando Valley and fond of the pompadour hairstyle, he shortened his name from Valenzuela to Valens to broaden his appeal. Centino calls him, along with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, a founder of rockabilly — hillbilly rock & roll, if you will. (Both Valens and Buddy Holly, while touring together, died in a plane crash in 1959.)
During the ’70s and ’80s, rockabilly went through a transformation; punk and goth influences changed it from the ’50s do-wop sound toward the faster-paced, horror movie-inspired subgenre of psychobilly, led by The Cramps and The Misfits. After a relative lull, rockabilly and psychobilly have gained speed in the L.A. area. Local indie Wild Records started in 2001 and features mostly Latino musicians. Its artists and others have performed at area rockabilly events including the Rumble on Pine Festival and Ink-N-Iron Festival in Long Beach — as well as venues like the Moose Lodge, the Five Star and the Airliner — before primarily Latino audiences.