|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Labels||Magic Circle, Del Fi, Linda, Dot, Prospect|
|Cannibal & the Headhunters, Thee Midnighters|
The Romancers were a Chicano rock band from the Eastside of Los Angeles, California who were active in the 1960s. They were one of the first East L.A. bands to record and paved the way for acts such as the Premiers and Cannibal & the Headhunters. The Romancers made two albums on Del-Fi Records and a string of singles for Eddie Davis' Linda label. Max Uballez was the group's leader, chief songwriter, and rhythm guitarist. He was involved in songwriting and production the Romancers' records, as well as other top Eastside bands.
The Romancers were founded in the early 1961 by Max Uballez in the largely Hispanic Lincoln Heights section of Eastside Los Angeles, California and their members attended Lincoln High School. The Romancers' manager was Billy Cardenas, and their name was inspired by posters and flyers promoting dances in the East L.A. area, which often read "Dance and Romance...this Saturday night." Max Uballez thought that seeing "Dance and Romance to The Romancers" would sound appealing on their flyers. The Romancers was the brand name that Max Uballez worked under. He did this because he was not interested in being a single artist. For live shows Max would embellish the group as needed members were ever changing free to come and go. Max Uballez built his band from a group of musicians he worked with in Lincoln heights. In the beginning The Romancer's were Max Uballez vocals and Rhythm Guitar, Richard Provincio Lead guitar and Sax, David Brill Drums and Manuel Rodriguez Bass. The Record companies had a different view and released "You'd Better" on Magic Circle Records as Max Uballez on Donna records they used Max Uballes dropping the "z" from his name. Max has always worked under this brand and claims by others leading The Romancers are just not true. With this group of musicians Max Uballez recorded. "You'd Better", "Rock Little Darlin'', "I Found a New Love" with Robert and Rey, "I'm Leaving It All Up To You" with the Heartbreakers. "Rock Little Darlin" was recorded in Cucamonga at Frank Zappa's and Paul Buffs studio. Max returned to Cucamonga to record "Cradle Rock" and "Everytime I See You" with the Heart Breakers. For this session Max used Frank Zappa on lead guitar. Max would change the Romancers band lineup depending on the project he was working on and who was available. In essence whoever played with Max was a Romancer. Frank Zappa was a Romancer for a day. For the "Slauson Shuffle" recording Max Changed the line up in search of a new sound. Max wanted a smooth almost jazz funk sax and a Freddy King telecaster sound and Cowbell to give it a Latin flavor. Max played Rhythm Guitar, Manuel Mosqueda Drums, Chris Pascual Bass, Armando Mora Sax and Andy Tesso on lead guitar. For live performances the band line up was ever changing. Max had a pool of musicians that he would pull from time to time. He used them as needed for gigs or recording. This rotation of musicians through the Romancers band became a boot camp for the East Side Sound. In 1961 Billy Cardenas and Max formed a partnership and created the name for the band.
Max formed The Romancerettes a girls club to promote dances featuring The Romancers. The Romancerettes were led by Max's girlfriend Linda they would be the promotional arm for the Romancers band. Their first dance and show was at the GiGi hall in Lincoln Heights the year was 1962. Little did they know...that this alliance intended to create work for them-selves? "Would set in motion a grass roots movement for bands in the barrios of East Los Angeles would evolve and grow into a network of layers that supported each other. This included musicians, youth social clubs, and community business owners (tailors, photographers, records stores) each contributing to the areas"."You'd Better", which got airplay at Los Angeles' KFWB, and so did "Rock Little Darling". Max Uballez opened the door airplay on KFWB and local Top 40 radio for the groups of East Los Angeles. They sometimes were promoted, as "Max Uballez or Maximillian and his Romancers Band", and the Romancers got so busy that they would sometimes split off into two groups to cover two different gigs. Max Uballez developed a style and a musical boot camp training an alternate Romancers band to cover other shows. Richard Provencio, Frankie Garcia, Billy Watson and Johnny Diaz became were the core alternate Romancers band. They would evolve into Rhythm Playboys. As other musicians flowed through the Romancers they absorbed Max's Romancer style and that would flow into other bands.
The release of "Rock Little Darlin'' on Donna records caused Max's legal problems and he was prohibited from recording as a vocalist for five years. Max approached Bob Keane about recording his band instrumentally. Bob Keane agreed to one four-hour recording session without ever reviewing the music. Max composed the Slauson Shuffle and All Aboard. For the "Slauson Shuffle" recording Max changed the bands line up. Max envisioned a smooth sax with a Freddy King telecaster and cowbell with his usual semi Latin feel. Max played Rhythm Guitar, Manuel Mosqueda Drums, Chris Pascual Bass, Armando Mora Sax and Andy Tesso on lead guitar. The band was so well rehearsed that they finished recording in less than a half hour. Bob turned to Max and said "what else you got kid". Every musician has what Max Uballez called warm up riffs like doing vocal scales. Max took the guys warm up riffs added a few bars and a couple of solos and they got credit as composers. Jimmy Meza of the Atlantics recalls working with Max Uballez on the recording of Beaver Shot a minor hit for the Atlantics in 1965, "I remember exactly where we recorded Beaver Shot. We went to a mansion up in Pomona and in one of the rooms they had all of this recording equipment. Well, Max (Uballez) made it up right there on the spot. He voiced out the parts for the bass player, then he had me follow him on the guitar, then he told the horns what to do. I swear he created it right there on the spot." Huggies Bunnys was a scale that Andy played to warm up Max expanded it and they had a track. All the musicians Max worked with were accustomed to him bringing in new music for gigs. He would hum their parts to them and they would play it that night. So this was not a stretch to do this in the studio. They were all great musicians. They recorded "Do The Slauson" in about four hours. Do the Slauson, and it was the first album released by an Eastside Band.
The 'Slauson Shuffle" was a local hit and would provide the template for "Farmer John". The album would prove to be influential on other East L.A. bands such as the Premiers, the Blendells, and others. The album featured a cover of "Patricia" by Perez Prado, and "Huggie's Bunnies", written by lead guitarist Andy Tesso. Tesso's guitar style would become influential with many players in East L.A. "Huggie's Bunnies," was named after Eastside disc jockey "Huggy Boy", and ti was later recorded by The Blendells and another East Los Angeles band the Ambertones. "Slauson Shuffle" was another standout track, whose chord structure provided the template for the Premier's hit record "Farmer John." It was named after the popular dance, "The Slauson", and it provided the band with a local hit.
The success of "Do the Slauson" prompted Del-Fi to follow it up with another instrumental album, Let's Do the Swim on their Selma label. The Swim was the name for another 1960s dance craze. As a result of The Romancers' success, other Chicano artists recorded for the Del Fi such as, the Heartbreakers, Ronnie & the Pomona Casuals, and the Sisters. The Romancers began to develop vocal groups as part of their live show, including the Heartbreakers and Sisters, the Slauson Brothers. In 1963, the Romancers backed the Heartbreakers on the song, "Every Time I See You", composed by the then-unknown Frank Zappa, joined by Zappa on lead guitar. Max Uballez became a major figure in East L.A. rock in the mid- to late- 1960s, writing songs (sometimes uncredited) for the Romancers, the Premiers, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and the Atlantics and co-produced the Romancers' Linda singles with Eddie Davis, as well as records by Little Ray, Cannibal & the Headhunters. With Davis Uballez arranged and co-produced Cannibal & the Headhunters' hit version of Chris Kenner's "Land of a Thousand Dances" which landed the group a spot on the Beatles' 1965 U.S. tour.
The Romancers began to record as the featured house band at the legendary El Monte Legion Stadium and had a falling out with their manager, Billy Cardenas, over the band's working with a certain promoter.  As a result of this situation, Max and Billy split and Max continued with The Romancers.  Andy Tesso and Armando Mora left with Billy and the rest of the band stayed with Max and continued their engagement.  The Romancers went on to work with Chuck Berry, Little Stevie Wonder, The Motown Review, Johnny Guitar Watson, The Four Seasons and more. The Romancers were spotted by Eddie Davis while doing a show at Rainbow Gardens in Pomona. In 1964 they began to recorded for one of Davis' labels, Linda Records named for Max's wife and were the first East L.A. band to work with Davis, who went on to record many other Eastside bands throughout the 1960s. The band would record a string of singles for the label. On these records, the Romancers began to use vocals. Their first single for the label was "Don't Let Her Go". In 1965 the followed it up with, "My Heart Cries", then later that year the pounding garage rocker "Love's the Thing".
Rampart Records Eddie Davis, the leading producer of Chicano rock and roll at that time, would come to rely on Max's creativity the way Berry Gordy relied on Smokey Robinson at Motown. Max produced and arranged Cannibal and the Headhunters famous recording of "Land of a 1000 Dances," complete with the "Na Na Na Na Na" opening. Andy Tesso joined the Mixtures, a multi-racial group from Oxnard, and worked with other groups, including a stint with Cannibal & the Headhunters. He toured with the Blendells and sang background on The Premiers' hit record, "Farmer John." In 1966 the Romancers released the single "She Give Me Love", followed by "She Took My Oldsmobile". Later that year Dot Records picked up two songs they had recorded at Linda, "The Smoke Rings" and Love's the Thing" and released them on a single, which also appeared on the Prospect label.
Max Uballez recently authored "Chuy de Cabra The Journey Home El Chupacabra"]. Was on the production team 2010 documentary "Chicano Rock!" the definitive documentary about the East LA music scene in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. His film work includes Boulevard Nights, Borderline and other films. Released New Cd "Max Prosperity" on Makz records and a new single Me and You I Do". Max also produced "No Esta Mal" by La Banda Skalavera on Makz records.  In 1965, while Andy Tesso was playing with Cannibal & the Headhunters, he was drafted and went to Vietnam. He left six weeks before Cannibal & the Headhunters' spot on the Beatles' tour. When Tesso returned from the army, he got married and became a California state plumbing contractor and retired from music. In 1995 Andy Tesso joined a re-formed lineup of Cannibal & the Headhunters and later played with the Tribal Rockers. In 2002, Tesso returned to Cannibal & the Headhunters and has been active with them since. In the early 1970s Max Uballez formed the band, Macondo, who recorded an album for Atlantic Records. He subsequently worked with younger Chicano artists such as Quetzal, Lysa Flores, and La Banda Skalavera. Max is now CEO of XELA-CO MEDIA, a music promotion and production company and lives in Nevada.
The Romancers' work has come to the attention of music enthusiasts. Eight of their singles are included on Varese Sarabande's 1999 four volume CD set, East Side Sound, Volumes 1 thru 4, which also includes recordings co-produced by Max Uballez for other Eastside bands. Two Romancers songs are included on The Eastside Sound CD issued by Dionysus Records in 1996. Their album, The Slauson Shuffle by The Romancers was re-issued in 1995. The Romancers were the first East L.A. Chicano band to record an album and were the main influence of the mid-sixties East L.A. sound.