Spiced-Up Soul: Local Music Vets Pay Faithful Tribute to San Antonio’s Westside Sound

click to enlarge Spiced-Up Soul: Local Music Vets Pay Faithful Tribute to San Antonio’s Westside Sound
Juan A. Martinez
Like many of his San Antonio musical contemporaries, 49-year-old guitarist Eddie Hernandez started out as a metalhead, building his chops studying AC/DC, Iron Maiden and KISS.

While he was aware of the Westside Sound — a San Antonio-birthed mix of R&B, soul and early rock ’n’ roll with Latin influences — he considered it another generation’s music.

But after discovering records released on bygone local labels like Teardrop, Clown and Cobra through his sideline as a club DJ, Hernandez developed an appreciation for the music’s artistry and history. The ’50s- and ’60s-era bands the releases documented — Sunny & the Sunliners, the Royal Jesters and the Dell-Kings — carried an irresistible wave of retro cool.

“After a while, I was thinking, ‘Man, this music is so cool, and it’s taken off so well on the DJ scene,’ and I was like, ‘I need to get a band together to cover this,’” he said. “No offense to my Austin friends, but I told myself I’d be damned if an Austin band is going to do it before a San Antonio guy does.”

And that’s how Eddie and the Valiants was born.

Hernandez’s two-year-old soul and R&B big band features not only a brass section but triple harmony singers in matching jackets, keeping a feel authentic to the period. To that end, it also features 70-year-old Little Lee Parilla on keyboards, whose ’60s group The Laveers had a #1 hit representing the Westside Sound.

“We couldn’t relate to The Beach Boys and that situation going on, but Jackie Wilson, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Bobby Darin — he was a hip white boy,” Parilla said of his early influences. “The ‘Highway 90 Connection’ we called it, between here and New Orleans and especially passing through Beaumont and Lake Charles. The music we liked seemed to be coming from there.”

The sound Parilla likes to call “Chicano Soul” gained worldwide admiration, allowing some local players to take their music to Las Vegas, England and places even further away. Groups like such as the Texas Tornados and the Westside Horns also helped resurrect its popularity in the ’90s. However, that ended with the untimely deaths of bandmembers Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender and Randy Garibay.

Hernandez said he sees the Valiants as torchbearers for the style, paying tribute to both San Antonio’s pioneering soul legends and the black doo-wop and R&B artists who inspired them.

While the Westside Sound’s heyday has long since passed, it still commands a cult following in places as far away as Japan, Europe and Australia, Hernandez said. But, for now, Eddie and the Valiants are fine keeping it a San Antonio secret, strictly playing the local nightclub scene.

“You listen to these old Royal Jesters records and these old Sunny Ozuna records, it was soul, it was R&B, but the San Antonio musicians gave it that little bit of a Latin flair because of their style and gave that extra spice,” Hernandez said. “That little extra ingredient made it sound San Antonio and South Texas.”

Upcoming Eddie and the Valiants Shows
Free, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, November 10, King William Park, 131 King William St.

$5, 9:30 p.m., November 21, (Regular third-Thursday residency), Luna Bar & Music Lounge, 6740 San Pedro Ave., lunalive.com.

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