For all of the searching, digging, scrimping, saving and listening that Rambo Salinas and his crew of 7” scourers have done in their lifetimes, the wealth of obscure knowledge collected puts the local trio, a quintet if you include their satellite members in Oakland and Houston, in the same company as some of history’s finest folklorists. Much like John and Alan Lomax, who had the ears and foresight to record Jelly Roll Morton, Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly; Harry Smith and his Anthology of American Folk Music; or Arhoolie Records’ Chris Strachwitz, who has been instrumental in the vast dissemination of legends like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Flaco Jiménez, the members of Alamo City Soul Club have browsed ’til their fingers blistered for the songs that, as Salinas says, belong back here “at home,” often dropping several hundred dollars on a single coveted piece of wax.
The obsessed collective of Salinas, Eddie “Plata” Hernandez, Hector Gallegos, Jeff Blaggard (Oakland) and Alex LaRotta (Houston) have spent enough time in stuffy storage units and little-known shops studying and seeking the country’s most underappreciated artists to give any doctoral student a run for their research money.
Salinas, who was born and raised in Alice, Texas and spent 15 years in Minneapolis, six of which he DJed a soul night called “Hot Pants,” decided four years ago that he’d had it with the cold and “decided to just quit my job and come up here and just get really into Chicano records.” And so he did.
“I started DJing at Saluté because Eddie let me in on his own bring-your- own-vinyl night,” explains Salinas – a fellow “head” extends a hand to help another respected musicologist, a spirit that Salinas wishes more admirers of the group’s sounds shared, forsaking their fear or apprehension to ask about what exactly ACSC is spinning. True to the educational intent of a musicologist, the group is always showcasing travelling collectors and playing shows headlined by area legends like Archie Bell and Ernie Garibay, seeking to turn on those who may not know about the icons of yesteryear. “I feel like some people don’t like us because maybe they think we’re elitists … about music, but we’re really not like that. I would like more people to ask questions. Like, if people are curious, fucking ask us, that’s what we’re here for … We’re like our own little library.”
Like the aforementioned musicologists, the Lomaxes, Smith and Strachwitz, Salinas also has plans to develop a vinyl library on the city’s west side where folks can come and listen to the music that was made by San Antonio and the region’s numerous bands and artists. From the rancheras and boleros of norteño and conjunto to the backbeat-heavy Chicano soul and R&B, capable of morphing into Tejano with the drop off a drumstick and a James Brown-inspired shout, heard in one of Salinas’ favorite go-to tracks Latin Breed’s “Si Yo Pudiera,” many of the country’s little-known legends will be on display in the library’s stacks of wax.
“I just want people to learn and kind of take it in and ask questions, y’know? … We’re the Indiana Jones, we go look for that shit, we find that shit, we bring it back home … A ‘Smile Now, Cry Later’ cover belongs here in San Antonio. That’s where it needs to be played … These are becoming … these are fossils, these don’t exist everywhere, not everyone can have them anymore. And just like those blankets and that pottery and the Mayans and all that shit, it’s ours and we gotta keep it as much as we can here.”
Like a rare first edition of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea that finds its way into the hands of a Cuban fisherman with a penchant for classic literature or a 70mm reel of Psycho that is picked up for a song at an estate sale by an impoverished radio-television- film student, the audiophiles of ACSC have done all the heavy lifting, the bin browsing and shop searching to find these diamonds in the rough and bring them back to the city and area from whence they came, years later but right on time. Come see what’s spinning.