Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gloria Becker with Lalo Guerrero - Sixteen Pounds (Housewife's Lament) (circa 1956)

When Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero passed away at age 88 in 2005, he had already been officially recognized as a US national treasure.

In the 1940's he was the first to bring Mexican-Spanish language and slang to American swing music and R&B.

But in fact, throughout his long and varied career, he always performed many different styles of music, from stirring Mexican folk to jump boogie woogie and rock & roll, and he was also very adept at pop music parodies.

Outside of those who are familiar with the full range of his work, he was most famous for his mid-1950's parody of 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett', which he turned into 'Pancho Lopez'.

Merle Travis first recorded his song, 'Sixteen Tons' in 1947, but it was the 1955 cover version by Tennessee Ernie Ford that became an insanely popular hit.

It would appear that
Gloria Becker's presence on this record may have occured only because Lalo Guerrero needed a woman's voice for this 'housewife's lament' parody version to work.
(Though he does give himself one spoken interjection)

The only clue I've found so far relating to background information on Ms. Becker is from a small anecdote appearing in Skip Heller's article,
'The Lalo Guerrero Story', originally printed in 'Cool And Strange' Magazine. (click link for article)

It makes reference to a story Lalo tells from 1972, in which he had made a phone call to 'his friend Gloria Becker', who was then a theatrical booking agent in Palm Springs, California.

As to the B-side of the record, Ms. Becker sings the schmaltzy 'Adios To Mexico City', a song Lalo had previously recorded himself. Let's call her performance unspectacular and leave it at that.

A couple of Lalo links: There's an interesting-looking documentary floating around film festivals and PBS - - 'Lalo Guerrero, the Original Chicano'.

Here's a link to a 'preview' clip over at YouTube.
- - And here's a link to the website for the film.

Listen to: Gloria Becker with Lalo Guerrero and the Don Ralke Quintet - Sixteen Pounds (Housewife's Lament) (Real label 45, circa 1956)

(click for audio)

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