One of the most sought after and rare records to come out of El Paso is the legendary Steve Crosno Day July 9th 1967 Recorded Live at the El Paso Coliseum double LP. On this day, seven of the top notch R&B and soul bands from El Paso and Las Cruces came together for a massive party along with 4,000 people (to a local event!). The event was put together by local media personality Bernard Tanchester to celebrate Steve Crosno’s involvements and contributions to El Paso.
Steve Crosno is the most popular radio DJ/personality from the El Paso and Las Cruces area; period. He became a pioneer in radio mixing together black R&B music and Chicano artist on his radio show on KELP in the 60’s. You could hear James Brown followed by a Sunny and the Sunliners song, along with the humorous chatter of Crosno which was part of his popularity; his witty personality. He also helped to expose local Chicano talent by having his own record label called Frogdeath, where El Paso’s own R&B/soul artist Sonny Powell and the Night Dreamers and Bobby and the Premiers released 7 inch singles that are highly sought after by soul enthusiast. Crosno also had his TV show “The Crosno Hop” which aired in the 60’s (where’s the Youtube videos at!) which was all the teenage rage in its time. Although he went on to do many more things in the years to come, his involvement in the community and the music scene in the 60’s was already huge and needed recognition. July 9th was ‘Steve Crosno Day’ as proclaimed by then Mayor Judson Williams, and the party went down at the El Paso Coliseum and oh yeah… it was recorded.
The sound of the album is Lo-Fi (it was recorded live one take!) and the bands are playing the songs fast paced but that’s what I like about it, the raw party vibe. The bands are comprised of large combos including a horn section. The overall sound of the double album (25 songs!) is gritty and echoing the faster R&B/soul sounds of James Brown or Otis Redding, with slow “couples only” ballads similar to Little Joe and the Latinaires. The bands include The Starliners, The El Paso Drifters, The Las Cruces Majestics, The Impressions, Gene Willis and the Aggregation, Bobby and the Premiers and Sonny Powell and The Night Dreamers.
The Starliners start things off with an instrumental before going into the mellow “The One That’s Hurtin’ is You”. The El Paso Drifters keep it tight with their fast paced sweatin’ version of “Sweet Soul Music” followed by a top notch version of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” sung by Martha Sifuentes. The Las Cruces Majestics get everyone involved in their song “Going Back to Miami” with the crowd singing back the lyrics as the horn section does some heavy work. All the bands have a classic “El Paso Sound” which was a term that was coined to describe the sound and vibe of the sound coming out of Crosno’s radio show, which included many of these artists in the mix.
The double LP is highly collectible and very expensive if you come across it online. Thanks to the folks at All That Music, you can buy the CD version they released a few years back (thanks!). What you get here is a historical and magical event captured in sound to be admired and cherished for what it is; El Pasoan’s coming together and being a part of a party that went down in the books. What was the after party like?
TXT: Daniel Salas