jives-2Text: Daniel Salas

El Paso was deep in the Chicano Soul mix of the 60s with soul sensations the Jives. While East Texas had Sunny and Little Joe, the Jives held it down hard in the West with their funky soul. Lead singer Charlie Miller was just 11 years old when he started his band here in El Paso back in 1964 with his brothers Donnie and Albert, Uncle Tony Gomez and cousins Rudy and Barney Magaña. Gomez played the bass and was the oldest member of the group at 32 (the rest of the group were 15 and 16). It all began with a living room jam session. In the book Chicano Soul by Ruben Molina, Gomez describes the beginning, “The only one’s that had any musical training were Rudy and Barney.” The group played rhythm and blues and covered soul standards performing at house parties and local dances. Soon they developed their own solid sound and were ready to take on the El Paso Drifters (another Chicano Soul band from El Paso) at the battle of the bands at Bowie High School.

The Jives eventually got signed to legendary San Antonio label Tear Drop Records home to Sunny and the Sunliners, Los Stardusters and Rudy and his Reno Bops. The band managed to record several LPs on the label which were a mix of songs sung in English and Spanish, mixing in the soul with polkas for the Tejano crowd. Their debut album Espera Un Tantito includes a phenomenal funky instrumental called El Segundo, a song about Segundo Barrio. The Jives also gave birth to several 45s that include the undeniably essential El Paso soul record, 1969’s Love/ I Want You.

It’s hard to believe this is The Jives first release because of its effortless groove and intensity. The format is the soul standard for a 45, one side has the slow groover and the other side has the floor mover. The A-side song Love grooves slowly like a proper oldie on a sunny afternoon on your weekend trip to the Bronco swap meet. It fits perfectly in between classic songs like Sad Girl by Thee Midniters or Smile Now Cry Later by Sunny and the Sunliners with its gentle vocals and horns. The B-side I Want You is an upbeat get up off your seat funk monster. It has a sweaty dance floor beat with the horns way out front blaring nice and loud. This track is more James Brown than anything, a popular influence in the El Paso Sound many of the bands in the area were leaning towards. The Jives are now underground favorites making it on some of those obscure record blogs and popular among local record hounds. They never gained the same popularity as East Texas bands did, but the tracks they produced are solid as gold and can turn a dance floor into a frenzied mob.

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