Eddie Torres

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Eddie Torres was an important and, in some senses, controversial manager in the 1960s Mexican-American rock scene in East Los Angeles. He managed the biggest and best band to emerge from that scene, Thee…
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Eddie Torres was an important and, in some senses, controversial manager in the 1960s Mexican-American rock scene in East Los Angeles. He managed the biggest and best band to emerge from that scene, Thee Midniters, and also ran the label, Whittier, on which the majority of their records appeared. The band did not get the national success they wanted, however, and split with Torres by the end of the '60s, by which time the band was in the process of fragmenting on its own.

Torres got into rock & roll by promoting dances in East Los Angeles. At one of those he came across the Gentiles, who changed their name to Thee Midniters. With numerous personnel changes, they evolved into the best band in the community, blending soul, British Invasion rock, blues, Latin jazz, and more. Torres was important to Thee Midniters' success in the region by booking them prolifically (often for two or three shows a night) and providing the impetus for the band to start writing original material, to the point of threatening not to take them into the studio unless they came up with something while he went out for a meal. The band did, writing "Love Special Delivery," one of their best singles.

What the band, in retrospect, claimed Torres was not good at was breaking them beyond Southern California. In particular, they feel that he turned down a chance for Thee Midniters to record with RCA because he wanted to keep them for his own label, Whittier. Several of the musicians in Thee Midniters have gone on record opining that Torres wanted to build a successful independent record company modeled on what Herb Alpert had achieved with A&M, using Thee Midniters as the core act. These bandmembers, however, feel that this hurt the group by denying them their biggest chance for international exposure via a contract with a record label. Torres, for his part, said in the book Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock'n'Roll from Southern California that RCA wanted Thee Midniters' second album given to it without paying advance money or production costs. He added that RCA wanted the group to write original material, and that he felt the group was not capable of delivering on that score.

Torres helped write Thee Midniters' most psychedelic song, "Breakfast on the Grass," a 1967 single which sounded somewhat like the Strawberry Alarm Clock. He also influenced their music on record by having them record a couple of singles aligned with the Chicano movement, "The Ballad of Cesar Chavez" and "Chicano Power," although the band have since said that they resented being pressured to record these political statements. For "Chicano Power" (which was actually for the most part an instrumental), he even formed a new label, La Raza ("The Race"), with a peace sign on the label, and a new publishing company, White Fence Music, named after the East L.A. gang White Fence.

Torres and Thee Midniters parted ways at the end of the '60s, and the group only lasted a little longer as a recording entity anyway. He continued to work in music as a promoter for local Chicano musicians, such as Mark Guerrero, and groups from Mexico and Central America.