“We stand today on the edge of a new frontier-the frontier of the 1960s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils-a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.” ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Land Of A Thousand Dances
Joe Jaramillo was an original member of Cannibal & The Headhunters, a group of singers from East Los Angeles who are considered to the first Mexican American group to have a national hit record with “Land Of A Thousand Dances.” The odds of making a record that would become one of the most famous songs in rock history have got to be at least a million to one. And even less likely, is to find yourself sharing the bill with the Beatles on their legendary 1965 US tour.
Joe Jaramillo did just that. He was just a 15 year old kid living in a notorious Los Angeles housing project when “Yo Yo,” his brother Bobby “Rabbit” Jaramillo, and friend Richard “Scar” Lopez discovered they could create a special harmony when singing together. Within a short time, they teamed up with another local singer by the name of Frankie “Cannibal” Garcia to form the group that would soon be called Cannibal & The Headhunters, with Garcia as front man.
After passing an audition for local record executive Eddie Davis, Cannibal & The Headhunters signed to his Rampart Records. They were soon in the studio recording “Land Of A Thousand Dances,” a song co-written by Fats Domino which was already a local hit by another artist. But it was their version of the song that shot to Billboard’s top 30 in April of 1965, and they were fast becoming the pride of East LA. Before long, the group found themselves on the road sharing the stage with such superstars as the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Ben E. King, Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett and Tom Jones.
They were also invited to perform on “Hullabaloo,” a national rock ‘n roll variety show that counted Paul McCartney as one of its fans. The story goes that McCartney saw the boys on “Hullabaloo” and requested that manager Brian Epstein bring them on tour with the Beatles.
Jaramillo and the group were soon flying around the country playing before tens of thousands of screaming Beatles fans at each stop. That tour included the Beatles’ legendary Shea Stadium and Hollywood Bowl shows. Legend has it that the Headhunters were exciting the crowds so much, that Epstein asked their manager to have them ease up a bit on stage.
Back home after the tour, the guys started to make more records, but were never able to recapture the hysteria that sparked from that first huge hit. By 1967, the group had broken up, with the guys going their separate ways only to reunite on rare occasions. For “Yo Yo” that meant raising his wonderful family. Joe Jaramillo passed away as a result of liver disease on May 24, 2000 at the age of 52.
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John William Tuohy Land Of A Thousand Dances