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Review: The Mixtures, Stompin’ at the Rainbow

The ole groundhog’s probably going to see his shadow [ed: it didn’t happen!] what with the snow and coldness. Let’s warm up with some good rock and roll dance tunes.

The Mixtures
Stompin at the Rainbow [holy smokes, it’s on vinyl!]
[Minky Records (2010)]

Based in Oxnard, California, a stone’s throw from Los Angeles, The Mixtures, whose members were Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American, were one of the first fully-integrated racial groups to play the rock and roll circuit on the West Coast back in the early 1960’s.

This six-man band had a reputation for blasting wild party and dancehall music until the wee hours in clubs throughout the area, and this compilation of the Mixtures on Minky Records features their one ‘live’ album (recorded at the Rainbow Gardens night club) and six singles (A and B sides) including dance-rock cult faves like “Olive Oyl,” “Tiki,” “Chinese Checkers” and “Sen-Sa-Shun.” Backing up a variety of traveling performers like Roy Orbison, Lou Rawls, Frankie Avalon and Chris Montez helped the Mixtures grow and develop as musicians and performers, and they soon had a solid reputation as the ultimate party machine. Lengthy, wailing instrumental jams like “Peter Gunn,” “Turkey Time” and “One Degree North” got the crowd rocking and rollin’, and when they dimmed the lights for couples to slow dance, the Mixtures could churn out growling bluesy numbers like “St. James Infirmary” or heartbreak torch songs like “So Fine.” Even popular contemporary surf-rock instrumentals like “Surfers Stomp” and classic love songs like “Besame Mucho” found their way into the Mixtures’ set list.

Versatility was key to the success of the group, and the Mixtures had it all in spades. Of special interest to trivia experts is the appearance on this compilation of a young Bob Eubanks (‘The Newlywed Game”) as host and announcer for the band and a very young Wally Heider (premier sound technician) who engineered the live recordings on an Ampex 3-track.

Sad to say, even with their growing popularity and quality of their music, The Mixtures never seemed to have the good luck, or right connections, to break out of the shifting California club scene to become a national act. Poor record distribution and hard-feelings among band members also contributed to the demise of the group. The Mixtures officially called it quits in 1967, right before the San Francisco Sound and psychedelic vibrations made the 2-minute instrumental dance number a thing of the past. But their legacy and claim-to-fame as groundbreaking performers and musicians lives on in this collection of swingin’ and stompin’ party music that can still shake down the walls of any frat house or blow the roof off of any hip nightclub.

—TJ McGrath (Woodbridge, CT)

[ed: We showed this video in a newsfeed a while back, but here it is again:]

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