by Tony Matias
November 2002

It all started way before 1960. I was playing a yukelele then and got my interest to this home-made bass. Remember the Jeep's reserve gas tank. I am sure you have seen this and a wooden pole that was driven through the handle of that tank and a single key to pull a string from the old venetian blind and in those those days we started to emulate iyung mga songs by Harry Bellafonte, such as "Day-O". Most of the combos or early groups then started in the 60s era and lots of them were impacted by Jimmy Rogers' tunes then.

Little did it last when the first instrumental music of the Ventures, then the Shadows were first heard in the Philippiness. So the combo I'd joined in 1960 and the Electrmoniacs were the first to ever played in a TV gig called Jam Session which we started & ended the show with a title tune "Bulldog". That is why "parang langgam" (or ants) na biglang ang daming combo" formed in a short period of time. There were many groups, albeit great groups, then which I couldn't remember them all.

In those days how it all started was quite impressive and very ingenious for Pinoy musicians. Except for RJ and later the Technicolors, most of the bands were using local Philippine-made instruments. Even the Electromaniacs with there Gibson guitars behind the shadow were sounds produced by a local made amplifiers, so much so even Rey Sanchez of the Wonderers (later became Celtics) with his Fender Stratocaster was using a local amp. The only imported instruments would be a six-string guitar either in pinkies red or yellow "Hofner" and the electric bass guitar was imported from Japan made by Guyatone. You are lucky if you had those imported instruments but a lot of combos prefer the local made.

That is precisely why each record made locally then during instrumental time each had a distinct sound and people that buys records instantly know who was playing not only the style playing but the sound as well.

Before N. Fajardo came into the picture, electric guitars are made sa Kamagon, Malate at Vito Cruz area and as then Lumanog was into acoustics. It is a place only good known bands or combos would have there guitars made. And I do remember the house basement of the old guy who makes them with all the bare wooden body of a guitar hanging with names of groups who ordered them. The paint was primitive also but it was much better because, he combined the use of house varnishes with automobiles paint and that's why most guitars wouldn't pave the way for those belt scratch.

In those days, you would observed a cloth wrap around a guitar strap because the guitar weighs so heavy "at alam mo naman ang kahoy natin na ubod ng bigat". Shortly later, there are numbers of homemade shops that caters to making electric guitars and mostly around either Singalong or parts of Manila.

The guitar electronic pickups were made by few musicians themselves, but in any event we had it altered by guys in Libertad at Pasay City where you see those little shops that repairs electric fan, they would recoiled these pickups and it was nothing more than guessing game. So with a little twigging, we could make tonky sound or heavy mellow sound. The amps are locally-made and much of the story that others wouldn't know was most amps then after playing - you grab the string tight because they had such humming sound after or in some other case a radio station would kick in and it could pickup.

During the early early days, the best amp ever was locally-made and I know every band then was envied with the amps the "Phantoms" were using. Till today they kept this a secret!

The picks we used then since Fender picks were like goldmine, we used bango picks that was so big and many times cut it to 2 pieces. If ever you have an authentic Fender picks not only you would keep them in your pocket but in your wallet. There are an abundance of local picks for electric but it was hard as a steel.

The amazing thing was the strings we used then, as the Rookies band which I was a member, we have settled with our Mandorias string. In fact music stores then only sell either mandorias or other local Pinoy string instruments we had. And the early years once would noticed that the strings get rusted easily. In our case, we were the only group in the Philippines that started using a thumb pick because our lead guitarist was already playing Chet Atkins-style.

The electronic echo system was provably the most important gear for combo at that time. Everyone had a "SwissEchorec" and lots of reserve Akai blank tapes. This echo system had a circulating blank tape and that tells you why we need extra blank tapes because the tape broke quite oftenly.

The most demanding guitar then was Fender Jaguar even Ramon Jacinto would always play his white Jaguar. Or if not it was a Jazzmaster or Stratocaster but in all, everyone were fakes or imitation local-made guitars and amps, like I said with the exception of R Jacinto or the Technicolors.

Our music center which would be compared to Hollywood then was Raon Street crisscrossing Avenida Rizal and Quiapo. Here where most every guitar players would hang around and it's the place where you buy combo-band instruments as well as 45 or 78 vinyl records. A store (not sure if Fajardo music store) usually would hire a combo for a fee of P50-P150 pesos and performed live in front of his store just to get the attraction of managers or band members. In one instance, we got the privilege to perform for the whole straight afternoon.

There was one sad incident that happened in one concert which we couldn't perform, one of us was down with a flu then. But we took part as an audience and I think either Jose Mari Chan or Eddie Mercado hosted the show. It was the only concert where a band or combo was a victim of a dirty joke. Sadly the victim, in particular was Orly and his band the Ramrods, were playing live in front of an audience when someone pulled the electric plug. Nothing of this ever happened before or after and it was that day that everyone of us felt how bad the joke was. As we get along well then, no fights, everyone knew each other by nicknames.

If there was the Jam Session and later there was Night Owl. Night Owl was something no one feels or like to be seen playing. The rumors then that it was day off "ng mga tsimay" (house maids). One could even attest Lito Gorospe had a segment of awarding Miss Night Owl part of beauty contest ba! Together with Rey Sanhez, we normally played a little over an hour and past that show ended airing, Rey Sanhez would twig his amp with the reverb pitch so high like 8 and intensity set to about 6 and so he was known for his sound. The Wonderers then became the Celtics later in which Rey started the show intro tune as well as the end tune of "Moondawg". Pero ang hindi alam ng lahat he could never perform that song completely as we found out later. He did adlibs the mid section of the song. Rey's favorite tune to play was "Bombora". Guess no one remembers that tune, right?

I do not know much the later years pero one wouldn't believe that in our time there was already a big part of what is known as Jamming or jam. There was one Lady known for this and she was the mother of Rudy Imperial and the Playboys. Every now and then she herself or would instruct her son Rudy to drive around town to recruit band or combo players for the night to perform in parties using members from all different bands. There was an animosity later but anyway, I remember well when I was invited over many times and then "doon makita mo halo-halo kami" about 7 guys and we just talked to each other who plays who or what with the exception of a drummer. So in a certain gig, I would play lead then rhythm or bass and so as with the rest of this guys.... all unrehearsed. Kaya every one were buddies and so easy to find replacement when one group would loose one member.

And the first ever combo or band that ever had a gig outside PI was an all girl combo "Pollettes", pare ang gaganda, class, at mga sexy! They were touring way ahead even before everybody thought of it, the time sina Bobby Gonsalez was performing live sa Japan. No one even knows that part of the real Ventures gig in there Japan tour it was always one real Pinoy who goes with them and he would talk in Japanese Language as he introduce the next and next tune the group are to play and his name is Bing Conception.

The early sixties it became a fad playing with the continental polo shirt or continental pants, you know with slits in them all over ba but later it was the water repelant pants.

When vocals became part of a band's music, it was the Beyers-brand microphones that became so famous then and surely if one band is using a Shure-brand mic you seem to be the target of laughters. But it was in this era, good brand instruments were in used and real straight Fender or US made gears were utilized. The echo system was no more Echoerec but rather "Binson Echo" which was used for vocal sound system. Tube amps were no longer used, "Bandmaster" amps were switch to "Dual Showman Fender Amp". Organs started of with Vox Organ which was introduced by the Dave Clark Five but it was the Zombies that gave the Pinoy combos to start using Farfisa Delux Organ.

Raon Street no longer caters for combos and it became a haven for pick-up cheap girls that had push there way from Gandara, Escolta.

Well, some few years back it was Jam Session that first to start this TV gig and the first to die and Bobby Ng the host wasn't seen after. Then Dance-O-Rama and followed by NightOwl. The trial show Quite a Party at a pilot Channel 10 TV station only lasted also a few months. But I think Nineteeners was the only one left which I am not so sure.

Motown was in hit that Fender Jaguar lead guitar was highly favored by later. Sundowners was the best of having the best bass amp system during the Motown period which they have a Precision bass guitar hooked to a V50 tube Vox amplifier even the band was not into motown songs.

The instrumental era of 1960 it was the 19 inch. Premier drums that are sought so much and with Combos that are well finance like the Technicolors, Ludwig With Sparkling base body was the best of best. In the instrumental era we used a lot of Vibrato, or some calls it as "Tail piece" or maybe better known as "Tremolo". This was scratch out during after the British Invasion and we were now using quite a lot of Fuzz tone which was the starting point of distortion sound or a little WahWah.

But during the British invasion when a lot of British hit songs were all over, we tried using twelve strings as well and mostly this are back to home or local made Pinoy electric guitars. The straight mike stand became obsolete in the mid 60's and what had been in used was the famous boom stand nothing more deserving but get that good bongga look ba. The so much difference that is obvious as well are the amplifiers being set in a tilt position and when vocals were now part of the gig the amps where set vertically. The drum seat in the instrumental era are box seat that drums kits and spare sticks are kept and a drummer a little shorter gets boosted up by old books or paddings. The later years when it was nothing more than vocals the drum seat is made like bicycle seat adjustable to one's desire.

The best Beatle boots was a chuka boots with side to side black garter and later it was the famous Glenmore Zipper pig skin beatle boots. I met Joey Smith before he became Downbeats, through some source later we learned of the best ever beatle boots and of course this was years after the instrumental years. The name of the place was "The Rosa Boots" and there base manufacturing shop was along Hi-way-54 later Edsa almost next to Forbes Park, the place actually makes horse riding boots.

This is just a short story for what I remember at this time but I will surely keep PCR posted.

Fr: Tony Matias (USA)

PS. Nineteeners was emceed by Ed Finland

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