The Armenta Brothers

Armenta Brothers

It was 1943. World War II was being fought and Franklin D. Roosevelt was our President. There was inflation in the United States and the New York Yankees had just won the World Series. While all of this was going on, in East Los Angeles, three brothers were getting together and changing music in their neighborhood forever.

Their parents, Manuel Sr. and Carmen Armenta knew that their three sons possessed great musical talent along with a love for music. They helped the boys get together and form a band called, “The Armenta Brothers”. They had no idea at the time that this band would take their sons on a 60+ year ride into music history, The brothers were Robert on piano, Steve on tenor sax, and Manuel, the bandleader for many years, on alto sax.

In 1953, Willie Armenta at the age of thirteen and in the seventh grade joined his brothers, Robert, Steve and Manuel in their tremendously popular band. They became a fifteen-piece band & began playing high schools, ballrooms & churches. The band became very popular because of their versatility in playing all styles of music.

Many years later, Robert's son George and Manuel’s son Marty joined their dad's and uncles on the bandstand. Many musicians contributed to the success of “The Armenta Brothers". One of the firsts to join them was their friend and neighbor Jesus "Chuy" Ramos on bass.

Some of the earlier vocalists were Robert Macias, the man that brought to life the Billy Eckstein recordings. Robert was known as "Flexie" in his younger days, but to the ladies as soon as he crooned, they swooned, Billieeeee. Richard "Dickie" Lorenzana, the little guy with the big talent. Dickie played piano, the vibraphone and could carry a tune without a bucket. Another who didn't need a bucket was Sal Chico. These guys were around for quite awhile. When some of the singers were in the service, a fellow by the name of Manny Ramos came and took over the singing chores until they returned home. Other musicians that were there in the beginning were Freddie Aguirre, Joe Pagone, Eddie Talamontes, and Bobby Zamora, all drummers. Another drummer, Elias Chico was a second-generation musician joining the brothers; he is the nephew of Sal Chico.

There's more don't go away. There was Marcos Cabuto, Dale Campell, Nick Escalante, Paul Lopez and Ray Cisneros on trumpet. Besides *Chuy" on bass they also had George Verdugo, Fernando Troncoso, Louie Sanchez, and Robert Portugal lending a hand every now and then. Bob Caro, another of the earlier performers, was also on alto sax. There were two more sax players, Danny Sanchez and Steve Armenta, one of the brothers. On piano was Billy Alswede followed by Karl Carrasco on keyboards. One of the longest standing members of the Armenta Brothers was Paul Castellanos a trombonist who was with the band for over 40 years.

The list of musicians seems endless as they had male and female performers alike. The ladies were Virginia Troncoso and Jocelyn Sarto on piano, Alice Guerrero on vocals, and most recently they had Pat Mejia on bass guitar and vocals and Jennie Tovar on vocals rounding out the ladies in the band.

Then of course there's Manuel on alto sax, who played everything thrown at him and then more. Robert (the original bandleader) could play the piano in his sleep. Steve Armenta, the oldest of the brothers, who to the delight of all, gave us his rendition of Vido Mussos "Come back to Sorrento" and of course there's Willie the man with the trumpet who also did vocals.

In the beginning of their career the Armenta Brothers played regularly at Our Lady of Lourdes for all the adult and teenage dances. Soon thereafter, they performed as the first house band at El Monte Legion Stadium. They provided the music for the performances of many of the most popular recording stars of the day like The Drifters, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly as well as many other performers at the Stadium.

The Armenta Brothers also played along side some of the biggest bands of that era including: Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Rene Touzet, Luis Alcaraz, Les Brown, Eddie Cano, Manny Lopez and Johnny Otis, to name but a few. Over the years, some of the locations where they played were the Zenda Ballroom, in downtown Los Angeles, the Angelus Hall in Boyle Heights, the Riverside Rancho in Los Angeles, Betty’s Barn in Baldwin Park, Harmony Park in Anaheim, Rainbow Gardens in Pomona and the Palladium in Hollywood. They traveled as far as San Francisco on the north to San Diego on the south and everywhere in between to play for different venues. They were regarded as one of the best, if not the best big band in E.L.A.

In 2003, at the request of the Mayor of El Monte, the band was asked to record a CD. The proceeds of the CD were to benefit La Historia Society of El Monte. The CD, “Lifetime Achievement, Memories of El Monte Legion Stadium” was the first CD ever recorded by the band. Another CD was later recorded titled, “Remember When”. These CDs were well received by fans of the Armenta Brothers. Many said the music brought back many good memories from days gone by.

Remember When by Armenta Brothers

For the past 60 plus years “The Armenta Brothers” have been playing their style of music for the listening and dancing pleasure of all their loyal fans. With the recording of their two CDs, “Lifetime Achievement, The Armenta Brothers, Memories of El Monte Legion Stadium”, and “Remember When” the sounds of “The Armenta Brothers” can now be heard forever.