The Schmooze

Monday Music: Jewish, Japanese and Mexican Tunes Mix in LA

If you know where to look, there’s a lot of culture in Los Angeles: music, literature, visual art, food. And much of it is gratis. Grand Performances, a concert series that focuses on the cultural diversity of LA, often provides free shows — like “A Night at the Phillips Music Company,” on August 27, which celebrated the vibrant legacy of a bygone store and the ethnic mix of its neighborhood, Boyle Heights.

From the 1930s to the 1980s, the Phillips Music Company sold appliances, instruments and sheet music. It also was a kind of community space, where local Jews, Japanese-Americans and Mexican-Americans mingled. In the record racks, you could find R&B, Yiddish songs, and mariachi. Future members of Los Lobos hung around the store. William Garcia, aka soul singer Little Willie G., bought his first guitar at Phillips. (I haven’t been able to verify this, but reportedly Willie G.’s first band was called “The Gentiles,” after a Jewish member’s father said that he didn’t like his son playing music with “those gentiles.”)

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Monday Music: Jewish, Japanese and Mexican Tunes Mix in LA

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