Conformism was the rule for Mexican rock in the 60s: the biggest bands were the ones who got to play on TV shows under the shelter of the big record companies of the era: Orfeón, RCA Victor, Columbia and more. Most of the musicians in these bands lacked any musical knowledge. Having seen some Elvis movie they thought that the only thing that was needed in order to be like Scotty Moore was a guitar around the neck. Those who actually bothered to get to know what was beyond the landscape of Rock and entered the swamps of jazz and blues were the exception to this rule. One of the bands that stood apart in those years, due to their musical proficiency, were Rabbits and Carrots. Salvador Agüero “Rabito” had been drinking from those sources ever since the 1930s. His father was a percussionist for Miguel Lerdo de Tejada’s Orquesta Típica, which included some blues and rag time numbers in their repertoire.
Salvador started getting immersed in percussion and quickly became not only one of the best percussionists of Mexico but also one of the most serious and trustworthy ones. These qualities helped him play with the best musicians hitting Mexico in the 50s and 60s: Carlos Lyra, Dave Brubeck, Joao Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Sammy Davis Jr. He was the solo artist in the legendary bongo show by Pérez Prado, recorded in Mexico but published in the U.S. by United Artists, and he also worked with the man of sonorama, Juan Garcia Esquivel. Meanwhile, he also taught music lessons and encouraged his brothers to follow his footsteps convincing them of the virtues of deep musical study. Of these brothers, Luis learned to play guitar and Félix became interested in drums –the latter became so enthusiastic he soon thereafter left to study in NYC, standing out among the jazz musicians of the metropolis. He was spotted playing with Paul Chambers or Charlie Haden and substituting Jack deJohnette in some recordings. By the end of the 60s he returned to Mexico and started working as a studio musician for the Musart record company, backing their juvenile stars. In 1968, realizing how sad this panorama was for music, he convinced his brothers to join him in a band under the aegis of Memo Acosta, Musart’s art director, who decided to use the nickname of the elder brother, “Rabito” (from Disney’s “Freer Rabbit”), to name the band Rabbits & Carrots. The Agüero bros. had the intention of making accessible music that was truly influenced by the roots of black music, making instrumental covers of the most popular soul songs.
Nephews Roberto Agüero (bass) and Sergio Herrera Agüero (saxophone) joined the project along with Ramón Flores (trumpet), Enrique Orozco (organ) and Ramón Negrete, a companion of Félix in NYC better known as Ray Black – a saxophonist so virtuous that he was the substitute for none other than John Coltrane when the master could not play. In those times only traditional rock acts were called “groups,” when brass and percussion sections entered the band, they were called “bands.” Rabbits and Carrots was thus one of the first “bands” from Mexico City. They entered the Musart studios and in just a few hours finished the recording an LP, which would be called “Latin Soul” and which included one song of their own: “Las 4 Culturas,” a song about the recent killing of students at the Plaza de las 3 Culturas, in Tlatelolco D.F. – the ‘fourth culture’ being that of repression. The arrangements for this album were made by Nacho Rosales, and orchestra director funded by Musart and friend of the “rabitos,” as the Agüeros were known in the business. The backing vocals were recorded by the famous studio singers the Zavala Brothers. The record was poorly promoted and a very few copies were released, with no reissue whatsoever. Salvador, the elder brother, left the band claiming apathy for the rock scene and its undisciplined way of life, going back to the unpopular jazz circles. He would later say that what he wanted with Rabbits and Carrots was to make a little money since in those years jazz didn’t pay enough to support his already large family.
The Rabbits immediately began playing the chaotic Mexico City nightclub scene, joining Brazilian names such as Pery Ribeiro or Julie Janeiro and groups such as Tamba 4, Luiz Eça y la Familia Sagrada or The Gimmicks from Sweden. The singer Max joined the band, lasting just a few months and recording the vocals for the 4-song EP released by Musart in 1971. After him came the black New Yorker, Dolores “Lolita” Smith, and even the famous pin-up and violin player Olga Breeskin auditioned to join the band.
Rabbits and Carrots was together as a band until the mid-seventies, playing nightclubs and mingling with other bands of the times such as Bandido, La División del Norte, Luz y Fuerza, Tequila, Peace and Love or Soul Masters. The Agüero brothers still work as jazz and studio musicians in Mexico, while Ramón Negrete headed back to the U.S.
CARLOS ICAZA (TROPICAZA)