Ruben appeared on my radar, many moons ago, when I came across his book "The Old Barrio Guide To Low Rider Music" - an amazing read on California's Low Rider history and it's connection with soul "oldies" music, deeply embedded into the Chicano culture. In that world this man is one of the standing authorities or as my friends over there would say "El mero-mero". Had the chance to meet Ruben in Bamberg, Germany at the Soulshakers Weekender in 2016 where he was programmed to play 2 sets; One on Saturday night in the big "Northern" room, trying his hand at more uptempo tunes from his playbox, in order to please the dancers, and one "bar-session" on late Sunday afternoon, going into the night, where Ruben could do what he is best at... dropping those "firme rolas". The latter was pure magic. Anyone who attended can confirm there was an indescribable energy in that space. Right there and then, if not already, he converted more than a few of the hardcore European heads to the sweeter side of soul music. I remember the homie Diggin' Dave and myself looking at each other, eyes saying "It's on now". We had a chat with Ruben afterwards. Such a friendly, warm and down-to-earth guy. Can't possibly have a deep 'n sweet collectors series without Ruben featuring thus very grateful he took some time out to answer a few questions. When Ruben speaks about records he doesn't just mention artist names and song titles; he adds catalogue numbers as well. A true collector...
Can you introduce yourself and highlight some of your many accomplishments?
Ruben Molina. On Instagram I go by @flacosoul but I just prefer my name. I try to keep evolving and regenerating myself every so often so here are a few phases. (1998) wrote “The Old Barrio Guide To Low Rider Music” I did the whole book myself from design to self-publishing. (2005) wrote “Chicano Soul: Recordings and History of an American Culture” again design, artwork, layout and publishing myself (2005) Co-Produced “Chicano Rock” for PBS, (2006) co-produced a segment on the soul music of San Antonio, Texas for “Latin Music USA.” That was for Experience Music Project in Seattle. (2005) started promoting live shows for the Chicano community in Los Angeles. I kept the shows small and personal and featuring artist like: Joe Bataan, Barbara Mason, Tommy Turner, Frankie Karl, Jimmy Conwell, the Young Hearts, the original WAR band, Archie Bell and many more. (2010) co-founder of the “Southern Soul Spinners record collective for 8 years they were the best DJ events in Southern California. (2018) wrote and co-produced the documentary “Soul Of Lincoln Heights.”
All works that come highly recommended. How did you get started with collecting records?
I started buying records when I was about twelve-years-old. That was in 1965. I was just starting middle-school and Los Angeles’ soul station KGFJ had me hooked. Back then you would tune in to the time when the DeeJay would play the new up-and-coming records then on the weekend catch the bus to the record store buy the ones you liked. Really, I grew up on soul music and we went through all of societies changes together and I guess that’s why I never stopped.
Amazing! Do you remember your very first record?
The first record I bought was “Animal Tracks” by the Animals. The Rolling Stones and the Animals were my introduction to soul, R&B and blues music. I think the first soul record I bought was Tamla 54113 “Ooo Baby Baby” by the Miracles. I must have had a crush on some girl.
Can you name one song that moves you deeply and hits you straight in the heart?
There are so many and for so many topics ranging from social disparity, love, sadness, happiness and so on but the one that always chokes me up is Sam Cooke’s 1964 classic “Change Is Gonna Come” RCA (47-8486).
A specific record you get especially melancholy by, that reminds you of a certain period in life?
Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston’s I Want You ‘Round Tamla 54104 from 1964. I came up through Los Angeles gang culture and in the mid-seventy’s friends started getting killed and that’s the song we would dedicate to the fallen.
Do you know how many records you own and any special method in keeping it all organised?
I own about 4,000 records; soul 45’s are organized alphabetically, I have about 300 Chicano Soul 45’s most from Texas and Los Angeles, About 400 1950’s group harmony and rhythm & blues, 300 78rpm’s, mostly blues and rhythm & blues. And around 600 LP’s classic rock, jazz, soul, Latin. The rest are soul 45’s.
Any records you are done with and can never put on again? Played to death?
None. If I put them in my collection it’s because I liked them and I make it a point to never over play a record and try never to sell a record out of my collection.
What's ranking number one on your wants list nowadays?
The Camaros “Lover Come Back” on Dar-Cha. Absolutely fell in love with this hard to get Detroit record. Hopefully I will get a copy one day.
How do you source your records? Do you still go out in the field or shop online? Any specific sentiments towards either?
Back in the seventies we had no choice and I was in the field - the record swaps, record and second had shops. Nowadays I hate record stores; they basically put junk on the floor and all of the good stuff goes on Ebay. Other than a few shop’s with mindful owners it’s a waste of time going into a record Store. Online you have a larger selection to choose from besides Ebay and Discogs there are many sellers to interconnect with in a develop a nice network. I still enjoy the record swap meets they are nice to meet and talk with other collectors.
Collecting deep and sweet soul records has become quite popular globally over the last years while before it was limited to certain regions or subcultures. How do you feel about that? Your crew, the Southern Soul Spinners, especially influenced a lot of people I talk to. What do you think about the state of the scene?
I go back to the mid-seventies and back then doo-wop was the most sought after and most expensive. Then it was the Northern Soul collectors who at the time were mostly Brits. Sweet Soul records were as cheap as $1 a piece but that music fit the Southern California lowrider scene perfectly so that’s what we went after. Now it’s become the thing and I do have mixed feelings about that. It is nice to know people are diggin’ what we’ve been into for years but on the other hand it also drives up the price of records and in some ways has watered down the rarity of that sweet soul sound.
You must have many but can you share one story related to your record collecting?
Several years ago, I was digging through a box of records and I came across a copy of Aztlan's “Should I Take You Home”. The seller says $1, I pay and turn around and someone standing over me says I’ll give you $400 for that. I didn’t sell it.
What are top 10 records you always keep in heavy rotation?
Icemen "My Girl She’s A Fox" Samar 111
James Wayne & Soul Soothers "My Last Letter" Key-Lan 90880
Ronnie West "Lil Woman" Goins 111
Aztlan "Should I Take You Home" Aztlan 8234
Jhamels "I’ve Cried" Igloo 219
Spiedels "Dream Girl" Providence 418
Royal Chessmen- Beggin’ You Custom Fidelity
Webs "It’s So Hard To Break A Habit" Popside 4595
Sugar Ray Roll "My Heart and I (Don’t Believe It)" Beauty 2140
Attractions "Think Back" June Bug 698
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