In 2011, Wax Poetics Magazine #49 came through the post. It was a Latin inspired issue featuring an article on Lowrider Oldies and Sweet Soul sounds being the unofficial soundtrack to the Chicano experience. I was amazed with this read titled Bittersweet Harmony and marvelled at the heavily tattooed guys and girls in their oversized, creased-up Levi's® 501® jeans, white tees and Pendleton shirts talking about, and showcasing red hot, rare soul 45 singles as part of their culture. Amongst these heavyweight collectors was Sal, the youngest at the time - he was 17 or 18 but really passionate about the music and tradition that goes with it. Now, almost 10 years further, let's see what is up with Soulero Sal and elaborate on his story...
Introduce yourself, tell us a bit how you got started with collecting Soul records.
My name is Salvador Perez I'm from Salinas, California. I started collecting rare Sweet, Deep and Northern Soul back in 2010 when I was only 17 years of age. At that young age when I started collecting I got recognised by few Northern California, Bay Area collectors, twice or even three times my age. One that I admire for his knowledge and influencing me to collect is Art Cordova aka The Duke Of Soul from the North Side of San Jose, California. To this day homeboy holds the crown. He influenced myself to collect rare Sweet Soul 45's just like a lot of collectors up North and all over California, as well other states. Going back to YouTube in 2010' I recall seeing recordings Rare Soul 45's being spun on his YouTube page. Seeing and hearing these rare 45 singles really touched me to wanting to seek and wanting to do what he was doing. He really revolutionised the Soul Scene amongst the Chicanos ethnicity. It was a Soul game changer! Not to mention he was one of the individuals who gave me my "placaso" (Badge of Honor) to go by "Soulero Sal" together with another Bay Area Rare Soul Collector who I rather not mention. Them both being the original individuals who originated the term "Soulero". A Soulero is someone from Mexican ethnicity who grew up in the Varrio (Neighborhood) listening to "Oldies", collecting rare Sweet Soul 45's.
Yes, big shout out to The Duke. Waiting on you big man! Go on Sal...
I said it before and ill say it again. I got Influenced by my homeboy and mentor "The Dukestero Of Soul". Give credit where credit is due! That is something a lot of people can't do. It's something very difficult for Soul collectors and new Soul collectors to do that. Just keep it real to yourself and pay your dues to those who deserve it and influenced you! Another individual who said that term "Soulero" came with my persona and name was my older homeboy Freddie Orozco aka Big OSO from East Side Salinas. He started calling me Soulero Sal since he saw my hunger for the music and being the youngest Soul record collector at that time. Through the years of collecting rare Soul I was looked down and hated on for a lot of reasons but I only looked past those obstacles. I kept my ears lurking wanting to learn more about Soul music, artist, groups and labels. Later through the years I was able to obtain those lost, forgotten and now found rare jewels in my collection. Through out that decade I was able to compile 4 Rare Soul Compilations; "The Game of Love" being my first, "Tears From The Rain" my 2nd followed by "Soul Seekers Take One" and "Thee Archives Of Soul". I managed everything and put these compilations together all by myself. Lastly, in 2017 I put together my own online radio show on the Mixlr website/app by the name Soul STOMPIN'! were I showcased my personal rare Soul collection. Not bad for someone that was looked down on!
Always wondered where your signature "Soul STOMPIN'!" tag originated from. Can you dwell on that?
In 2014 I decided to create my own non-label - Soul STOMPIN'! A few people asked me what does Soul STOMPIN' mean? The term speaks for itself, to keep that Soul STOMPIN'! Play that Sweet Soul, Deep Soul, Norterhn Soul and Modern Soul music loud and alive for other generations who will admire and appreciate it like myself and my fellow Northern California homeboys and homegirl collectors and Sweet Soul enthusiasts.
What's the first record you ever got?
Some of the first Soul records I recall buying back in 2010, spending a pretty penny at that time being only 17 years of age was: Philadelphia Group Soul; The Ethics "That's The Way Love Goes" on the Wale label, "I've Learned My Lesson" by Donald Lee Richardson on the Soulville Label and Sterling (Bay Area Soul 45') "Come And Love Me/Hello Mr. Rain" on Sausalito Sound. All the rest came with Soul hunting, patience and the years...
Tell us a bit about more about your collection. How many do you own and do you categorise them in a special way?
I personally don't know how many Soul records I own. A few hundred maybe not too many. I don't have anything organized, the only ones I have sorted are my Bay Area Soul Records; everything else is the Archives Of $oul!
Can you name some songs that really move you? The one's that hit you straight in the heart?
The Soul STOMPERS You Mean?! Hands Down!! The United Sounds "It's All Over Baby" on Unite. Expensive Monster in my opinion, but every second is worth every dollar! The Rotations "When He Slowly Moves Away From You" on the Emandolynn label too. Hopefully one day I'll acquire an original copy of those two in my collection. The Trey J's "I Found It All In You" on Tee Gem Label. I'm glad to own a copy in excellent condition! Lastly, in the cheaper side with sick sounds The Impalas "What Should He Do" on the Bunky Label with the sweet flip "I Still Love You". One that hits the spine is "I'm Still Here" by The Notations from Chicago. What a tune! The intro sets it off till the last second! That's a few rare, high and expensive or more common with cheaper price tags, at the end they're all stunning Soul tunes!
Any records you get especially melancholy by, that remind you of a certain period of your life?
Teddie Morrow "Whats Your Sign" on Seibu. Back in 2011 I purchased about 12 Mint copies of it. Doing some research for a few months passed I was able to obtain his contact number and started calling Mr. Morrow, interviewing him through the phone and recording the conversation on my old audio recorder. T&E Corp "Mystical Lover" and "Is That Why?" by Image. I'm glad and fortunate to own two copies of this record in my collection. One day my ol' lady, our son and I decided to take a ride to the address shown on the label only to see the building where maybe once the group had band practice or recorded this record in. These three Sweet Soul records here remind me of home being that they are Monterey County records.
Any records you are done with, and can never put on again? Played to death?
None are done! All my Soul 45's and LP's will always be given that spin from time to time. After the long wait and patience of searching and finally filing it’s only fair every tune is not forgotten. Keep that Mighty Soul STOMPIN' for Life!
How about records you have been trying to find for years but still haven’t found? What’s on the wants list?
Pee Wee Chuck and Huey "I Know Where In Love" on Flagg Records
Soul Seekers "An Extraordinary Dream" on Soul Head
Joe Walker "We Need Each Other" on Sing Song
Charles E. Smith & The New Coronets Band "My Love Is True" on Preview Records
The Montecarlos "If You Leave" on Mel Records
Faye Hill And The Hill Sisters "You Came To Me In The Rain" on Blue Dolphin
Charisma "Don't Act Surprised" on Beauty
United Sounds "It's All Over Baby" on United
The Perfections "So Lonely" on Big "B"
East 14th Street Band "Now And Then" on One Way (Oakland, CA Soul)
Church "How Long" on Silas (E.P.A, CA Soul Groover)
Where do you prefer to get your records from? Do you search in the field (stores, flea markets, yard sales, etc.) or online? Or both?
I personally like online, private sales, eBay "Evil Bay", Discogs, Music Stack, or Soul Searching on different websites. It would be nice if GEMM.com was still around. A lot of records were found there back in the day when I started collecting. I also like going to local record shops from time to time, yard sales, thrift stores. I personally recall this one specific time while digging through crates at a record shop I found (10+) Mint- old stock copies of The Vanguards "Somebody Please/I Can't Use You Girl" on the Whiz label having no choice but to buying them all. That was a score that I will always remember while digging.
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? What do you think about the state of the scene?
I personally think the Soul Scene is changing rapidly. When I started collecting Rare Soul back in 2010 not to many where in the Soul game. It sure is growing quick! Some individuals do it for the love of Soul Music others see it as something "cool" and want to be a part or accepted into it, and that's why a lot jumped on the boat after 2012. Shout out to all fellow Northern California rare Soul collectors who've been doing it before the trend! To the Real McCoy Art Cordova "The Duke Of Soul" together with his dad Pat Cordova and Brother Jimmy "Poste Loco" Cordova from North Side SaN Jose, CA. Another Individual that deserves recognition for pushing and promoting the Soul scene up in Northern California/Bay Area is Jose Manuel Valle also know as “The Homeboy Mad” from East SaN Jose, CA. He originated a Soul Group by the name of “The Souleros Ball” being the first Northern California and all California Soul group/event where a few Rare Sweet Soul Collectors came together to spin and showcase there favorite Sweet Soul records to crowds who enjoyed the same sounds. Also, The Homeboy Saul Torres and Justin Torres both very knowledgeable collectors from San Francisco, CA - Gil Salazar and Robert Saavedra "Shorte" from San Jose, CA, my Soul Sister Margarita "SOULERA" and Ruben "Sleeps" V. from Fremont, CA. Over the pond respect to my Soul Brother "Kevstero" Kev Cane from Aycliffe Village North East England, Tyrone Adler from Munich Germany, Chris Huggins from Norfolk England, The Maestro Steve Green from Gloucester, UK. Lastly back to the states Matt Valentine from Indianapolis "Naptown", Indiana. Dale Burbank from the Hot Pants MPL’s Rare Soul Group in Minneapolis, Minnesota Pants. My most major respect to Bob Abrahamian for also influencing myself and sharing his Soul knowledge. Rest In Soul Heaven Boba! Your legacy will forever live on! Lastly big shout out and respect to you, Jakob, for what your doing and documenting Soul collector stories all around the globe. Keep that Mighty Soul STOMPIN'!
Thank you my friend. Share a cool story about anything related to your record collecting? Something that happened while looking for records or deejay’ing? An artist you met? A special moment? Can be anything…
At the age of 18 I've met Eddie Holman "Mr. Hey There Lonely Girl". I got his (I Love You) LP signed by him while we took some snaps. Also, same night I was fortunate to meet Barbara Mason "Ms. Yes, I'm Ready" she asked me for my address at the time. She then sent me a package with few pictures signed and her biography info. Recently, while being at work I was approached by a individual who has contact info of Vallejo, CA Project Soul members later to be recognised as Con Funk Shun. I’m hoping to hear back from him soon!
That's cool. Keep us in the loop. We always wrap it up with the top 10 current plays. What are yours?
Hunk Of Funk "Chicano Brother" on Infal
James West "When Is She Coming" on Strength
Morris Vaughn "Just One Look" on Gatetown
Terrells "Don't Believe" on Revolution
Vernon Griffin and Selika "Gee Girl" on Big Town
Jhamels "I've Cried" on Igloo
"Yea, Yea, Yea, Yea' by The Two Fellows on Mutt
"Thank You Baby" by The Singing Principal on Flick
The Ethics "That's The Way Love Goes" on Wale
Johnny Wyatt "Once Upon A Time" on Magnum
Frank J. Garcia Jr. "No I Don't Really Want It" on Astro Chemistry
Follow Soulero Sal on Instagram: