Category Archives: Bell Gardens

The Cosmic Tones

The Cosmic Tones photo: Morris Ochoa, Vincent Hernandez, David Silva, Terry Williams and (kneeling) Alex Hernandez
The Cosmic Tones, from left: Morris Ochoa, Vincent Hernandez, David Silva, Terry Williams and (kneeling) Alex Hernandez

The Cosmic Tones came out of Bell Gardens, CA, the same town as the Nite Walkers. They cut one single for the Discovery label, “Gonna Build Me a Woman” / “Hold It”. Discovery later released a cool single by the Missing Links. Like the Missing Links, publishing was through Jarhill Pub. Co, (an amalgam R. Jarrard and James Hilton, who are credited on the Missing Links single).

Members of the Cosmic Tones were:

David Silva – lead guitar
Morris Ochoa – rhythm guitar
Terry Williams – rhythm guitar
Alex Hernandez – bass guitar
Vincent Hernandez – drums

Bass player Alex Hernandez sent me a photo of the group and told me about the Cosmic Tones:

My name is Alex Hernandez and I played bass in the Cosmic Tones in Bell Gardens, CA. I had wanted to play the guitar since I was about 5 years old. My uncle Chris asked me what song I wanted him to teach me and I said “La Bamba” by Richie Valens. He taught me this song and it was the start of my playing. When I was 13 I wanted to start a band so I started asking around and my friend Terry Williams was interested. He was 13 also and played rhythm guitar for us. My brother Vincent wanted to play drums, he was 14 years old.

We found David Silva who played lead guitar for us. He was a little older, he was 17 years old. We had a 5th addition in the band, Morris Ochoa and he was 14 then. He only stayed with us for about two months.

We all styled our hair back after ratting it up. We all used about a 1/2 can of Aqua Net hairspray before each play. After being together for about a month we had our first gig on Channel 34, a Mexican channel. We played an instrumental of “La Bamba” and it seemed to be a big hit.

We played songs such as “Whittier Blvd”, “My Girl”, “Land Of a Thousand Dances”. What a great time the ‘60s were. “Twist and Shout” was a favorite. We used to practice at any park that would let us, City of Commerce Park, Bell Gardens Park, Ford Park, and also at a park in Watts. We played at the junior high assemblies.

We also played in many battle of the bands and came in second at Ford Park out of around 12 groups. We played at the Cinnamon Cinder in Hollywood & at the Bob Hope telethon in Hollywood. We played at the Watts Festival and had a great time. We played at the White Front store in L.A. for two weeks after school to promote cerebal palsy research. We played at a teen club the Diamond Horseshoe in La Puenta, & for a CB club in Hidden Valley.

My Dad had us cut one 45 record and on side A was a song sung by my brother, “I’m Gonna Build Me A Woman” and side B was an original instrumental.

Our rival band in Bell Gardens was the Nite Walkers. They were a real good group and we all went to school together. We always tried to be better than them and they wanted to be better than us.

The group broke up after about two years and I started playing the upright bass in high school. I joined the Army for 8 years in 1971, My brother joined the Army in 1969 and went to Viet Nam.

We lost sight of David Silva, and Terry Williams holds a jam session up towards San Diego weekly. I don’t know where Morris Ochoa went, My brother retired with the railroad and now manages a trailer park.  We are all in our mid ‘60s now but I do know we still enjoy music every day. I retired with FedEx freight in 2013.

The last play I had was with my brother’s group the TCB Flash which is one of the best Elvis groups in southern CA. I sang and played four songs for New Years in 2016 at the Grove Theater in Upland CA. My songs were “House of the Rising Sun”, “Hang On Sloopy”, “Gloria” and “Wooly Bully”. Had a blast from the past and the audience seemed to really enjoy the show.

– Alex Hernandez, 2017

The Nite Walkers

The Nite Walkers, 1965: Rich Hernandez, Joe Stoddard, Ray Almonza and Robert Stoddard
The Nite Walkers, 1965. From left: Rich Hernandez, Joe Stoddard, Ray Almonza and Robert Stoddard,
with go-go dancer Linda Hernandez

The Nite Walkers Russell 45 Florence AveThe Nite Walkers cut two 45s at Russell Recording, a studio located (according to the liner notes to Teenage Shutdown vol. 6) above an air conditioning store in Downey, CA. Mop Top Mike tells me the studio basically disappeared when the owner skipped out without paying back rent.

All four songs they released are originals. Their first 45 has a cool guitar instrumental on the A-side, “Florence Ave”. The group yells an intro “Let’s meet at Al’s on Florence Avenue!”. It was backed with a dirge-like ballad “My Girl” (not the Miracles song by a long shot).

The Nite Walkers Russell 45 My GirlThe second 45 has “High Class”, the singer alternates between a menacing spoken mumble and an intense shouting, sometimes within the same line of verse. The band creates a gloomy background through a droning riff and rolling drums for most of the song’s three minutes. The backing vocals are straight out of “Gloria” but the verse seems to have some awareness of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, with the line “you’re gonna wake up one morning, you’re gonna start to cry, you’re gonna wonder why”.

The flip “You’ve Got Me” is another moody number, something similar to “My Girl” but it works better. I spent a lot of time with audio software taking out clicks from a bad scratch on the 45, but the result is excellent.

With no names or publishing on the label, it was nearly impossible to trace these guys so I thought we may never know the story of this group until Robert Stoddard contacted me:

The band was formed in 1964 I believe. Members are Richard Hernandez (bass), Ray Almonza (rhythm guitar), Joe Stoddard (lead guitar), and Robert Stoddard (drums). We were indeed from Bell Gardens and all songs are originals. What made this band unique at the time was their ages. I was 12 and the other three were 13.

The Nite Walkers Russell 45 High ClassMy drumming was a direct result of the music scene of the time. I beat on couch pillows with sticks for two years to “Pretty Woman” and Beatle tunes. Christmas of ’64 brought me a cocktail drum and Joe a cheap electric guitar and super small amp. Richard and Ray were aquaintances of Joe’s from Bell Gardens Junior High.

The slicked back look in the hair was Mom’s idea, you know how Moms are. The mop cut was about a year later with the British Invasion in full swing and all. The girl in the one pic is Richard’s little sister, she was our occasional go-go dancer, her name was Linda.

KCOP Countdown '65
We played mostly for school assemblies, grand openings of businesses, weddings. We used to play at a place in Hollywood called Pandora’s Box on Sunset and La Brea. Made a TV commercial in a topless bar. Came in 2nd place in the famous “Countdown ’65” battle of the bands at the Olympic Auditorium which was televised. It was sponsored by “the Royals” a British family of con artists who just ripped everybody off and never had any intention of awarding any prizes.

Other bands were the Cosmictones and the Velvetones. The Cosmictones tried to compete. The velvetones were a surf band and they were older and really good. their drummer Al Stigler taught me alot. Lead guitarist Gary Stovall went on to make a name for himself in the biz.

There was definitely a music scene in town. we played at the City Parks Dept. dances often, and every summer there was a Battle of the Bands at the yearly amusement park also held at the Parks Department.

The songs were written basically by all of us, we used to rehearse in the Toler Ave. garage next to my house.

The Nite Walkers Russell 45 You've Got MeBoth [records] were done at the same time. Don’t remember much about the studio but I know I was behind a glass wall, no plexiglass yet. Music tracks were done first and vocals were done second with all of us circling one auditorium type microphone.

Russell recording I believe was affiliated somehow with Downey Music Center where we purchased all our equipment. I remember the man’s name was Nate. They were pressed somewhere on Melrose in West Hollywood, I remember because we all went there in the band car, a 1948 Cadillac candy apple red hearse. I believe we got it because the Monkees had a candy apple red dune buggy kind a thing.

I don’t really know much about those transactions, my Dad handled all that stuff. But I do know that only 300 copies were pressed due to the cost at the time. My Dad sent them everywhere, radio stations, etc, but to no avail.

Q. Is it Joe who yells “Let’s meet at Al’s on Florence Avenue”?

It was indeed Joe who yelled but he was just closest to the mike, we all had a hand in that. To this day I still think that was cheesy. Al’s however was a real place we used to hang out at. It was like a really good Greek hamburger stand built on the lot on the north west corner of Florence Ave. and Garfield. It was kitty corner from Toler Ave where we were based. I believe it’s a donut shop now, I don’t know.

I had to quit due to the war in Vietnam. Joe stayed in music and is still performing, check him out at Richard lives up north somewhere, and I haven’t heard from Ray since the 60’s. I returned to playing live and touring with several bands from ’76 through the 80’s and still occaisionally dabble in it.

Robert Stoddard

Russell RRC-43106: Florence Ave / My Girl
Russell RRC-43107: High Class / You’ve Got Me

 The Nite Walkers, 1966. From left: Rich Hernandez, Joe Stoddard, Rob Stoddard and Ray Almonza
The Nite Walkers, 1966. From left: Rich Hernandez, Joe Stoddard, Rob Stoddard and Ray Almonza