Veteran Bakersfield Latin ska reggae group Mento Buru released “Skalloween,” a six-song EP of reimagined Halloween music classics originally recorded and released by Bakersfield music icons Buck Owens and Ronnie Cook & The Gaylads.
Mento Buru is a 7-piece band from Bakersfield, CA that combines an energetic blend of Latin alternative, Jamaican SKA and reggae sounds. Veterans of ska music’s hyperactive nineties third wave, the group has released music on the Moon Ska and Steady Beat record labels establishing their reputation as a genre-defying musical act around the globe.
“Skalloween” will is available for download and streaming on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, YouTube, Tik Tok.
“Goo Goo Muck”: Originally released in 1962 by late singer songwriter Ronnie Cook and his band The Gaylads as a 7” single on the tiny Audan record label in Bakersfield CA, the slow-burning, rockin’ surf and sax homage to spooky stories about the boogeyman and camp horror movies such as “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” has become the stuff of legend in cult music collector circles. Discovered by The Cramps’ lead singer Lux Interior digging through a bargain bin of old vinyl records, the legendary horror surfabilly punk act gave it new life in 1980 to become one of the band’s signature tunes. Over the years the song has been covered by several alternative and punk acts in the spirit of The Cramps, but don’t expect another familiar remake this time around. Mento Buru has injected their version of “Goo Goo Muck” with Jamaican/Latin ska, an all-new killer horn arrangement by saxophonist Paul Perez, and guest appearance by percussionist Marcos Reyes of legendary funk band WAR.
“For as long as I can remember, The Cramps “Goo Goo Muck” has been on every Halloween party playlist, and I always just assumed it was their song,” said Mento Buru vocalist Matt Munoz. “One day I was having a conversation with (Bakersfield) saxophonist Richard Gonzales who told me about the origins of the song and that he had also performed as a member of Ronnie Cook’s backing band – The Gaylads – during that time. That local connection blew my mind.”
There are also a few more interesting factoids connected to the song (co-written by guitarist Ed James of The Tikis, Harpers Bizarre, The Gaylads) namely that famed Buckaroo’s keyboardist Jim Shaw has controlled the publishing rights to the original “Goo Goo Muck” song for years after it was sold to him by another musician to help pay off debts, and Ronnie Cook’s sister Renee is an accomplished bass guitarist in her own right still heard rockin’ on Bakersfield stages. With Mento Buru’s fun new version, the legend of the Goo Goo Muck lives on with the rest of Cook’s recordings. An original rare Audan vinyl print of the “Goo Goo Muck” goes for high dollar among collectors.
“Ronnie’s place in California music history is definitely unique and eclectic and deserving of more recognition. We think Ronnie would get a kick out of our version of the song,” said Munoz.
“(It’s a) Monster’s Holiday”: Buck Owens made it to the Top-10 on the Billboard country music charts in 1974 singing about gremlins, goblins, dragons, zombies, and running through a graveyard only to encounter Frankenstein, Dracula and the rest of the gang. The original rocks as much as it twangs, and for Mento Buru – it was the perfect tune to finally give Buck his due in an all-new rockin’ ska burner.
“People have been breathing down our necks for years to play Buck Owens tunes as we have become as associated with Bakersfield as Buck has, but as much as we love and revere his music, we’re not a country band,” said Mento Buru vocalist Matt Munoz who says the band had toyed with “Streets of Bakersfield,” but refused to do the obvious. “I had no idea Buck had written a crazy Halloween tune, and after a first listen, I knew we’d finally found our tribute to Buck and somehow make it work.”
The original Owens’ country shuffle has been replaced by a rockin’ ska rhythm, an all-new horn arrangement complete with raging guitar solo by Salvador Galindo, and a graveyard party reggae dub end sequence reminiscent of “Nite Klub” by Two Tone ska heroes The Specials.
“Leave it to Buck Owens to write a song this wacky and make it a hit.” said Munoz. “It’s the perfect Bakersfield Halloween song.”
Fun Fact: Veteran KUZZ (Bakersfield) country radio personality Sylvia Cariker who contributed the original scream to the 1974 version recalls being pulled into the studio by Owens himself.
“I was pulled from my desk to come to the studio next door, Buck pointed at me the two times he wanted me to scream, said ‘Thank You’ and I went back to my desk,” recalled Cariker in an email. “One take.”
Munoz did make attempts to coax Cariker into recreating the iconic scream for the new recording, but she politely declined. The new scream was contributed by Alisa Garasa, wife of drummer Cesareo Garasa.
“Honey, I did that years ago! There’s no part of my vocal cords that can reach that high now. Thanks for the offer, I’m flattered, but…umm…no.,” said Cariker.
“Chu Chu Moco”: The “Goo Goo Muck” gets its first-ever Spanish translation as the creepy “Chu Chu Moco.” Translated by Los Angeles musician/producer Moises Baqueiro (Los Abandoned, Las Cafeteras, El Mariachi Manchester). You don’t need to understand Spanish when you’re dancing around the room to this monster groove.
“Goo Goo Dub”: Reggae dub remix by LA producer Dubrobot.
“(It’s a) Monster’s Holidub”: Reggae dub remix by Dubrobot.
“Chu Chu Moco Dub”: Reggae dub remix by Dubrobot.
Mento Buru consists of Matt Munoz, lead vocals, saxophone; Cesareo Garasa, drums; Caleb Moore, bass; Salvador Galindo, guitar; Jay Smith, keyboards; Paul Perez, saxophone; and Justin Kirk, trombone. Guest musicians: Brent Williams, trumpet; Marcos Reyes, percussion; and Alisa Garasa and Robyn Dyer, background vocals.
Recorded at Triple Seven Recording in Bakersfield, the project was mixed by acclaimed studio engineer and NOFX keyboardist Jon Graber (Goldfinger, MXPX) and mastered by Dave Fore (Collie Buddz, The Lacs.) Dub reggae remixes by Los Angeles producer and ska scene veteran Brian Wallace AKA Dubrobot.
Over the years the band has also shared stages with The Specials, The English Beat, Los Lobos, The Untouchables, Long Beach Dub All Stars, Hepcat, Dancehall Crashers, The Dirty Heads, Wailing Souls, Fishbone, Ozomatli, Bo Diddley, Buck Owens (of course!) and countless others in addition to performing at The Roxy, Whisky a Go Go, The Viper Room, BB Kings and Fox Theater venues, just to name a few.
The name Mento Buru refers to two forms of early Jamaican folk music styles, which make up the rhythmic foundation of what would become ska and reggae music in the 1960s.