Ruben And The Jets

The Group

Ruben Ladron de Guevara

FZ, interviewed by Rob Rietman, WZMF, Milwaukee, May 10, 1973

Here's what happened. The guy who used to be the piano player in the Mothers at the time we did the Fillmore album, a guy named Bob Harris, went to school with a Mexican gentleman who was then known as Ben Guevara. He called himself Ben because he was in the minority at that time, and so he was getting along better with the anglos at the school. But his real name is Ruben Ladron de Guevara. And Harris brought him over to the house one night, and I got to talking with him and found out he'd been singing rhythm and blues for about ten or fifteen years, used to work at El Monte Legion Stadium. And, let's see, he was billed at that time as Aztec Watts. That was his stage name. And he was also on Shindig, and did a bunch of other things.

But I suggested to him at that time that he form a group and call it Ruben and the Jets, and I would help him organize the thing. And so I was still in the wheelchair at that time. I wasn't touring and I had some time to help him with the project development on the group. So about three or four days a week, after he had rounded up some personnel for it, I went down and rehearsed with 'em, helped 'em put their material together, and after I thought that they were sort of self-sufficient, left 'em alone and let 'em develop their own songs, and learn the oldies that they liked to play, and then proceeded to record four demos and take them around to various record companies to see if anyone was interested in financing the rest of the album. And they were turned down by every company except Mercury. And the reason Mercury picked them up is 'cause there was a man there named Denny Rosencrantz, who just loved 1950s rhythm & blues, and he thought they were great. He signed them up, and I finished off the album, and that's that, you know.

It had nothing to do with Mercury finding a guy in order to fob off a second Ruben and the Jets album. I'd always thought that it would be nice to have a real Ruben and the Jets group so that we could tour with them. And we have done a couple of tours on the west coast with that group, and it's a pretty nice contrast.

Ruben Ladron de Guevara, quoted in Splat's Zappapage

Just wanted to clarify Frank's story on our meeting. I first met Frank at the Shrine Auditorium in 1969? for the debut of Crusing With Ruben & The Jets album with the Mothers. I went backstage to thank him for creating great doo wop in the middle of the acid rock craze. I then told him my name was "Ruben". He looked me straight in the eye and said "that's a grand name". I said, "thanks, keep up the good work", and left.

In January, 1971, I ran into an old friend, Bob Harris, whom I had met in the late 60's through another friend, John Beck, lead singer of the Leaves. Bob and I never went to school together as Frank say's. Bob had just come off the road with Frank. I gave myself the nickname of Ben for personal reasons. It had nothing to do about not fitting in with Anglos.

I told Bob that I had recently written and staged a Rock Cantata (Who Are The People?) that involved dance and theater. He said I should meet Frank. He called him and we went to his home in Laurel Canyon that same night. Frank remembered our initial meeting at the Shrine then we talked about music: Bartok and Stravinsky to Little Richard and the Penguins as he pulled out his private 45's collection. We listened and sang along with his/my favorites until 5am. Then he asked me if I'd like to form a real Ruben & The Jets, record and tour.

I was relunctant at first since I had burned out on forming and leading bands. I was on a film composition career track. I told him, "too many detours in rock". Then, I realized this was an important opportunity and decided to build my own roads with his blessings.

Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara, interviewed by Jerry Osborne, Journal Sentinel, September 4, 2009

I met Frank in his dressing room during his legendary L.A. concert at the Shrine Exposition Hall in 1969. He was promoting his new LP, Cruising with Ruben and the Jets (Verve 5055).

I thanked him for recording doo-wop during the height of the psychedelic era and said I was an R&B singer in the late 1950s and early '60s, who's name is Ruben.

He said, "That's a grand name" and asked if I was still singing. I told him I was studying composition and my singing was on hold for the time being. He asked if I could drop off my 1961 single, "My Beloved One" (Cleveland 108) at his office, but I never did. I wanted to become a film composer and was not interested in pursuing a singing career.

A subsequent meeting at Zappa's house in 1971 was a turning point in my career. He played records by his favorite R&B and doo-wop artists until dawn. . . . 

Then he asked if I would be interested in forming a real Ruben and the Jets. I told him I wasn't interested in rock 'n' roll, with its many detours. To this he replied: "Build your own roads." So I decided to give it another shot and gathered some "Jets": Tony Duran, Robert "Froggy" Camarena, Bill Wild, Johnny Martinez and Bobby Zamora.

In 1973, Frank produced our first album, For Real (Mercury 659). We recorded a second album, Con Safos (Mercury 694) produced by Denny Randell.

I later recorded vocals on Zappa's Apostrophe, Zoot Allures and Live at the Roxy.

Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara, Confessions Of A Radical Chicano Doo-Wop Singer, April 2018, p. 80-84

A few months after [my musical] Who Are The People? closed, I ran into keyboardist Bob Harris [...]. We talked about what we wer doing and I told him about the musical I'd just staged. He had just returned from touring with Zappa, I think it was the Billy The Mountain tour. I told him I'd met Frank a few years earlier, and he suggested we pay him a visit, since Frank and I both seemed to be on a rock theater kick.

[...] We got to his tree-shrouded home, and surprisingly he answered the door himself. "We met a few years ago at the Shrine for the Cruising With Ruben & The Jets album release show," I said. "Yeah, I remember you. You're Rubén." "Right. Sorry I never took you up on your offer to drop off some demos, but I went back to college. I wanna write music for films." He didn't say anything, just "Come on in." We walked into his studio, which burst with guitars and sound equipment. "So, you used to sing a little R & B, huh?" "Yeah in high school in the '50s, then I put together a trio, the Apollo Brothers. We cut a single in '61, sang around town, and did a little TV. We played the Legion once." "The El Monte American Legion Stadium?" "Yeah, with Richard Berry, and the Olympics too." That led to an all-night session of listening to his collection of R & B oldies. [...]

Then we talked about my discovering modern music composers at LACC, Bartók and Stravinsky in particular. [...] As the sun was coming up he made a proposal: "How would you like to stage a real Ruben & the Jets? I'll produce the album, and you can tour with the Mothers as an opening band to promote it." I told him, "Thanks, man, that's a damn groovy offer, but I'm not interested in going back to rock 'n' roll. I don't want to move backwards, and besides, too many detours." He stared at me for a few long seconds with those dark eyes, then said, "Take what you know and build your own roads."

[...] I had two tunes that I thought would work: a fast rocker and a doo-wop ballad. A private session was set up at Frank's house. [...] He asked me to put a band together. I said, "I can have a band together in a few weeks."

[...] I called Carlos Rodríguez from the band that I put together for Who Are The People? to play bass, but he later took a touring gig and passed on the offer. So I called bass player and vocalist Bill Wild of the Du-Vals, who had backed up the Apollo Brothers at Pandora's Box and my Shindig! audition. I was reluctant to hire him, what with his history of drugs and booze, but he could play a funky bass and had a soulful voice that I needed for the harmonies. For the sax section I contacte former LACC classmate Clarence Matsui, a Japanese American alto sax cat from Boyle Heights. I also recruited another classmate, tenor sax player Bob "Buffalo" Roberts, and Frank suggested Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood, a former Mother, for the baritone sax parts.

Clarence had been playing with a band from East L.A. that he highly recommended, so I went to hear them play. I was impressed and invited them to come to the audition. They included vocalist and Hammond B-3 player John Martinez, probably the best all-around singer ever to come out of East L.A. Not only could he sing bass and falsetto parts, but he was also a killer lead singer. Then there was vocalist-rhythm guitarist-songwriter Robert "Frog" Camarena and vocalist-lead guitarist-songwriter Tony Duran, formerly of East L.A. '60s greats the Premiers ("Farmer John"). Drummer Bobby Zamora was called in at the last minute. The band sounded great, and Frank dug it.

[...] It was my understanding that the members of the band would be signed as "sidemen" and that I would be the leader, sole composer, and lead singer on all material. The band members could be replaced at my discretion. It was also agreed that the project would be a collaboration between Frank and me that would feature original L.A.-style rhythm and blues/doo-wop, jump blues, along with straight-ahead rock 'n' roll and blues—a kind of musical history and repository of Black and Brown L.A. music all wrapped in Mexican American rock-theater. The band didn't get the theater part, though, as I would later discover.

[...] Since there were songwriters and great singers in the band, I decided to utilize their talents as much as possible, as both a democratic and a practical musical move. I didn't realize I was also relinquishing my power. Frank wrote two songs for the band, the up-tempo doo-woper "If I Could Only Be Your Love Again" (with George Duke sitting in on piano for the recording) and a crazy doo-woppish rocker, "The Weenie-Back Wino Walk," which unfortunately didn't make it to vinyl.

Robert Froggie Camarena

Robert Froggie Camarena

I met Frank Zappa because of Clarence Matsui a Sax player who called me and asked me if I knew a keyboard player and a guitar player who could sing. His friend Ruben was forming a group that was going to be working with Frank. I said, oh yeah! Does he need a rhythm guitar who can sing? He said nah! Then gave me the address to a place where they were auditioning that night/morning and to bring down the guys. I called John Martinez and Tony Duran, threw my funky guitar in the van and we drove away.

When we got there the room was filled with excitement. I knew something big was going to happen. After setting up, the band jammed on a couple of tunes and you could see that Frank liked what he heard. after a few moments he looked at me and asked, "What do you do?" I said,"I'm probably the best damn singer you ever heard." he smiled said,"let's hear". after I sang a bit he said, "No shit" you're in the band and that my friends is history.

Robert Frog Camarena, "Zappa Thru The Eyes Of A Jet," CE Indie Lights

I was playing with a group called "Woodenship", that was on the verge of disbanding [...]. I was rejoining a group of chaps that I had played with before called the Cartoons that had great vocals.

That evening Clarence Matsui the sax player from Woodenship called me up and asked me if I knew a lead guitar player & a keyboard player from the barrio because a guy he knew had met Frank Zappa and they were going to be holding audition for a group called "Ruben & the Jets" named after an album that Frank had put together with the Mothers of Invention as a sort of parody, and they were bringing the group to life.

I got really excited and asked him if he needed singers, because that's what I do best. He said no and gave me the address to where the audition was going to be held at 3:00 am if I recall right. That's when the bass player Bill Wild was getting off from a gig that he was working at the time.

Tony Duran lead Guitar player and vocalist had just returned from Florida and had audition with our group (The Cartoons) the night before. [...] Tony played slide and I'd never played with anyone as dedicated to his craft as he was. [...] I call Tony told him about the audition and he said he would do it.

[...] I then called John Martinez Keyboardist and vocals extraondinare and told him about the audition. He got excited and I then asked him if he needed help with his B3 Hammond organ. he said sure thanks. I had my reasons for volunteering to help with that monster because I knew it would get me there.

[...] When John finally arrived we loaded the van up with the B3 which was at my house where he had left it. That being done he said let's go! I said wait a minute and ran back in the house to get my guitar which he thought was strange. [...]

We got to Franks then rehearsal studio which looked like an abandoned building lodged between other buildings on La Cienega blvd. in Holly weird as we called it. [...] We unloaded the organ and everyone was setting up but no drummer and they were still waiting for Bill the bass player to show up. My brother-in-law and a friend named Lazzie brought Tony.

[...] The drummer was a no show so they asked if anyone there could play drums and Lazzie said that my brother-in-law Gene could.

Frank said why don't you go get your drums and they both left to get the drums. When Lazzie returned there was no Gene. He had gotten cold feet. [...] Lazzie didn't return empty handed no! He took it upon himself to find someone, and that he did for he brought Bobby Zamora, a young kid from Laguna Park, the soon to be youngest member of Ruben & the Jets.

They started to play and everything was sounding good. [...] Frank was in a wheelchair after having had an accident where he fell off stage at a performance. Shit it sounded great! Frank was pleased too! they took a break at about well I'll say close to 5 am. and everyone was milling around. I was still standing by the organ thinking maybe he'll look this way and maybe he'll ask me something. Then it happened. He looked straight at me and asked me "and who are you" (you don't forget something like this).

They call me Froggie he laughed said well Froggie, what do you do? What happened next came from nowhere, it just happened. I replied, "I'm probably the best damn singer you ever heard." Why did I say that I remember thinking as John looked at me with a smile. Frank then asked if I played an instrument. I told him yeah guitar, so he said you got here. Said, yes it's in the van. Get it he said so I did. Remember I was just a poor kid from the barrio, more poor than most. When I brought in my guitar and took it out of the case Frank laugh and said let me see that.

It was a classical Martin with an acoustic pickup in it that whistled if you faced towards the amplifier. It was painted with a white face and had cartoon characters painted on the face of the guitar.

Where'd you get this he asked. Someone owed me money so I took this piece of crap and painted it. He asked if I had done the artwork. I told him I had. He said lets see what you can do with it. We began to play a slow medley as every wedding band through out the history of the barrio was accustom to playing. It was a natural thing for me like fish and water, sky and earth, time and space. I was in my element and about to shine.

I took off after Johnny sang and Ruben Guevarra did a spot I harmonized with John on a duet and John and I had been doing this for what seem like forever in our careers. I then sang a solo of Don & Dewy's Diamonds and Pearls and followed it with For Your Love .

We ended the medley with a vocal harmony note. It was like church. Said at least I got the chance and it felt good. It was quiet or it seemed so to me. Finally he spoke with a sincere look on his face shook his head said well you can't play with that guitar if you're going to be a Jet. So he picked up a guitar case handed it to me and said use this till we can find you something.

It was a Red Gibson SG335 It was Franks and I had it in my hands. Welcome to the band he said.


For Real!

Release Information

Ruben And The Jets

8 Track

The Cassette

Chris Zinger

I was perusing your fine Zappa-related-stuff discography just now, and I noticed that the original Mercury cassette of "For Real" is missing—perhaps intentionally; it's just a cassette. Anyway, here's a pic. The catalog number is MCR4-1-659. No difference from the other '73 issues, except that it smells worse, contains no band info, pictures or liner notes, and you can see a few more inches of Motorhead's leg on the front. Hotcha.


Album Credits

  1. If I Could Only Be Your Love Again 3:34
    Written and arranged by Frank Zappa
  2. Dedicated To The One I Love 5:45
    Written by Lowman Pauling and Ralph Bass. Arranged by The Jets.
  3. Show Me The Way To Your Heart 5:04
    Written by Tony Duran and Leonard Duran. Arranged by Tony Duran.
  4. Sparkie 4:30
    Written by Tony Duran and Ruben Guevara. Arranged by Tony Duran.
  5. Wedding Bells 2:58
    Written by Robert "Frog" Camarena. Arranged by Tony Duran.
  6. Almost Grown 2:20
    Written by Chuck Berry. Arranged by The Jets.
  7. Charlena 5:54
    Written by Manuel Chavez and Herman Chaney.
  8. Mah Man Flash 2:38
    Written by Ruben Guevara. Arranged by Frank Zappa and Ruben Guevara
  9. Santa Kari 4:29
    Written by Ruben Guevara. Arranged by Frank Zappa and Ruben Guevara
  10. Spider Woman 3:58
    Written by Paul Hof, Lonnie Scott, Tony Duran, and Ruben Guevara. Arranged by Tony Duran.
  11. All Nite Long 2:22
    Written by Harris Woody.

All songs published by Rug Music/Fifth Floor Music, except 1. Munchkin Music Inc, 2. Trusdale Music Inc, 6. Arc Music Corp, 7. Robin Hood Music Co, and 11. Tweed Music.

Ruben Guevara—vocals and tambourine
Tony Duran—lead and slide guitar, vocals (lead vocal on "Show Me The Way To Your Heart"), (piano and slide guitar on "Dedicated To The One I Love")
Robert "Frog" Camarena—rhythm guitar and vocals (lead vocal on "Almost Grown" and "Wedding Bells")
Johnny Martinez—bass and vocals (lead vocal on "Dedicated To The One I Love"), organ and falsetto
Robert "Buffalo" Roberts—tenor saxophone and '55 Buick tail pipe
Bill Wild—bass, sings second tenor
Bob Zamora—drums
Jim Sherwood—baritone saxophone and tambourine

Produced by Frank Zappa.
Business and burritos by Herb Cohen.
Recorded at Paramount Recording Studios, Hollywood California-engineered by Kerry McNabb.
Sun West Recording Studios, T.K., Hollywood, California-engineered by Buck Herring and Wally Duguid.
Original album design: Cal Schenkel. Cover photography: Ed Caraeff.
Interior photograph: Ray Leong.

Zappa Involvement

Patrick Neve

He's not officially credited, but I'd bet my collection that it's FZ playing the solo on "This One's Dedicated To The One I Love."

Biffy the Elephant Shrew

The wording of Tony Duran's credit implies that this is the only track TD does not play lead on, therefore...


I was reading an article on the internet and saw a statement you made about zappa Playing a solo on dedicated to the one I love.

But how could you know unless you were there.

True story, Yes he did! after all the tracks were laid down he was talking to tony duran and some other guy from the group and said that the end of dedicated to the one i love made him feel like jamming' and asked if he could play a little and so he did The solo you hear right before the slide (bottle neck) at the end is Frank or as he's was know to by me Frankie Zipper..

The Songs

Charles Ulrich (after consulting Ruben himself)

The song "Sparkie" on For Real is indeed about Miss Sparky of the GTO's.

Charles Ulrich

Tenor saxophonist Joe Houston had a hit entitled "All Night Long". The Mothers Of Invention played this in concert in 1969 (e.g. 2/69 Miami, 2/23/69 early Toronto). Ruben & The Jets covered the song on For Real. On For Real, "All Night Long" is spelled "All Nite Long" and incorrectly credited to Harris Woody.


Additional informant: Charles Ulrich, Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara

Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
This page updated: 2023-12-17