Richard Valenzuelas, a high school student at Pacoima High School in California, had a girl friend named Donna about whom he wrote a song in the year 1957.

Ritchie Valens was a rock and roll performer of Latin American descent who, in the year 1957, combined his heritage and his youth, his talent and the bones of rock and roll to effect a series of recordings that are an essential part of the early make-up of rock and roll music. His musical output, which continued through 1958, was little compared with that of his contemporaries, i.e., Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, Rick Nelson, etc. It was, however, very good rock and roll music, and was like a shot in the art of hard rockin' fans that were perhaps becoming a bit dismayed by the appearance of the likes of Frankie Avalon and other Bandstandites. The community of rock and roll music was certainly taking a change toward less rockin'.

Ritchie Valens' music covered a wide span that did not reach to the ever softening changes that rock and roll was going through. His first record, "Come On Let's Go" (composed by Valens) was a driving' rock song with an imaginative back-beat and a top-flight jazz/rock/blues guitar. The record was not a nationwide hit, but it did become a hit in California and New York. "Donna/La Bamba," the next record, was the one that cracked the nut for Ritchie. This record, either side, is a rock and roll classic beyond repute. His arrangement of "La Bamba" is still copied today. "Donna" (composed by Valens) is a slow one in the classical slow rock and roll sense. His third and final single released before his death (Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash in February 1959 along with Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson), "That's My Little Susie" (composed by Valens), was a tight rockin' piece, with typical rock and roll words, staccato breaks, aggressive rock guitar instrumentation, and original beat. This song was popular at the time of his death and it was also included on the album released before his death, simply titled "Ritchie Valens." This, one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever made, shows his wide interest in music and how he applied that to fit what moved him most-good rockin' rock and roll music. Rock and roll standards such as "Bonie Maronie" and "We Belong Together" are done with imagination and tradition in mind. "In A Turkish Town" (composed by Valens) and "Bluebirds Over The Mountain" are in an electric-folk style. "Framed" is a Lieber-Stoller blues piece that is possibly the most imaginative and progressive version of any Lieber- Stoller tune ever done. "Dooby Dooby Wah" and "Oh My Head" (composed by Valens) are two good rockin' songs, the latter a take off on Little Richard's "Oh My Soul," is a fine improvement on an already great rock and roll song.

Ritchie Valens made many other great recordings that were released posthumously. This includes two albums, "Ritchie," and the last of the unreleased material on "In Concert at pacoima Jr. High School." These albums are full of unfinished and poorly done songs, but they also include some of his best recordings: "Little Girl" (composed by Valens) with fine, fine rock and roll guitar work on a great, slowish song; "Rockin' All Night" (composed by Valens), a great, almost finished rock song; "Cry Cry Cry" (composed by Valens), which could have been a rock and roll classic as is; and "Malaguena," a fine electric version of a traditional song.

Bill Fergusson III

January 1976

(Note: This was written as liner notes for a custom-designed album cover, complete with original artwork, which Bill created for his own personal collection. The album cover included Valens' albums "Ritchie Valens" and "Ritchie Valens Memorial Album.")

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