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The History of Brazilian Rock Instrumental Scene

The first rock’and’roll song recorded in Brazil, was a Portuguese version of Bill Haley’s hit Rock Around The Clock. Issued in 1956, when Elvis Presley and Little Richard were kings of the local radio, this song motivated many teen-agers to play a musical instrument and create a rock band to emulate the sounds that came from America.

Initially, many vocal rock groups were created in Rio and São Paulo. However, very soon, they realised the difficulty in singing in English, a language very different from the local Portuguese. Then, the most successful bands created local translations (in Portuguese) which, most of the times, didn’t express the real meaning of the original song’s lyrics. It was a disaster. The next step: due to the difficulty of singing in English and translating the original lyrics, the bands started to play rock instrumentals. The lyric problem was solved.

As soon as The Champs and Duane Eddy issued their monumental instrumental hits (Tequila and Rebel Rouser), local Brazilian instrumental groups started to emulate their sound. The first instro rock recorded in Brazil was “Here’s The Blue Jean Rockers”, a B side of a 78 rpm, recorded in mid 1958, by a senior high school band, The Blue Jean Rockers, the most famous rock band in Rio de Janeiro. In late 1958, a new instro band called Bolão & His Rockettes, composed mainly by studio musicians, recorded the first local all instrumental album, with 12 tracks, by RCA Victor. Their sound was highly influenced by The Champs. Bolão (nickname of the group leader, Isidoro Longano) was an excellent sax player and a professional musician, who came from well known local orchestras. He recorded five more instrumental albums in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

In early 1959, rock and roll was already the local youth’s favourite rhythm. Most of the AM radios used to play rock songs in 80-90% of their programs, and there were specific rock and roll programs, with local DJs playing US and Brazilian rock tunes. To take an advantage of the success of rock music, a new recording company was created in São Paulo just to record rock and roll tunes, only with local bands and singers. The Young, was a record label, which  recorded over 40 singles and EPs. Most of their artists and bands recorded only vocals (some in good English). But they had a couple of instrumental bands (The Avalons and The Young’s) which issued in 1959 some excellent instrumentals. The first one, was China Rock, a vigorous instro tune played by a trio called The Avalons, who recorded also their own version of Rebel Rouser. The Young’s, were an unknown instro band, who recorded a nice version of Torquay, originally issued by Fireballs (USA).

In the meantime, dozens and dozens of instrumental bands were being created and rehearsing their repertoire, all over the country. Most of then became famous only in the early 60’s.

In 1961, two instrumental bands made their debut in São Paulo: The Jet Black’s and The Jordans. Their sound was more professional due to their excellent musicians. Jet Black’s and Jordans’ repertoire were basically covers of Shadows, Ventures, Duane Eddy and other European groups, but with their own arrangement. They boosted their record sales with covers, because EMI, RCA Victor, Columbia, etc., didn’t issue locally their catalogue of instro albums by Shadows, Ventures, Duane Eddy, etc.  In 1961, the first album by The Jet Black´s was issued, “Twist” (Chantecler CMG 2184) which is rated as the best all instro Brazilian album, by many local and foreign collectors. From 1961 until 1968, The Jet Black’s recorded 6 instrumental albums and many singles and EPs, some of them never released on their LPs. The group was disbanded in late 60’s, but reassembled in 1983 and recorded a new all instro album with a new line up. In late 1980’s, the band went to the studio twice, and recorded two new instrumental albums, which were reissued on CDs. Unfortunately their most famous lead guitarist, José Provetti (nickname Gato) passed away in 1996. He was a guitar virtuoso and was paid homage in local Guitar Player magazine, May 1996 edition, as one of the best Brazilian rock guitarist. The group toured in Italy in mid-1960’s and had some singles and EPs issued in Portugal, Spain and South America countries.
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The Jordans were also a professional instrumental group from São Paulo. Their first album “A Vida Sorri Assim” (Som, SOLP 40046) was issued in 1961 and since then, they recorded 5 more instrumental albums and dozens of singles and EPs. They were very creative in their arrangements. For example, their instrumental version of Jalousie (a famous Argentinean Tango!) was a masterpiece! In 1962, they had a big local hit with their version of Blue Star. In mid-60’s, they toured in Europe and met The Beatles in UK.
In late 60’s, due to commercial reasons, The Jordans changed their rock instrumental line up and entered the ballroom circuit, recording easy listening albums. The group split in the mid 70’s but reassembled in the mid 90’s, with their original 1960’s musicians. In 1996, they issued a new album (on CD). They are very active in the late 1990’s, playing on TV shows, ballrooms, radios, etc. From 1961 until 1966, they have recorded five all instrumental albums.
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The most successful Brazilian instrumental rock band was created in 1962: The Clevers. As Jet Black’s and Jordans, their line up had only professional musicians. From 1962 – 1968, they recorded six all instrumental albums and many singles and EPs. In 1965 they had their biggest hit, with an uptempo version of The Millionaire, originally recorded by The Dakotas, in UK. This was probably the most successful instrumental hit in Brazil. Due to management reasons, The Clevers changed their name to Os Incríveis (The Incredible), in 1964. They have recorded an album in Argentina (which remains unissued in Brazil) and toured in Japan in 1963. Their second Brazilian album was also issued in Japan in 1964. They toured also in Italy in mid-sixties.
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The Rebels were also a known instrumental group from São Paulo. They were created in 1959, as a vocal rock and roll band. Their drummer, was just 13. The band split in early 1961 but joined together in mid 1962, motivated by the success of The Jet Black’s and The Jordans, as instrumental bands. They were musically creative, and built their repertoire with covers and lots of their own compositions and clever arrangements for traditional non-rock songs. In 1963 they recorded their first all instrumental album, “Rua Augusta Zero Hora” (VS SP-004) which remains unissued on CD. Their second album, “The Rebels” (Caritas CAR-7002), recorded in 1964, is considered as one of the best Brazilian
instrumental albums. It was reissued on CD in 1997. In overall, the group recorded five albums (from 1963 until 1970) when they changed their line up and become a ballroom band, including trumpets, sax, etc.
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The Lions were, probably, one of the most creative instrumental groups of Brazil. In 1964 they issued their first all instrumental album, “Os Inigualáveis” (Farroupilha LPFA-403) with six songs composed by their musicians. Before their split, The Lions recorded their second album in 1965, with eight instros. Their lead guitar player was a young man called Emilio Russo, a virtuoso musician, with a solid musical background. After leaving The Lions in mid 1966, Emilio Russo joined The Jet Black’s, as their lead guitar player and recorded two singles. In 1989, he  recorded an anthological all instrumental album, “A Casa do Sol Nascente” (Phonodisc 034.405.565), as lead guitarist of Raio-X, a studio instro group. In 1995, Emilio Russo returned to the studio and recorded a new all instro album on CD, “Uma Viagem Através do Tempo”   (Acervo Records ARPP 0013), as lead guitarist of The Spark´s, an established instro band from the 1960´s. He was credited by local Guitar Player, February 1997 edition, as one of the best Brazilian guitarists. At present, he is a famous guitar maker and repairer, in São Paulo.
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The Bells were another instrumental band from São Paulo, who recorded two albums and some excellent singles (most of then never issued on their LPs). Their first instro album was “Proibido Para Maiores de 18 Anos” (RGE XRLP 5214) issued on 1963 and had nice arrangements for Dark Eyes, Barcarolle, Wadiya, etc. In 1965 they innovated recording a single with a beautiful uptempo version of Menino da Porteira, a traditional Brazilian country song. Their 2nd album had only two instrumentals, for commercial reasons.

In the 1960’s, there were also many instrumental bands in Rio de Janeiro, the city where the Bossa Nova and Samba were created. The most famous instro groups from Rio were The Pop’s and Os Populares (The Populars). The Pop’s were a senior high school band created in late 1963. From 1964 until 1970, they  recorded more than ten instrumental albums. Most of them were local best sellers, and were re-issued during the 70’s and the 80’s, with good sales. They had a chance to have two professional musicians as lead guitar players, and were musically very creative. Their arrangements of traditional Brazilian music, played as rock instrumentals, were anthological and were their trademark. The group split in mid 70’s, but reassembled in the mid-90’s, when they returned to the studio and recorded a new and excellent album (on CD) “Novamente” (ABW label). Unfortunately, the band split again in mid 1997. Their first albums were reissued on CDs.
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Os Populares (The Popular) were founded as an offshoot  of The Pop’s group. In mid 1965, the excellent guitarist J.Cezar, former Pop’s lead guitarist, left the band and created Os Populares. J.Cezar was a professional musician with a solid musical background. He was (and still is) an ace guitarist, with an incredible speed, and an excellent composer of rock instrumentals. He plays most of the string instruments, such as acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, mandolin, cavaquinho (Brazilian ukulele), etc. Os Populares has recorded five all instrumental albums on RCA Victor with lots of self-penned compositions and clever arrangements for non-rock songs. Their biggest hit was a special arrangement they did for the song India, originally recorded as a Guarania (a rhythm from Paraguay), but played by Os Populares as a beautiful rock ballad.

In the sixties, there were also, dozens of less important rock instrumental groups in Brazil such as The Sparks, The Jones, The Mettleds, The Silvery Boys, The American Shadows, Nin & His Boys, The Comanches, The Black Boys, Jacinto & His Boys, Jerry Jefferson, Betinho & His Group, etc. Some recorded one album, but most of them recorded just one or two singles. What is important to note is that more than 100 instrumental albums were recorded in the 1960’s, by local instrumental bands, which shows the role of those groups in the development of the Brazilian rock scene.
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In the nineties, rock instrumental has shown some resurgence in the Brazilian music scene. The Jordans, The Pop’s and The Sparks reassembled, with their original 60’s line ups and recorded one album (on CD) each. Some recording companies reissued Jet Black’s, Clevers, Jordans, The Pop’s and Rebels original albums on CDs. Jordans and Pop’s has toured in the local ballroom and TV shows circuits, with good audiences. In 1995, the first fanzine dedicated to the local instrumental scene was issued, the Instrumental Newsletter, which is regularly published since then.

In the mid nineties, surf instrumental music experienced a new boom in Brazil, with many local radio and TV stations playing famous instro surfing tunes in their jingles and programs. At least, one instro surfing music band is very active, Os Ostras (The Oysters) from São Paulo. They have recorded two excellent CDs with 7 instros, each one, composed by their own musicians. Heavy influenced by Dick Dale, the Oysters’ sound is very authentic and pretty similar to the sound of the US bands from the golden era of the California’s surfing music. Another surfing instro band, is The Argonauts (from Porto Alegre, RS). Their repertoire is more Ventures influenced. Their first album on CD will be issued soon. In minor cities, there are also very active instrumental bands such as Jukebox (from Rio Claro) and The Boogie Shuffles (from Jundiaí). They usually do the ballroom circuits at weekends and have a repertoire based on Ventures and Shadows covers. In 1997, Dick Dale has toured in three Brazilian cities with excellent audiences, showing that instrumentals are alive in Brazil.

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Let's hope the scene continues alive into the next century!

History of Brazilian Rock Instro | CD Discography

History of Argentinian Rock Instro |
History of Uruguayan Rock Instro

Photo Gallery - Brazilian Instrumental Bands From 1960s

Modern Brazilian Surf Instrumental Bands

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