In 2022 while going through his archives Andy Alonzo found some recorded tapes of his time with the famed, yet often unheralded singing group, the Latin Counts. He set about exploring what was on them. The tapes were in pretty good shape and had been laying around his house since being recorded in 1985.
At first he thought they could have been recorded during one of the group’s WDET radio station sessions. Thus, he went to his good friend Joe Gilles of the band Mando Cane who let him know they were 8 track recordings. This then led him to go to K&R Studios where he was informed they were top quality studio recordings. He set on refining the product and will now release them within the upcoming month or so as “The Latin Counts-Lost Tapes”. On the recording he is joined on vocals by John Dominquez, Sal Prado, and Stu Avig. James Anton is on bass, Baby Pepper on drums, DeForest Stewart on Sax, Van Cepheus on keys and Gordy Mazlowski on guitar.
I sat down recently with Andy to discuss the pending release. In describing the songs found on “The Lost Tapes” he told me we will find some ballads, also Motown style and Latin flavored English songs. Of course, he was overjoyed at the fact that he is able to bring them to the listening public but equally happy in letting me know half of the proceeds will go to Ste. Annes’ the historic church found near the Ambassador Bridge in southwest Detroit. Though our conversation was primarily about the Latin Counts and his overall singing career, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Andy Alonzo also had TV experience and was the first producer and program host for the mid 70’s Detroit Public Television (WTVS) urban and cultural affairs show “Para Mi Pueblo”, which focused on Detroit’s Latino community. I was well aware of its multi-year run.
Andy Alonzo has had an illustrious singing career with a number of vocal groups over the decades. He started during his middle school days in the Vinewood and West Grand Blvd (Michigan Ave) area, while as a student at Condon Jr. High singing Doo Wop with the Grenadiers, a group he formed with friends Joe Marino and David Chavez.
In 1959 he went to a Western High School dance to listen to the popular Latin Counts, and found himself sitting in with them because one of the singers could not perform. Andy did quite well and was asked to join the Counts. He remained with them from 1959-61.
Upon leaving the Latin Counts he joined the Martinques, an African American group which was about to release their first recording, “Tonight is Just Another Night” since they needed someone to take the lead. He remained with the Martiniques for a number of years. Later on, he would join the Motown recording group Originals led by C.P. Spencer and later on the Royal Jokers.
For a number of years, he was associated with the Valadeirs. While with the latter, about 20 years back while doing a show in Baltimore with eight other Doo Wop/R&B groups, in introducing the members of the group he noted that their newest member was none other than Nick Marinelle the original lead singer of the Shades of Blue. This led to such applause that upon returning home the group’s name was changed to The Shades of Blue. Andy toured extensively with the Shades of Blue.
In 1980 he would help to reunite the Latin Counts which continued for some time. It was during this latter period the soon to be released recordings were made. Alonzo’s current group is named the Klassics which includes two other singers, one a fellow Latino KC De La Garza.
As I finished my conversation with this talented yet very humble man, I smiled and thought to myself what a treasure he is sharing with us. In this, as in previous conversations, we discussed not only his personal history but those of others he shared the stage with, some we knew in common. I realized his story is very much our community’s story.
To order copies of “The Latin Counts-Lost Tapes go to klassicsdoowop.com.