Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cannibal & The Headhunters Founder Richard "Scar Lopez Passes On

Richard "Scar" Lopez founding member of Cannibal and The Headhunters, passed on July 30 at the age of 65. The cause was lung cancer.

Richard "Scar" Lopez was born on May 18, 1945 in Los Angeles, California. He earned the nickname "Scar" from stitches he had received from a gymnastics accident when he was thirteen. While attending Lincoln High School, Mr. Lopez and Robert Jaramillo decided to form a vocal group. Joe Jamarillo joined the group not long after, initially known as Bobby and The Classics. Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia joined later and became the group's lead vocalist, after which they became known as Cannibal and The Headhunters. Eddie Davis, owner and founder of Rampart Records, discovered Cannibal and The Headhunters and signed them to his label. It was in 1965 that Cannibal and The Headhunters had their biggest hit, "Land of a Thousand Dances." Originally performed by Chris Kenner in 1962, Mr. Kenner's version did not reach the top forty. Cannibal and The Headhunters' version went to #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 14 weeks. It was the first version of the song to feature the famous "na, na, na, na, na, na, na" chorus.

Due to the success of their version of "Land of a Thousand Dances," Cannibal and The Headhunters appeared on Americnan Bandstand, Shindig, Hullabaloo, and other shows. They also opened for the biggest acts of the day, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Righteous Brothers, and others. Richard Lopez left Cannibal and The Headhunters, reportedly due to a disagreement with Eddie Davis or a money dispute. The group continued as a trio until 1967, after which they broke up.    Frankie Garcia would eventually form a new Cannibal and The Headhunters, even though he was the only original member. This incarnation of the group continued to perform in the Seventies. After leaving Cannibal and The Headhunters, Mr. Lopez held a number of different jobs, among them landscaping parks in Los Angeles.

Cannibal and The Headhunters are significant as one of the very first Mexican American bands (along with Question Mark and The Mysterians) to have a major hit song in the United States. In fact, it could be argued that their version of "Land of a Thousand Dances" is the quintessential one. It was the first to feature the famous "Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na" chorus, which was utilised in nearly every single version ever since. Wilson Pickett may have recorded the most famous version, but arguably Cannibal and The Headhunters better captured the energy of the song.

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