Tuesday, November 28, 2023


While the height of their career was in the Seventies, Redbone remains the best known band of entirely Native American and Mexican American descent. Redbone would have a major hit with "Come and Get Your Love," which went to no. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Earlier their single "Witch Queen of New Orleans" had reached no. 21 on the chart. Redbone was known for recording songs about Native American topics when it was unusual for music artists do do so. Their stage costumes and album covers also often reflected their Native American heritage.

Redbone was formed in 1969 by Lolly and Pat Vegas. The name "Redbone" was chosen as it is a Cajun for someone of mixed racial ancestry. This reflected the Vegas brothers' heritage, as they were of Mexican American, Yaqui, and Shoshone descent. They took music while they were still very young. It was in 1961 that Pat Vegas released the single "I Wanna Be a Movie Star." The following year he released the single "The Best Girl in the World." Neither single charted.

It was in 1963 that Lolly and Pat Vegas formed The Avantis. The Avantis served as a support band for The Beach Boys, and also recorded a few singles the Chancellor, Regency, and Astra labels. Their single "Wax 'Em Down" proved to be a minor hit, reaching no. 21 on the Canadian single chart. Eventually Lolly and Pat Vegas began performing as The Vegas Brothers or Pat & Lolly Vegas.

It was in 1969 that they formed Redbone. Pat Vegas has said that he was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, who is said to have been part Cherokee, to form an all Native American band. Aside from the Vegas brothers, the band consisted of Peter DeBoe, the drummer of  Southern Cheyenne, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and Rogue River/Siletz descent and Tony Bellamy, the guitarist of Yaquei and Mexican American descent. Redbone was signed to Epic Records in 1969.

Redbone's self-titled debut album was also a double album was released in January 1970. It was followed in October 1970 by their album Potlatch. It was with Potlatch that Redbone really began to explore topics related to Native Americans. Even the term "potlatch"is of Indigenous origin,  referring to a gift-giving feast practices by Indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest. The song "Alcatraz" addresses the island that had been occupied for more than 19 months by Native American activists beginning in November 1969. Potlatch would also see Redbone's first real success. The album reached no. 99 on the Billboard album chart, while the single from the album, "Maggie," peaked at no. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Redbone would see even more success with their third album, Message from a Drum. The album produced their hit single "Witch Queen of New Orleans" and it reached no. 75 on the Billboard album chart. Their fourth album, Already Here, did not do nearly as well. Redbone recovered with their fifth album, Wovoka, which proved to be their highest charting album. It also produced their hit "Come and Get Your Love." The album itself peaked at no. 66 on the Billboard album chart. Its title is taken from the lead song on the album, "Wovoka," the Paiute religious leader who played an important role in the history of the Ghost Dance. In the United Kingdom Wovoka also featured "We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee," an openly political song that addressed the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 and the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973. In the United States the song was initially. withheld for release as it was viewed as too controversial.

Sadly, Wovoka and "Come and Get Your Love" would see the height of Redbone's chart success. Their next album, Bearded Dreams Through Turquoise Eyes only reached no. 174 on the Billboard album chart, while their album Cycles did not chart at all. "Come and Get Your Love" would be their last major hit single.

Redbone would continue through the years, with several membership changes. They released their final album, One World, in 2005. It was re-released as Peace Pipe in 2009. Lolly Vegas died in 2010 at the age of 70 from lung cancer. Pat Vegas continued with a touring version of Redbone to this day.

Redbone are an important part of rock history. They were among the first bands composed entirely of members of indigenous descent. Furthermore, they addressed Native American topics. They would pave the way for further Native American artists. Their songs would also be covered by artists from Bobby Gentry to Tom Jones. While Redbone's chart success would only last for a few years, their influence on rock music remains to this day.

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