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by Rachel Devitt

June 8, 2011

Senior Year, 1950: ¡Bailar! With the Zoot-Suited "Hooligans" of Pachuco Boogie

by Rachel Devitt  |  June 8, 2011

A bunch of punk kids form their own adult-scaring, mainstream-baiting subculture with a unique style, slang and sound. Sound familiar? That's the recipe for basically every pop music style ever, but the particular concoction we're talking about here resulted in the Latin-laden R&B and swing genre known as pachuco boogie, which came to life in the '40s and '50s.

It started when disenfranchised Chicano youth in the Southwest and California created an alternative subculture that combined Mexican, Afro-Caribbean and African American elements. Known as pachucos and pachucas, these hipsters had their own dress code (zoot suits were preferred), their own slang (known as caló), and very defined musical tastes: big-band swing mixed with a blues-based style that blended jazz, boogie woogie, early R&B, rock 'n' roll and rumba rhythms. Their Spanish and caló lyrics addressed the scene, its penchant for dancing and partying, and the joint alienation from and appreciation for American (popular) culture these kids felt. And people absolutely loved it: Don Tosti's genre-defining (and -naming!) 1948 hit "Pachuco Boogie" was the first Latin song to sell a million copies! Take a listen to original hipsters like Tosti, Lalo Guerrero and more with our Senior Year 1950: Bailar with the Zoot-Suited "Hooligans" of Pachuco Boogie playlist.

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