A 1992 Story About Brenton Wood and his Love for Latinos

In the 90’s Latinos loved other Latino bands, but during the great depression, Latinos needed a way to connect with American culture. They realized they had more in common with Blacks than whites. For the simple fact that we were experiencing the same struggles, the same hate. That’s why we fell in love with Brenton Woods music, he sang to our soul.

It’s nothing new for Wood, who was born in Louisiana and wrote his biggest hits–“Gimme Little Sign” and “The Oogum Boogum Song”–in Torrance and South-Central Los Angeles. These days the veteran performer’s fortunes rest in East L.A. and other Mexican-American strongholds.

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“They’ve kind of picked me out of the whole batch, and they keep me going,” Wood, 51, says of his Mexican-American following. “I appreciate it, because if I was waiting for the big boys to call, I’d have died a long time ago.

“They’re very loyal. This is like the third generation of kids that have been following me. The kids like my music. It’s timeless music I think, because everyone that grows up is bound to go through this at one time or another–break up, get back together, boyfriend-girlfriend type stuff.”

Veteran radio personality Art Laboe, the oldies-but-goodies entrepreneur who’s been a musical paterfamilias to L.A.’s Mexican-American community for three decades, concurs with Wood’s analysis.

The Oogum Boogum Song LIVE

“Latinos like to dedicate songs, and his songs are good for that,” said Laboe, who recently released a collection called “Brenton Wood’s 18 Best” on his Original Sound label. “It’s not the big hits they like. It’s songs like ‘Take a Chance,’ ‘I Think You’ve Got Your Fools Mixed Up’–if a girl’s having trouble with her boyfriend she’ll dedicate that to him.”

Wood was born Alfred Smith in Shreveport, La., and grew up in San Pedro, Long Beach, Compton and South-Central Los Angeles. He taught himself piano and began singing as a teen-ager, and he was soon writing songs and harmonizing with neighborhood friends. He ended up on his own, though.

“The guys didn’t have time to rehearse,” the Inglewood resident said this week, “so I just bought myself two tape recorders and I ping-ponged and I ping-ponged and I made a group sound. I used to take my tape recorders to the gas station where I was pumping gas. I worked all night long, and I would play my music and write songs at night.”

Influenced by such smooth singers as Sam Cooke, Jesse Belvin and Nat King Cole, Wood (who took his stage name from the community of Brentwood, where a manager lived) came up with a catchy, mellow soul sound, and “Oogum Boogum” and “Sign” both became national hits in 1967 for the L.A. independent label Double Shot Records, with the latter making the Top 10.

Wood recently released an album of new material titled “That’s the Deal,” and he cultivates his Latin audience on a nightclub circuit throughout California and into Arizona and New Mexico.

“I have discovered my market, I know what my market is, so what I do is I work it,” he said.

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