Don Tosti Interview

Edmundo Martínez Tostado, whose stage name became Don Tosti, was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1923.  He exhibited musical talent at an early age, and by his twelfth birthday he was playing violin with a local group, La Orquesta Muro.  A ranchero-type known as an orquesta típica, the Muro ensemble actually played a good deal of American music, much to the satisfaction of Tosti, who in his youth evinced a strong dislike for ranchera music.

True to his more cosmopolitan tastes, Tosti eventually moved to Los Angeles, where, in 1942, he formed a “jaitón” (“hightone,” or sophisticated) orquesta.  Shortly after, Tosti’s talent led him to the American big-time, where he played bass with some of the leading dance bands in the U.S., including Les Brown and Jimmy Dorsey.

Meanwhile, in the late forties he leaped into the pachuco (Zootsuiter) vogue then rampant among Mexican American youths in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the Southwest, recording a classic hybrid song, “Pachuco Boogie,” which combined the caló, or argot, of the pachuco with the African American-inspired boogie.  This and “Chicano Boogie” established Tosti as a pioneer innovator in the evolution of Mexican American music.

For the next forty years, Tosti was one of the shining lights in the Los Angeles music scene, where he moved effortlessly between and among a myriad styles ranging from latino/tropical to jazz.  His final years were spent playing solo keyboard in nightclubs and restaurants in Palm Springs, California.

Tosti died in Palm Springs on August 2, 2004.

Introduction by Manuel Peña

  • Don Tosti Interview Part 1 00:00
  • Don Tosti Interview Part 2 00:00
Interviewee: Don Tosti
Interviewer: Manuel Peña
Date: March 12, 1993
Language: English

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission.

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.