Cannibal & The Headhunters were an American band originating from East Los Angeles, that is known for being one of the first Mexican-American groups to have a national hit record, "Land of a Thousand Dances", recorded on the RAMPART label. They were also the opening act for The Beatles' second American tour, backed up by the King Curtis band.
They were the discovery of RAMPART Records label owner and founder Eddie Davis, and were part of a unique collection of young Mexican American musicians and singers in the 1960s who pioneered the "East Side Sound" music of Los Angeles, a musical phenomenon of the time that attracted international attention.
The group was founded by Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia in 1964; the other group members were Joe "Yo Yo" Jaramillo, Bobby "Rabbit" Jaramillo and Richard "Scar" Lopez. Barely out of high school, they came from Ramona Gardens and Estrada Courts Housing Projects of East Los Angeles, and were inspired by the African American doo wop groups in their neighborhoods. This group toured recorded and performed together for only 18 months before they broke up due to personal conflicts.
Their version of "Land of a Thousand Dances" was a remake of the original Chris Kenner tune, arranged and produced by Max Uballez with Frankie Garcia, and engineered by Brian Morgan. The record reached #30 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the Spring of 1965. The "na, na, na, na..." lyric roll was an original "mistake" performed by Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia during a performance in which he forgot the lyrics in mid-song and simply improvised the best way he knew how, and the "na, na, na, na" lyric is now known worldwide more than 45 years later. Soul singer Wilson Pickett re-did the song into a national hit for himself in 1967, using the "na, na, na, na" lyric to whip his audiences into a frenzy. There is a virtual myth and music legend among East L.A. music surrounding the controversy of another recording of the song "Land of 1000 Dances" at the same time by another popular East Los Angeles group, Thee Midniters, but the "na, na, na, na" lyric belongs solely to Frankie Garcia.
Frankie Garcia continued to perform with new Headhunters. A couple of years later he put his own band together with Eddie Serrano and Robert Zapata, who joined the group in 1969. The group continued performing with Garcia as Cannibal and the Headhunters in the 70s; they had several concert dates for the LA Street Scene in Los Angeles, and also performed at Madame Wongs East, Madame Wongs West and the Club Longere in Hollywood. Frankie Garcia was on front cover of Low Rider Magazine in March 1983. Shortly after that show the group was told by Frankie Garcia that he was having health problems and decided not to perform any longer. He handed the group over to Eddie Serrano and Robert Zapata.
After Frankie Garcia died in 1996, the group continued to perform concert dates throughout the United States and Canada, with some of the legends of Rock & Roll such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Anthony, Mary Wilson, Chuck Negron and many others. After the death of Eddie Serrano in a road accident in 1998, Robert Zapata took over the group and continues to perform as Cannibal and the Headhunters, keeping Frankie (Cannibal) Garcia's memory alive.
Joe "Yo Yo" Jaramillo died in 2000. Richard "Scar" Lopez died of lung cancer on July 30 2010, aged 65.