Rock N Roll High School: Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month and of course…we’re celebrating! 

You are in for a special treat today as we discuss the first Native American band to reach the top 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Meet Redbone

Redbone is an American funk rock band founded in 1969 by the Vegas brothers. All band members during their commercial peak were of Mexican American and Native American heritage, which was reflected in their songs, stage costumes, and album art.

Pat and Lolly Vasquez-Vegas were born in Fresno, California in the late 1930s/early 1940s. The brothers were of Yaqui, Shoshone, and Mexican heritage. In 1959, the brothers moved to LA to pursue a career in music, playing local clubs. They bounced around in the 1960s, experimenting with surf music and writing for musicians such as Bobbie Gentry and Aretha Franklin. 

Legend has it that Jimi Hendrix, himself part Cherokee, encouraged the Vegas brothers to start an all Native American band.

Lucky for us, they took him up on it! By 1969, the Vegas brothers signed with Epic Records as Redbone. The word “redbone” is a Cajun term for a mixed-race person which the band adopted to signify their mixed ancestry. The original band consisted of Pat and Lolly Vegas, Peter DePoe, and Tony Bellamy. They released their debut album in 1970. Redbone featured primarily rock music with R&B, Cajun, soul, funk, country, tribal, and Latin influences. In 1973, they released “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee” recalling the massacre of Lakota Sioux Native Americans in 1890. The song charted in several European countries but didn’t in the US, where it was initially withheld from release due to the lyrical controversy. In 1974, Redbone reached top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with their single “Come and Get Your Love”, the first all Native American band to do so.

Lolly Vegas and Tony Bellamy passed away in 2010. Pat Vegas continues to tour the US and Canada today.

Here’s a crash course in Redbone’s discography:

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