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OK, Boomers — the Sansei Rockers Are Back

By April 26, 2024July 8th, 2024No Comments

The band, popularly known as Sansei Rockers, rehearses for its upcoming show taking place at Little Tokyo’s Aratani Theater on May 11. (Photo: George Toshio Johnston)

All generations are welcome as the old school
rock ’n’ soul band gets ready to tear the roof off the Aratani Theater.

By P.C. Staff

Richie Gajate Garcia (left), percussion, and Charles Ruggiero, drums

After four well-received, sold-out shows over back-to-back weekends last June at a Little Tokyo venue, a new old favorite is back and ready to rock.

Just a couple of days short of making its debut last May at the Japanese American National Museum’s benefit gala, the band known as the Sansei Rockers will perform at “Sansei Rocker: Get Ready, Cuz Here We Come!” from 2-4 p.m. on May 11 at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo.

Harry Manaka, Hammond B3 organ, keyboards (Photos: George Toshio Johnston with Jaimee Itagaki)

If you’re unfamiliar with this band, it arose like the legend of the phoenix following the 2020 publication of a book by the band’s leader, Harry Manaka, whose literary paean to the bands of L.A.’s “Sansei dance music circuit” of the 1960s and ’70s was titled “Chronicles of a Sansei Rocker” (see the Dec. 18, 2020, issue of the Pacific Citizen or visit

As he wrote about that era and all the bands that were part of that scene, Manaka also included his own adventures as a musician. The book proved to be an unexpected success, and in the summer of 2022, he took part in the Sansei Rocker Symposium at JANM’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum. (A video of that event may be viewed at

Like a snowball rolling down the side of a snow-covered hill, the idea of putting a band together grew — and after 2023’s proof of concept performances, the boys are back in town.

John DePatie (left), lead guitar, and Bobby Flores, bass

In 2024, the band, including Manaka, is comprised of vocalist Royce Jones and electric bassist Bobby Flores, both of whom played with Manaka many years ago in their band Somethin’ Else, plus keyboardist and arranger Wayne Wakai, guitarist/vocalist Harold Payne, electric guitarist John DePatie, percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia and drummer Charles Ruggiero.

Missing in the 2024 lineup, however, is guitarist and concert impresario Gerald Ishibashi, who had a band of his own: Stonebridge.

Royce Jones, vocals

“Last year, Gerald graciously took time out of his busy schedule to help me with my show. This year, he is involved with projects of his own and won’t be joining us. With that said, we’ve left the door open for future collaborations,” Manaka relayed via email. Added for this year: Ken Fong.

To sound good, however, takes preparation. In the runup to this new show, the band has been busy at Holloway Prods. in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., rehearsing and fine-tuning a repertoire that includes peak Motown favorites — “My Girl,” “Can’t Help Myself,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” etc. — not to mention other Top 40 hits such as “Mustang Sally,” “All Day Music” and a medley of songs by the Rascals, an inspirational favorite of Manaka’s.

Wayne Wakai, synthesizers, arrangements, alto sax, vocals and guitar

Although Manaka says there are still some balcony tickets left, the show is nearly sold out. If you’re local to Los Angeles and feel like going to a go-go, visit for tickets.

If you can’t make it, however, there is a way to see a short movie about Manaka and his musical pals: As part of the 40th VC Film Fest, aka the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (May 1-10), the Digital Histories 2024 segment, which takes place on May 5 at the Aratani Theater, will feature 15 short movies by a “creative community of Asian American aunties and uncles turned documentary filmmakers.”

Harold Payne, guitars, vocals

One of the movies is Cory Shiozaki’s six-minute-long “Chronicles of a Sansei Rocker.” Tickets are available at entire lineup, which includes a documentary about another band with Asian American members titled “The Carry On Story” by Mitchell Matsumura, will be part of the bill.

For the lineup of shorts, visit