“Land of a Thousand Dances.” “That’s All.” “Love Special Delivery.” “Sad Girl.” “The Town I Live In.” “Chicano Power.” Willie Garcia, more familiarly known as Little Willie G, sang all those and more with hugely influential East LA legends Thee Midniters, in the process earning a rep as an intensely charismatic performer. In the 1970s he also logged miles with Malo, but it’s his vital ’60s tenure with Thee Midniters that secured his position as one of the most soulful balladeers in LA rock history. Garcia still tells stories onstage of his early days when he and the band cut their performance teeth in “battle of the bands”-type shows opposite then-unknowns like Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, who rolled on to achieve fame as the Righteous Brothers.
Those days, of course, are just a speck in the rearview mirror now. In 1980 Garcia experienced a religious awakening that he has often credited with helping him get clean and sober. Ordained in the mid-’80s, he continues to do outreach work with kids entangled in gang life and addiction, and occasionally reunites with his old bandmates.
When he hits the stage at McCabe’s Saturday, he’ll be focusing on his solo catalogue — newer gospel material as well as songs from his 2000 David Hidalgo-produced solo album “Make Up for the Lost Time,” which, like Thee Midniters, mixed originals with uplifting R&B covers. His set with Eastside Philharmonic should include the title tune along with some Midniters chestnuts; here’s hoping they revisit “(I Wanna) Testify” and “A World Where No One Cries” too.
Filmed performance by Little Willie G. at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at McCabe’s, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; $24.50. Info: (310) 828-4497. Mcccabes.com