Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rhythms of the World - The Texas Tornados

Water-towers often offer a glimpse into the cities in which they reside in, so they are always a neat visual to look out for when traveling across the Rio Grande Valley. Usually these water-towers have the image of the local high school sports team logo, maybe a welcoming quote, or of some type of city accomplishment. One can make the argument that the South Texas water-tower that stands out the most is San Benito's 125 foot tower. The tower is emblazoned with the words "Hometown of Freddy Fender" and his iconic image.

Years before he was "Freddy Fender", Baldemar Huerta made his name in the Hispanic areas of Texas by recording Spanish covers of pop songs that spanned several different genres. Most of these songs were recored on Valley labels like Ideal Records out of San Benito and Falcon Records out of McAllen. Many years removed from that time period, he become a country star thanks to his 1976 hits "Wasted Days and "Wasted Nights" and "Before the Next Teardrop Falls". As great as he was in those years, his period as a member of The Texas Tornados super-group is my favorite period of his.

In 1989, he joined fellow friends and musicians Flaco Jimenez, Doug Sahm, and Augie Meyers to create the initial group of The Texas Tornados. San Antonio's Flaco Jimenez, the son of the great Don Santiago Jimenez, is one of the greatest diatonic button accordion players of all time and a legend in Conjunto music. Doug Sahm (one of San Antonio's greatest musicians) and Augie Meyers are from the great faux-British band The Sir Douglas Quintet. They released their first album in 1990, the same year in which they made television appearances on Austin City Limits and Late Night with David Letterman. In 1991 they released their second album titled "Zone of Our Own".

In 1992, the BBC series Rhythms of the World came down to San Antonio to record two episodes on "Tex-Mex" music. The first episode they filmed was an event that was headlined by Valerio Longoria and Esteban Jordan. It was a pretty spectacular concert, the high point being Jordan's version of "Georgia on my Mind". The second episode, which aired a week later on BBC, was headlined by The Texas Tornados.

There is nothing quite like a live performance of The Texas Tornados. One of the most surprising things is that  they bust out their version of 96 Tears, the famous hit tune from Michigan garage band Question Mark & The Mysterians. It's great to see them performing some of their old hits, the best one being a Texas Tornados-version of the Sir Douglas Quintet classic "She's About a Mover". Enjoy the episode.

List of songs performed by "The Texas Tornados" on Rhythms of the World:

1.Who Were You Thinking Of?
2. Hey Baby (Que Paso?)
3. Laredo Rose
4. Soy De San Luis
5. Only One
6. Mendocino
7. Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
8. Is Anybody Going to San Antonio
9. She's About A Mover
10. 96 Tears

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vintage TV Footage - Entry # 5

This guy on YouTube uploaded this KRGV teaser. He has an interesting "About Me" that caught my eye:

Analog TV-DX seen by me from Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Orlando FL, and from the Outer Banks of NC (2 separate vacation weeks), from about 1988-1995. Also some top-notch TV-DX seen by a fellow TV-Dxer in St. Petersburg FL (who almost never reported loggings to clubs and bulletins) in roughly the same time frame. I am pretty much a hermit these days, so I am not revealing my name, nor do I desire contact. (Old WTFDA members will probably be able to figure it out based on the DX locations and time frame.) You will also find here slideshows of vintage 70's and 80's TV-DX still photos, and a few audio-only TV-DX clips. 
If you are scratching your head and saying "WTF" about these videos: "For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't, no explanation will suffice." Dates and distances for these loggings are lost to the ages. The clips are the result of lo-res rips of a 2nd-generation VHS dub, so I apologize for any quality issues.
I always love reading about peculiar hobbies people have. My hobby of searching for Valley stories and trying to watch every major MMA event in history might sound insane to some.

The reason why I'm posting this isn't just because of it's a vintage clip of Valley news. It's because of the coincidental nature of it. I wrote about it in my Vintage TV Footage - Entry # 2 post. For those too lazy to click on that link, basically the coincidence lies in Peter Torgerson reading a news item about someone from the Valley winning the lottery, something he would end up doing himself. Many years after this video clip, he would go on to win a $37 million Texas lottery jackpot (that he ended up splitting in half with a pal).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Border Perspective II

I was lucky enough to be asked to be a guest on the Border Perspective podcast again. I want to thank them again for having me over. Here is the link of my appearance.

Border Perspective

A Brief History of McAllen (Part 2)

These are the Explore McAllen videos that cover McAllen from the 1960s to today. Some more neat factual information mixed in with quality images of the development of McAllen. They have a peculiar claim where they say that The Plaza Mall would later become "the most productive shopping mall in the United States". I'm not really sure what that means or if there is any legitimate evidence to back that claim up. If there is, I would like to see it. Enjoy the videos, thanks Explore McAllen again.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Brief History of McAllen (Part 1)

This past week, I discovered these interesting videos from Explore McAllen. Each of these five videos is a couple of minutes long, they briefly cover some details on what happened during a decades timeframe in McAllen, TX. They are introduced and narrated by former local journalistic figures, which was a great idea. These videos are filled with great vintage photographs of McAllen, and cover key points in the history of McAllen. These are the first five videos on the first five decades of McAllen, I will post an entry tomorrow with the other five videos.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Andy Paris: Bubblegum King

Andrew Paris in McAllen
Photo Credit: LIFE

I stumbled upon this since I heard about Andy Paris being a big deal in McAllen in the 1940's. I was curious since the name was foreign to me, so I googled him up. Much to my surprise, I found this neat film trailer.

This rave review from MySA gives some most of the backstory:
Andy Paris didn’t invent bubblegum. 
But the debonair South Texas businessman made it popular the way Henry Ford made the Model-T ubiquitous – by mass producing it. In Paris’ case, after World War II in McAllen. 
Suddenly bubblegum – chewing gum mixed with latex from Mexico -- was widely available, cheap (one-penny) and fun. In post-rationing America, the timing was perfect.It made Paris, the son of Greek immigrants, an unlikely millionaire.
This looks like such a fun and enjoyable documentary, I want to see it soon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Regional Dictionary of Chicano Slang

This is neat, this book is a product of the Rio Grande Valley. In the early 1970's, Dr. Librado Keno Vasquez was a professor at the local Valley college known as Colegio Jacinto Treviño. A lot of different people contributed to this book, as Dr. Vasquez urged his students to help him by providing slang terms for his Chicano slang dictionary project. Some of the students that were in his class that helped contribute to this book were my tio Ponciano, my dad Felix, and my mom Delia.

I've been wondering about this book for a while, and I finally was able to find a used copy on Amazon. It's really quite cool to see all this slang I've heard all my life in a book like this. Also, it's a time capsule of the 1970's era and its interesting to read some antiquated terms of that time period. So if anyone you know is coming from out of town to visit the Valley, this would be a good book to prepare them for our unique dialect.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reconnecting the Rio Grande Valley

This is a nice find that deals with the lower Rio Grande Valley and its natural environment. This piece of informative text accompanies the video:

This short film was created in five days by the winners of the 2011 NANPA college scholarship - a group of students from five countries and twelve states. The US Fish and Wildlife Service provided supplementary images of ocelots, and the US Geological Survey provided satellite imagery for the project. All other footage and photographs were taken by the students, during the North American Nature Photography Association's Annual Summit.

It's a good educational piece about the wildlife of South Texas. It goes over some information about the endangered ocelots, the enormous amount of butterflies that live here in the Valley (someone should seriously make an avant garde Valley butterfly documentary) and how unique of a place this is (a place that gets taken for granted). Also this features some neat images of the our South Texas wildlife and environment.

Thanks to the group of students that helped create this short film.

Nodrog's Documents (Entry 2)

A follow up to a previous Nodrog post. This is the second document I received, it deals with Nodrog and the Outer Dimensional Forces group from Weslaco, TX. So check it out if you're fascinated by this unique group from Weslaco.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Frankie Caballero

Frankie Caballero is from Donna, TX, a home base to many of South Texas' finest musicians like Pedro Ayala, Pedro Ayala Jr., Ramon Ayala (the legendary bajo sexto player), Los Donneños, Mario Montes Jr., Danny Yanez and countless others. The future accordion maestro spent his youth in East Donna and he even attended Donna High School. His brother Chon is also a very talented piono accordionist. Presently, Frankie's son (Frankie Jr.) is also a fellow musician and plays many gigs across the Valley. Here are a few videos I would love to share with the readers of Pharr From Heaven, so they can get a glimpsed of his virtuoso talent.

First off, this is a professionally shot video for a television program named Capital Grupera con furia. It has Frankie Caballero performing with Jimmy Gonzalez y El Grupo Mazz (a Grammy-Award winning band from South Texas). He is performing "Las Polkitas del Tigre", which is a potpourri (also known as a medley). For those not familiar with the terminology, that means it is a musical arrangement of various individual songs. The songs in this potpourri include "Genaro Tamez", "Lo Tengo Decidido", "La del Moño Colorado", "La Piedrera", and "Amarrate el Sincho". As people would say down here, se avienta el guey!

I'm a big fan of unique accordion work, I love hearing Blues and Jazz licks on the three row, diatonic button accordion. This video seems to have been shot from a cell phone camera, but don't let that keep you away from watching this video. Caballero plays some absolutely fantastic blues on his accordion, creating an original sound. Awesome stuff.

Finally, here is Caballero improvising and jamming out, basically showcasing what he is capable of on the accordion. Beautiful skills, him busting out Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" on the three row, diatonic button accordion is the epitome of badass.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Nieuwe Helden meets Ramiro Cavazos

This is really cool and awesome to see. Kok de Koning and Remco Posthumus are from the Netherlands, and they form a band called Nieuwe Helden. They are huge fans of both Norteno and Conjunto music, and both those styles have influenced them greatly. It's very interesting to see musicians from North-West Europe observe something that grew from our area and form their musical style around it. Almost coming full circle as we took what the Europeans were doing in Texas ages ago and made it our own genre. Here they are performing Polka Potpourri, and it sounds great:

Well about a year ago, Kok de Koning and Remco Posthumus made a trip to the Rio Grande Valley and got the opportunity to meet with Ramiro Cavazos. For those not familiar with Cavazos, he is the legendary bajo sexto player from the iconic Valley band Los Donneños. He is also a member of the Conjunto Hall of Fame and recorded many fantastic musicians on his old RyN Discos record label. He currently owns a music shop in McAllen, a place where the local TV program "Acordeones de Tejas" has filmed at. Here is Koning and Posthumus jamming out with our local legend at his music shop:

These two guys really hold Ramiro Cavazos in such high esteem (Kok said it was a "great honour" to play with him) and they are clearly having a blast here. Aesthetically, we have similar tastes so if they make another trip to the Valley, I would really love to see them perform live.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

La Historia de Esteban Jordan (Entry 4)

For decades, The Johnny Canales Show was one of the best platforms for Tejano and Conjunto musicians to showcase their skills. Eventually, after being on the air for three different decades, the program starting being more Norteño based, which was very upsetting to many Tejano and Conjunto fans. This is something that was controversial earlier in the aughts, and something that still continues to be a controversial topic as evident by this recent article by The Monitor's Crystal Olvera. That's a topic that could be explored in a much more austere and extensive manner, but I don't have the writing chops to do it. 

So, back to the topic at hand, these are two great clips from The Johnny Canales Show that feature Esteban Jordan doing his thing. These clip emanate from the year 1986, the same year when Jordan appeared in David Byrne's (Talking Heads) cult classic True Stories. The first song is "Donde Andara" (aka "Donde Estaras"), I believe this song was first released by the Corpus Christi-based Freddie Records label in the 1970's:

Jordan has an impressive list of memorable polkas to his resume, and this polka is one of his most famous ones, "Polkaplex":

The one unfortunate thing about these videos is that the Canales TV filming style at the time had the studio track laid on top of the video, so this is not a live musical performance. Around this time, when Canales was discussing Jordan with David Bennett, Johnny Canales said the following: "I said it on my show last week: Steve Jordan is the greatest accordion player we've seen in our time, and that's no bull."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Broken Hearted Lady

Earlier this summer, I picked up this compilation set of the McAllen, Texas music scene of the late 1960's. It features a variety of different acts, but the main act that anchors this set is Christopher and the Souls. This group became well known in the Valley after a famous eBay auction and an article by The Monitor. That article talks a bit about their song, "Broken Hearted Lady", which I uploaded on my YouTube account here (which I acquired thanks to this neat compilation):

Here is an interview they did right before they were set to perform at SXSW 2010. 

If you want to read more about this band, check out this great page about Christopher and The Souls over at Garage Hangover.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Valley of Tears

Photo Credit - Raul Cabrera

This is an interesting documentary capturing a certain time in South Texas history. This was shot and directed by Hart Perry, who was fresh off of winning an Academy Award for the cinematography of the classic Harlan County, USA. While this isn't on the level of that Academy Award winning film (that film is a masterpiece, no shame in not being as good as that), the 1970's footage of South Texas that Hart Perry shot is invaluable and this documentary offers us some interesting questions to ponder. 

We see a couple of protest songs, one a passionate performance from the great Esteban Jordan (which I'll cover in a future entry). But the one that really catches our eye is the first one, which is a corrido by Maria Guadiana. Here are the lyrics:

El dia cuatro de Abril
Ano de setenta y nueve
Toda la gente disia
Viva la union campesina
La huelga de la cebolla
Tambien viva Jesus Moya

Juanita Valdez les dijo
muchachos no tengan miedo
Nada nos puede pasar
Con estos empleados malditos
Solo estamos defendiando
Derechos del campesino

Pueblito de Raymondville
Tu quedaras en la historia
Como vamos a olvidar
Esto fue en semana Santa
Cuando el chiripe por miedo
Trajo empleados de otro parte

It's broken down into three chapters: Part One - "a different type of law...", Part Two - "one of the biggest issues was the school...", and Part Three - "Nothing's changed". The first part focuses on Raymondville's 1979 onion strike and on the Texas Farmworkers Union. Jesus Moya and Juanita Valdez shine in this first chapter as natural born leaders, with Moya constantly doing his best to lead the way. In interviews far removed from that strike, Valdez remains incredibly optimistic and positive over what transpired in Raymondville. The second frame is concentrated on the school district, and the final chapter is aptly titled "Nothing's changed". The other major character of the film is Juan Guerra, and we observe his highs and lows throughout the final frame of the film. A whole documentary could have been made on him, as he is still in the news. It would take an HBO series and a crew of high caliber writers to tell Juan Guerra's story effectively.

It's an emotional glimpse at the Raymondville community and the racial tension that existed, and escalated during the onion strike. It's also sad to see how hard the city had fallen over the course of the film. Although I would say that this film and the issues it explores do seem a bit more complex than a 79 minute film could cover. Nevertheless, the 1970s footage of Raymondville and the protests during the strike still feel vibrant in 2011. This is something you really want to watch if you have any interest in Rio Grande Valley history.

Watch more free documentaries

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Los Cuatitos Cantu

This is Ramon Cantu, one half of South Texas' "Los Cuatitos Cantu" duet, a well known band that performed for a few decades. As is evident by this video performance on the legendary The Johnny Canales Show, he was a dwarf. But he wasn't just any ordinary dwarf, he was pretty talented at the squeezebox, had a good voice, and was also the lucky recipient of an extra finger. Yes, he had six fingers instead of five, and he ended up becoming an excellent accordion player (maybe thanks to that extra finger?).

Apparently, the other Cantu brother was also a six-fingered dwarf who could rock it on the squeezebox as well as Ramon. Sadly, I think by this point (I'm assuming this video is from the 1980's), the other Cantu brother had already passed away. One of the stories told of that time period was that this duet was so well known in the Rio Grande Valley, that people would innocently joke that when they saw two people who were really close together (like best friends, brothers, etc), they would say - "Ay van los Cuatitos Cantu". Here's a neat photo of this sweet duo.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ernesto Guerra

Photo Credit: nickchain
On May 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Ernesto Guerra outside Cine El Rey in downtown McAllen, TX. Unfortunately he was overlooked by the young "hip" crowd as he performed some slick polkas on his two row diatonic accordion. Every once in a while, he would have to take a break to smoke a cigarette and I can sense that his hands were in significant pain due to arthritis. I ended up having a fun conversation with him, but I really regret not getting his contact information. He reminisced about his fellow peers and about the time he bought his first accordion as a young man in the 1950's. He described the accordion as being quite similar to the one he was playing with that late Spring night and talked about how it cost him 30 some dollars at a local McAllen store. So he's someone that has been rocking polkas on the accordion for over seven decades!

He has played and toured with bands under the names of Los Alegres del Valle and Conjunto Del Valle. He has also recorded music for various record labels like Del Valle, Valen, Bego, and El Pato. To accordion aficionados, his polkas like "La Psycodelica", "El Pata de palo", "Flicka" and "King Kong" are fondly remembered as great works by Guerra. But sadly, some of his music has remained pretty obscure and difficult to find. I did luck out when I tracked down and got a hold of this Ernesto Guerra 45 from a gentlemen in Illinois. Both sides have some cool Guerra rancheras and this record happened to be in perfect condition (which is amazing since it has to be close to 50 years old).

Here he is playing one of his original polka compositions with Ramiro Cavazos, one of the members of the legendary South Texas band Los Donneños. Excellent video showing Guerra's maestro accordion work.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Las Hermanas Guerrero - Corrido de Juan Meneses

These are Maria Luisa and Felipa, collectively known as Las Hermanas Guerrero, a popular South Texas duet. This ballad was performed with Jimmy Morgan's Conjunto in 1946. The Guerrero sisters recorded songs for the Ideal label in San Benito, although I'm not sure where this particular narcocorrido was recorded. This song tells the story of Juan Meneses, a chief that was brutally killed in Mexicali on June 23, 1946. I wish I had more information about this duet but they are an obscure subject. But I hope you enjoy this classic narcocorrido!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Border Perspective

I was recently asked to appear on this podcast talking a little bit about Pharr From Heaven. I apologize for my extremely awkward voice, and all my uses of "...ummm...". But check out Border Perspective, they do a great job. I want to thank them for inviting me, I really appreciate it.

Border Perspective Podcast

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nodrog's Documents (Entry 1)

This is the first of three documents that I will be sharing with my readers that deals with Nodrog and his group. First off, let's take a look at the header logo.

Interesting looking logo, one of the most curious things about the logo is that they reference the two newsworthy hurricanes from 1967, Hurricane Beulah and Hurricane Fern. The first paragragh starts off with the following four words, "Ultimatory of Perfect Greetings", which sound like something out of an Ultimate Warrior rant. It goes on to greet all the officials and employeees of the City of Pharr while also accusing the Pharr school system of being a "Red social communist school system". Nodrog also seems to be angry at false prophets which Nodrog means as preachers, priests, and rabbis.

The second paragragh is quite bizzare and I'm not sure what to make of it. It seems to be saying that at 6 P.M. that "total sterilization of all life" will happen. It also refers to Weslaco as the "City of (Ultimate Sodom) Weslaco". I had no idea Nodrog liked the word "ultimate" so much.

Also, Nodrog wants to inform us that this Earth is not a planet at all. He goes on to say "Time Station Earth is not a planet unto itself, but has Time Ark Service Modules, which humatons perverfractioneer as U.F.O.s or flying saucers." Ummm...okay. Neat?

Nodrog goes on to talk about how we've turned our backs on "the service modules" and for that we will pay dearly. What he means by that is we're stuck on Earth for 7000 years. Not bad, maybe I'll finally get around to seeing Bela Tarr's 7 1/2 Hungarian film Sátántangó. Also, according to this document, we don't have the mental capacity to "investigate the facts offered by the O.D.F."

It's pretty difficult to summarized the rest since I don't want to leave anything out that you, the reader, would find fascinating. So, I thought it would be a nice idea to share this interesting document with you. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Arnulfo Olivo - The Forgotten Conjunto Pioneer

                                               Photo Credit -

On Friday afternoon, my cousin Mike gave me a call that he was headed over my way to drop off a research paper that had been put together by his father (my Tio Chano) and Dr. Jaime Armin Mejia of Texas State University. I had been corresponding with my Tio via email on matters of South Texas' music, specifically of the cojunto variety. My dad had told me that my Tio was one of the leading figures in bringing attention to an unknown conjunto pioneer named Arnulfo Olivo (who happened to by my dad and uncle's uncle).

My cousin arrived shortly with a manila envelope containing the contents of this research paper that I had anxiously been waiting for. This paper was presented at the Texas/Southwest Popular Culture Association on February 5th, 1993 at Texas A & I University in Kingsville, Texas. The title of the paper was "Arnulfo Olivo: His Influence on Today's Texas-Mexican Conjunto Music", and here is my bullet point summary of this great research paper:
  • Arnulfo Olivo was born on November 4th, 1903 in a small ranch called "El Capote", which was located north of San Juan, TX. One interesting bit of information is that another obscure conjunto pioneer, Lolo Cavazos, was also born in "El Capote", three years after Olivo. 
  • Ponciano "Chano" and Panchie Martinez, through research, were able to come to the conclusion that many modern musical compositions made famous by Narciso Martinez, Pedro Ayala, and Don Santiago Jimenez were compositions Arnulfo Olivo had composed. Mejia goes on to elaborate, "it should further be noted that their recording of some of Olivo's music compositions sealed their place as pioneers and icons in the Tejano Conjunto music world."
  • As an 18-year-old man, Olivo married the 15-year-old Thomasa in 1921. Thomasa goes on to suggest that Olivo was playing the accordion in 1920 in public places across the lower area of the RGV. Some of these places include "salónes" and dance halls.  
  • Since he started playing in 1920, it should be noted that he started many years before Pedro "El Monarca del Acordeon" Ayala and Narciso "El Huracan del Valle" Martinez.
  • According to Thomasa Olivo, Arnulfo began working as a musician in San Benito's most popular salón. The owner of that particular salón was a woman known as "La Tia Chucha". He started working there on December 1930 and was there until March 1931.
  • Narciso Martinez ended up visiting this establishment to see Arnulfo Olivo perform. Thomasa Oliva strongly believes that the only reason Narciso visited this salón was to "steal" the original compositions that Arnulfo had created. This research paper describes the relationship between Arnulfo and Narciso as, and I quote, "not a friendly rivalry."
  • Tia Chucha's salón was set on fire and burned down in 1931. This act of arson is believed to be the result of rivals of this establishment being upset with its success. Stuff like this happening wasn't rare at the time.
  • Pedro Ayala had the reputation of being the musician most open in referencing and mentioning the work of his peers, like Arnulfo Olivo.
  • Arnulfo Oliva allowed and agreed to let Pedro Ayala record some of his own creations, which didn't sit well with Oliva's wife. 
  • It's something of a mystery, but for some reason, Olivo never recorded his musical work. So no recordings by him of his own art exist. 
  • Donna, Texas musicians Antonio Cavazos, Juan Trevino, Lupe Trevino, Lupe Torres and Olivo's wife have credited the following compositions to Arnulfo Olivo: "Los Jacalitos", "Say y Pimienta", "Labios de Coral", "La Chulada", "Senderito", "Chicharronada", "La Pajareda", "El Naranjal", "Rio Rico", and some others. Olivo's wife claims that Arnulfo had as many as 27 compositions in his repertoire in 1923. 
  • Willie Lopez, who just recently passed away on March 4th, 2011, would play Olivo's compositions that were done by other musicians. Apparently, Willie Lopez would always pay homage to Olivo by mentioning that these compositions were composed and created by Arnulfo Olivo. Here is a clip of Willie Lopez, who had a long lasting Valley radio show named Chulas Fronteras. For those wondering, I will pay tribute sometime soon to the late, great Willie Lopez. 
  • On page 6 of the research paper, Mejia mentions this interesting information: "Manuel Pena has stated that in the 1930s, an American recording company came to contract Arnulfo Olivo to record some of his compositions, but again, for reasons that are still not clear, he refused to sign a contract, and instead recommended that Pedro Ayala be hired in his stead".
  • By 1937, Olivo pretty much stopped playing music in public on a regular basis. He would still play for his family, friends, and some wedding receptions that were "in his barrio".
  • Arnulfo Olivo passed away on May 27th, 1983 in Donna, Texas. He was 80 years old, and died as a totally obscure figure of conjunto music. He left behind his wife Thomasa, one of the very few people who would speak of his contributions to conjunto music. To this day, he is still a mysterious and obscure figure. 
Reading this research paper, talking to certain local musicians like Ernesto Guerra, Noe Reyes, and having Willie Lopez's son bring his dad to my attention, really make me feel like it should be a duty of mine to try to document as much local history as possible. At the end of 2010, I was unsure of where this blog would go and what place I would take it, but I've been really inspired by a barrage of ideas lately. One of the ideas that this research paper puts forth is how much invaluable information is being lost on a regular basis due to people of previous generations passing away. A lot of local history, for whatever reason, wasn't really documented or written down. Maybe some people thought it wasn't worth documenting, which I passionately disagree with. There is so much oral history out there, that I feel that I have to search for and discover, to bring it out to light. A lot of interesting Rio Grande Valley stories are not on the internet, as they are mostly hidden in obscurity and rarely search for. But the main goal of this blog is to change that and bring out interesting history to the people that are interested in it. It's a never ending proposition but I'm sticking with it. 

- Eduardo Martinez

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Simon Reyes & the Outerlimits

    Photo Credit: Miguel Vargas from the Miguel Angel Studio Blog.

    The last few years, there's been some very enjoyable things written about South Texas music. Whether it's Spanish, English or Spanglish, I'm pretty interested in listening to all old school Valley music I can get a hold of. Back in March 2010, my friend Denise Flores posted this great Monitor article on her Facebook that introduced me to the music and story of Christopher and the Souls. Since then, Weslaco-based blogger Andres Sanchez has also written about Christopher and the Souls over at his great music blog The Photon God. Today, I was going to write a little bit about another old school Valley musician.   

    Simon Reyes was born in Weslaco, Texas on 1947, and he became part of a family that had two brothers and four sisters. As a child, he already had a strong affection towards music. His little brother Noe "Rudy" Reyes informs us of some of Simon's adventures as a child, "he would perform on a TV show from Weslaco called the Molten Ty Cobb show.  He would paint fake sideburns and pretend to play a guitar without strings while he sang "Hound Dog" and he would also dance like Elvis and would perform this way on the TV show."

    Eventually in the 1960's, Simon Reyes dropped out of high school during his sophomore year. A while after this, he had his own group and toured across the Valley playing at various venues. He also spent some time in Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana where he recorded approximately 19 to 20 songs. His brother Noe says that these tunes have not been released or that they could have been lost forever.

    Before his band "The Outerlimits", the name of his first band was called "The Vikings". He then formed "Simon Reyes and The Outerlimits", a band that was together for over six years. But the rest of the band changed from time to time with Simon being the only consistent band member. These two songs, "Mistake Number Three" and "My Baby Hurts Me" were both recorded at the McAllen Pharaoh record label in 1967. These songs were written by Reyes and performed by him and "the Outerlimits". I really love both songs a lot, both are extremely catchy pop numbers and Simon Reyes had a really great voice. Here are the two songs for your listening pleasure:

    The name of his next band after "The Outerlimits" was called "The Gypsies" and then the last band he played with was "Simon Reyes and the Bourbon Street Bums". Rudy "Noe" Reyes elaborates, "he was always the front man for all these groups and he was the one who brought them together and named the bands himself." 
    But on November 15, 1974, Simon Reyes passed away due to heroin overdose near his home in Weslaco. Like some other musicians of that time period, he was 27 years old when he died due to drug overdose. After his death, San Benito's icon Freddy Fender informed Rudy "Noe" Reyes that Simon might have had a son somewhere in California or New Orleans.


    One of Simon Reyes' songs was a part of the soundtrack to an independent film called Broken Promise, which was produced by Mercedes resident Eddie Howell. Also at the moment, Rudy "Noe" Reyes is attempting to pay tribute to his brother with a display at the Weslaco Museum and the museum is looking forward to seeing what "Noe" will present to them.

    On October 3rd, 2010, the City of Weslaco proclaimed the day "Simon Reyes Day" and handed over a plaque to the Reyes family that was engraved with the following words: "Simon Reyes. Rio Grande Valley Rock and Roll Legend". At the upcoming Rudstock Music Festival that is taking place on June 10th-June 12th in Edinburg, Texas, there will be a Simon Reyes display that will include photographs, records, and other items paying tribute to the Weslaco musician. So be sure to check out the Rudstock Music Festival if you're interested in learning more about Simon Reyes. 

    This is Simon Reyes' Discography:

    1. I'm A Hog For You Baby/(cover?) - Simon Reyes
    2. Just By Touching Your Hand - Simon Reyes
    3. Make Believe -  Simon Reyes
    4. Happy Song -  Simon Reyes
    5. My Baby Hurts Me -  Simon Reyes
    6. Mistake Number Three - Simon Reyes
    7. People Laugh - Simon Reyes
    8. Caminito, Caminito - Simon Reyes
    9. Broken Hearted Fool - Simon Reyes
    10. I'm Gonna Love You Anyway - Simon Reyes
    11. Mama, Mama (Spanish) - Simon Reyes  
    12. Mama, Mama (English) - Simon Reyes
    13. What Now My Love (cover) - Simon Reyes
    14. Amor De La Calle - Simon Reyes
    15. The Pregnant Cow - Simon Reyes
    16. El Coyote (cover) - Simon Reyes
    17.La Barca (cover) - Simon Reyes
    18. Tejano Enamorado (cover) - Simon Reyes
    19.La Bola Negra (cover) - Simon Reyes

    Thanks to my brother Angel for informing me about this musician. Huge thanks to Noe "Rudy" Reyes for all the great information he provided me with. Also, thanks to Miguel Vargas for the Weslaco water tower photo, and check out his great photography blog. For more information, Garage Hangover has some great stuff.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Corrido De Pharr, Texas by Rumel Fuentes

    I wrote about this song and discussed it in an earlier entry here at Pharr From Heaven, but I finally figured out how to upload it on YouTube. In the earlier entry, I posted the Spanish lyrics, information about Rumel Fuentes and the events that lead to this corrido, so make sure to check it out if this is all foreign to you. On this entry, I'm going to post the English lyrics that Arhoolie produced so some of our English-only speaking friends can also follow along. Enjoy the song, and I would like to hear your thoughts.

    Ballad of Pharr, Texas
    They say that in Pharr there are serpents
    with the head of a pig,
    and among the people of Pharr
    they have gringo Mexicans.

    A mayor who is in command,
    many are the errand boys,
    bought ones who have sold out,
    oh, what damn horse thieves.

    The federal commission said,
    -Why should the law be admired
    if those same officials
    have criminal records?

    There are four or five witnesses
    of much police brutality.
    You can hear screams in the cells;
    this is barbarism.

    A quiet protest
    against the police,
    the people denounced them
    for things that were known.

    They killed Poncho Flores,
    it was a policeman in Pharr;
    a man who wears a gun
    you cannot trust.

    You who killed Flores,
    this will not be forgotten.
    Take care of all that you do
    or with God you will have to pay.

    Now in various towns of Aztlán
    this at one time happened,
    and it will keep on happening
    if we do not organize.

    Fly, fly little dove,
    land on that cactus plant,
    and here we finish singing
    about what happened there in Pharr.

    You can pick up Rumel Fuentes' 'Corridos of the Chicano Movement' CD or hear samples at Arhoolie Records or Amazon.

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    Bobby Joe Morrow

    Bobby Joe Morrow is one of the greatest athletes to have emerged from the Rio Grande Valley. On October 15th, 1935, he was born in Harlingen, Texas but he actually grew up in San Benito. His family had a cotton and carrot farm there and he worked with his family there as he grew up. He attended San Benito High School, where he dabbled in both sprinting and football. In his junior and senior years at SBHS, he won state titles at sprinting and eventually headed to Abilene Christian College. He achieved some remarkable success there, as this July 2nd,1956 article discusses:

    "As a freshman at Abilene Christian College, Morrow ran the 100 in 9.4, one-tenth of a second off the world record, and once, with a following wind, covered the distance in 9.1 (which couldn't be recognized as a record but gave him a share of the honor, along with Mel Patton, of having moved over the ground on his own two feet faster than anyone had ever gone before). This spring, as a college sophomore, he equaled the world 100-meter record of 10.2 seconds. Since his junior year in high school, Bobby has lost only two races."

    As impressive as his school records were, his crowning achievement in the sport took place at the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, Australia. As the leader of the American sprint team, he went on to win three gold medals at the 1956 edition of the Olympics.  The three events that showcased his world class skills included the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and a team effort at the 4 x 100 meter relay. Here's the video of Morrow's great accomplishments which conclude with the narrator authoritatively stating - "Bobby Morrow, one of the greatest sprinters in the history of the Olympic games".

    On the January 7th, 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated (which features an excellent story on Morrow), he was given the honor and title of "Sportsman of 1956". Later on in 2006, the San Benito High School payed tribute to him by dedicating their stadium to him.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    La Historia de Esteban Jordan (Entry 1)

    I've been wanting to write an entry about Esteban Jordan on this blog, but my knowledge of him is still very limited. But even though I'm a new fan, I must say that Jordan's music has been having a huge effect on me this past year. I don't think I would be able to get across his career and life in one simple entry, so this is the first in what will be a very long non-chronological series of entries on his career and life. A unique artist like him deserves much more attention that he is currently receiving and I feel like it is my duty to bring more recognition to his brilliance. One of my hopes for this series is to also have contributions from far more knowledgeable people than myself to give a better understanding of Jordan.

    This past week, a great gentleman that uses the username rcortez on YouTube was kind enough to upload Esteban Jordan performing some Jazz on Austin City Limits in 1979. The first video has him performing one of his famous hits, Ran Kan Kan, and showcasing his masterful accordion skills. The second video presents us with the rare opportunity of seeing Jordan performing on the guitar. Jordan, who is a very confident man who once boasted to NPR that his musical skills were "so far advanced that nobody could catch up", cries out to the audience, "George Benson, eat your heart out!", during his performance. So enjoy these two great videos featuring the world class, one of a kind musician from Elsa, TX.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Classic Valley Theaters # 2

    This is the Queen Theatre, it was a single screen theatre from Brownsville, Texas and was located on 1125 E. Elizabeth Street. It was built, owned and operated by Paco Betancourt (who I previously wrote about here), and apparently it was the first theatre in the Rio Grande Valley that screened "talkies". According to Dr. Lino Garcia Jr.'s article at the Brownsville Herald, "It showed all kinds of movies, and western singing star Ernest Tubbs once made an appearance there, singing his most famous melodies, including 'I’m walking the floor over you.'"

    Previous Entries
    Classic Valley Theaters # 1


    This is an old article from the Texas Monthy about Rio Grande Valley television programming and local politicians getting in the way of a PBS affiliate opening down here. It's basically about Harlingen Mayor Bob Youker being opposed and against the station, and the city being afraid about what this channel could produce. The fear of these ignorant politicians came from no white people being on the board of directors, it being the first ever minority-owned PBS station and because it would have been run by former Jacinto Treviño College instructors.

    KZLN eventually got on the air in September of 1982, but due to lack of support and limited members (Texas Monthly later reported that there was only 400 members), it soon made its way off the air and very few people remember it. Also, according to a poster on this thread, most of KZLN's equipment was stolen during its short and brief tenure. After the demise of KZLN, KMBH made its air debut on October of 1985 and it's still on today as the Valley's PBS affiliate.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Vintage TV Footage - Entry # 4 : Table Talk

    I stumbled upon this on YouTube, it's a 1960's KGBT-TV program called "Table Talk". From the brief information that I was able to gather about this, it aired weekdays at noon and it was a locally produced talk show. The hosts name is Johnny Goodman and according to 1963-64 issues of Billboard magazine, he was the program director of KGBT-TV.

    The guests are a local Rio Grande Valley band called "The Rivals", the young members being Mac Tichenor (his family owned the KGBT-TV station until 2003), Bob Boggus, Jack Boggus and Scott Hornadaya. It seems that one of the members of the band, Bob Boggus is the one we should thank for this unique YouTube upload. There seems to be some technical issues with the first video at the moment, as it only plays up to a certain point (1:26) but the second video works perfectly. 

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    IDEAL Records

    As evident by some of my recent blog entries, Chris Strachwitz is someone who I've really come to admire these last few months. There's a reason why he's a member of San Benito's "Texas Conjunto Music" Hall of Fame, and it's for his priceless contributions towards South Texas music. He's a guy that I've become quite fascinated by, not only because of his love for South Texas, but the love he's shown for all regions, cultures, and musical genres across the U.S. Strachwitz should be commended for bringing much needed attention and love to regional music that would have otherwise been lost throughout history.

    I wanted to share a first class history lesson by Strachwitz, where he details the history of San Benito's IDEAL Records. He originally wrote this for the linear notes of Arhoolie Records' "Tejano Roots", and has since gone on to share this piece on his website. On this piece he discusses who the founders were, what lead to the formation of the label, the partnerships and a bit of rich South Texas history. One neat nugget of information includes a musician who is now a South Texas icon doing some "engineering chores" for the label. So enjoy reading about one of South Texas' most important record labels. 
    IDEAL Records was launched in 1946 after Armando Marroquin of Alice, Texas released several records by the vocal duet of Carmen y Laura, (his wife Carmen and her sister Laura) via a Los Angeles based firm. The success of these records in south Texas brought businessman Paco Betancourt from San Benito to Alice to propose a partnership with Mr. Marroquin. Under the agreement reached by the two men, Armando Marroquin would get new recording equipment, a studio, make all the recordings, and receive all the records he needed for his juke boxes. Paco Betancourt for his part would arrange for the manufacturing of the discs and their distribution both in the U.S. and in Mexico.

    Armando Marroquin (September 12, 1912 – July 4, 1990) operated juke boxes in cantinas, restaurants, and other businesses in the Alice area. Before the war, records by the best known local artists were readily available from the major labels on their depression-special cheap 35 cent labels like Blue Bird, Vocalion, Okeh, and Decca. Narciso Martinez, Gaytan y Cantu, and the first female star of Tejano music: Lydia Mendoza were probably the most popular. When record production almost came to a standstill in the United States during World War II (1941-1945), the record industry in Mexico quickly tried to pick up the slack. But, the combination of not having recorded the music from up north (Norteño) and U.S. Customs making it very difficult and even illegal to import records, left most juke boxes high and dry for want of local favorites. Mr. Marroquin had purchased a disc recorder and sold acetate copies of recordings for up to $5 each to music hungry juke box owners. The first recordings were made in Carmen and Armando Marroquin’s kitchen. Carmen sang and a blind guitar playing neighbor, Reynaldo Barrera, backed her on guitar or bajo sexto. When the war ended Mr. Marroquin contacted Four Star Records in Los Angeles, one of the first independent pressing and production companies, to manufacture his first mass-produced 78 rpm records.

    Among those first commercial releases was the timely song Se Me Fue Mi Amor (which can be heard on Arhoolie CD/C-343 Tejano Roots: The Women) sung by Carmen and her sister Laura accompanied by another neighbor, Isaac Figueroa, on accordion. The sound of an accordion, both solo and backing singers, was rapidly becoming the attraction which drew listeners and dancers to cantinas and ballrooms. The theme of the song of that first record was "My love has left me, he has gone off to war" and it was an instant success throughout the southwest. Once Armando and Paco began IDEAL Records, Armando supplied a steady stream of masters and soon went on the road with his rising stars: Beto Villa and his orchestra, singers Carmen and Laura, and accordion ace Narciso Martinez. This successful triumvirate had all the elements to appeal to every strata of Mexican-American society in the southwest during the immediate post war era. Armando Marroquin had a good sense for what music the public wanted to buy on records and he was soon besieged by talent from all over the south Texas area.

    Paco Betancourt (January 15, 1903 - September 5, 1971) owned and operated the Rio Grande Music Co. in San Benito, Texas, primarily a retail record shop which, according to John Phillips from whom I purchased the IDEAL masters, also serviced over a hundred juke boxes and 25 pin ball games by 1946. In the 1920s Paco Betancourt had built and operated the Queen Theatre on Main Street in Brownsville, the first theatre in the Valley to show talking movies. He eventually sold out to a chain and went into the record business. By 1950 Tejano and Conjunto music had become a substantial business for record producers, juke box operators, nightclub, ballroom, and bar owners, composers, as well as the singers and musicians who comprised the orchestras and conjuntos.

    Success brought competition and several smaller companies, including Falcon Records in McAllen, Texas, were soon on the scene. Due to their location close to the border, these companies recorded many artists from Mexico, especially from rural areas in the state of Nuevo Leon. Along with increased opportunities for the artists, problems and complaints arose and the partnership between Armando Marroquin and Paco Betancourt came to an end around 1959 although the two remained good friends. Mr. Marroquin retained the services of some of the artists, the recording studio, and started his own label, Nopal. Paco Betancourt’s Rio Grande Music Co. continued to distribute the IDEAL label from San Benito where a studio was opened and new recordings were made by Paco and John Phillips. Some of the engineering chores were soon taken over by a talented young local singer and musician who also recorded for the label, named Baldemar Huerta who would soon be known to the music world as Freddy Fender. Many of the best artists however, including Paulino Bernal, went on to greener pastures at other labels or formed their own production companies. Towards the end of his career, Mr. Betancourt entered politics and was elected mayor of San Benito, Texas.

    I purchased all IDEAL masters in 1990 from John Phillips, Sr. who had inherited all the rights to the label. John’s grandfather on his mother’s side was a brother of Paco Betancourt’s father. The Betancourt brothers had both been officials of the Mexican government under the Diaz regime and were sent from Mexico City to Matamoros to supervise customs and immigration. When the revolution spread through Mexico the Betancourt family fled across the Rio Grande to Brownsville and lost their property in Mexico. Paco Betancourt grew up during the boom days of the 1920s and as an enterprising young man started several businesses. John on the other hand, born in 1922, grew up in the depth of the Depression and went to work for Pan American Airways in the early 1940s. After World War II, Pan Am relocated their Western regional headquarters and John did not want to make the move. He stayed in San Benito and in 1946 went to work for Paco Betancourt and IDEAL Records when the label was releasing record number 15. While Paco shipped masters, ordered the 78 rpm records pressed in California, made up the label copy, packed and invoiced in the shop, John was responsible for sales and contacting the various wholesalers, shops, and juke box operators throughout the southwest. When the partnership with Marroquin ended and the master recordings no longer poured in from Alice, Texas, John was made responsible for installing a recording studio next door and a record pressing facility in the back of the Rio Grande Music Co. building. From that time on Paco and John Phillips did most of the recordings in San Benito and pressed the records, which by 1960 were all 7" 45 rpm or 33 1/3 rpm LP discs.

    Armando Marroquin was the perfect recording director. He got along well with the musicians, had a good ear for talent and for what the public wanted to hear, and obtained a good sound with the recording equipment on hand. Looking back at the many fine master recordings he produced for IDEAL, we begin to realize how much excellent and historic Tejano and Conjunto music has been preserved on record thanks to the many talented singers and musicians and the tireless and patient Armando Marroquin.

    I personally have been interested in Tejano and Conjunto music for over 30 years and have recorded Flaco Jimenez, Trio San Antonio, Santiago Jimenez, Los Pinguinos del Norte, and others for ARHOOLIE. I have been an avid collector of historic 78 rpm recordings from South Texas and have made many of these available again on LPs and Cassettes on the Folklyric label. In the 1970s I produced two documentary films, CHULAS FRONTERAS and DEL MERO CORAZON with film maker Les Blank and editor Maureen Gosling. These films/videos have introduced some of the best historic Tejano and conjunto artists, songs, corridos, and dance musics to audiences around the world. (See the Arhoolie catalog for details.)

    When it came to my attention that IDEAL Records was for sale and that, contrary to local rumors, the masters were not lost or destroyed but carefully stored at the Rio Grande Music Co. building in San Benito, I suddenly found myself in the position of the ultimate record collector. I felt obligated to buy these priceless artifacts of a vital and strong culture not my own, to preserve this wonderful music for future generations and rescue it from oblivion. I have spent the past year listening to a lot of tapes and 78s and contacted many of the leading artists to get their approval and stories. The music is no doubt the most important aspect of the IDEAL catalog, but I feel that these pioneer recordings of Tejano music deserve special attention. These recordings and the musicians and singers who created them are a part of our national heritage. Lydia Mendoza, Narciso Martinez, and Valerio Longoria, all of whom are represented in the IDEAL catalog, have been honored by receiving the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts and many of the other artists have received formal recognition in one way or another. The songs are part of the vernacular literature of the people of south Texas and like books, deserve to be in libraries, class rooms, and homes. We hope that these researched presentations on CDs and cassettes of The Roots of Tejano and Conjunto Music will be appreciated and enjoyed by the people of south Texas as well as by new audiences around the globe. (Chris Strachwitz - 1991)

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Johnny Canales is back!

    I have been curious for the last few months about what the legendary Johnny Canales had been up to. I usually Google his name to see if I can find out any recent news about him, and today I was thrilled to find this new article about him. Here's an excerpt from the article:
    Johnny Canales is back.

    With his white cowboy hat, black shirt, pants and boots, and a sequin jacket with the American and Mexican flags on each arm, it was like Canales never left as he took the Selena Auditorium stage Tuesday night at the American Bank Center.

    Judging from the fans dancing in the aisles and bouncing in their seats, the Tejano music legend hasn’t lost his magic touch.

    Five bypass surgeries and one stroke later, Canales taped his popular live music show once again after a four-year hiatus.

    Tuesday’s pilot will be pitched to several Spanish-language television networks, he said.
    I was talking to a good friend recently about how much of an impression Canales has left here in "el magico Valle del Rio Grande" and how highly I thought of him as a performer. I think sometimes people don't give him his due or the credit he deserves because they might not be fans of the type of music he represents. Some people may not care for Tejano or Tex-Mex, and they brush off Canales since he happens to be one of the biggest champions of that genre. Another unfortunate thing that happens is that people view Johnny Canales as something their "uncool" parents would watch, and because of that they don't give him a chance. But if you're open minded, you will quickly realize how great he is at what he does. If you've ever seen him host his program, it's quite clear that he's a master of the format. So smooth behind the microphone, code-switching with ease and making an incredibly difficult job look so easy. The way Bob Barker excelled at the game show format on the old Price is Right is the same way Johnny Canales excels at his.

    One of the most difficult things to do is to have good shtick. Having good shtick seems so simple but few people are able to pull off some quality shtick. W.C. Fields had some great shtick and he showed that in some of the best comedies of the 1930's. One of the reasons Jerry Lawler had such longevity as a performer in Memphis was because of his shtick. Canales is one of those types of performers, I mean, if he wants to he can charm the pants off of any woman he so desires. So whether he's joking with Selena that her Spanish needs some work or goofing off with Freddy Fender, you're always going to find yourself having a fun time with good ole' Johnny Canales.

    One thing that you don't lose over time is charm, and Canales is a great example of that. You got it! Take it away!

    Photo Credit: Michael Zamora.
    Video Credit: Sarah Acosta.

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Tito Santana

    Here are a pair of videos that aired on our local XRIO Cable 6 News station on July 8th, 2009. The reporter is obviously a pro wrestling fan, and I was a bit surprised that they covered some major points in his career like the Greg Valentine feud and him being considered for the title in 1992. Local pro wrestling fans will notice local pro wrestler Golden King posing for a photograph with Santana. Golden King is an extremely entertaining performer that is very much appreciated here in the South Texas pro wrestling community. 
    For those not familiar with Tito Santana, I thought it would be neat to give his career a little overview. Merced Solis was born here in South Texas in Mission on May 10th, 1953. He went on to play basketball, track and football at Mission High School (the same high school where legendary Dallas Cowboys' coach Tom Landry played football at), and graduated from that high school in 1971. He went on to play football as a tight end at West Texas State, where he was on the team with future NWA star Tully Blanchard and future WWF star Ted Dibiase. Tully, and his dad Joe (the promoter of San Antonio's Southwest Championship Wrestling, a promotion that also toured here in South Texas) talked to him about getting into pro wrestling. He was not a wrestling fan growing up as a kid, but after a very brief stint with NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and CFL's BC Lions, he decided to give professional wrestling a try.

    Blanchard hooked him up to go train with Hiro Matsuda, and he trained there with other well known names of the sport. After training there, he was having a difficult time getting bookings and making money in the sport. He told Terry Funk, who was a huge star at the time, that he was thinking of quitting because of the lack of money and was thinking of going back to try to play with the BC Lions again. Funk, being the incredibly awesome man that he always is, got in contact with Eddie Graham to give Santana bookings to keep him in the business. Santana then eventually went to Atlanta to work with Jim Barnett under the name "Richard Blood" and had a guarantee there. Around that time, Santana said that one of the professional wrestlers that he was slightly influenced by was former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco. 

    He came up with the name Santana because he knew a guy named Santana in Mission, TX and he liked the sound of it. He was in AWA but then in 1979, he went to work up north for Vince McMahon Sr., where he won the WWF Tag Team Championship with Ivan Putski. After that title run, he spent a brief time in Japan before going back to the AWA. One of his favorite guys to work with there was Sgt. Slaughter, who Tito recalls as doing a great job at putting Tito over. He eventually returned back to the WWF in 1983 but to work under Vince McMahon Jr. this time around. In 1984 and 1985, he had a legendary feud with Greg Valentine over the Intercontinental title. After that, he went on to feud with Randy "Macho Man" Savage for the same title and it's a feud that produced a classic match in Toronto.

    In 1987, he became part of the Strike Force tag team with Rick Martel, and they won the tag team titles from the Hart Foundation in the fall of 1987. They ended up losing the titles to Demolition at WrestleMania IV in 1988 and the team broke up at WrestleMania V when Martel turned on Santana during a match against The Brainbusters (Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson). At the 1989 King of the Ring, Santana went on to defeat Bad News Brown (Allen Coage), The Warlord, Akeem the African Dream (One Man Gang), and his former tag team partner Rick Martel in one night to win the King of the Ring tournament. In 1990, his highlights were his matches with Mr. Perfect in the Intercontinental title tournament finals and on NBC's Saturday Night's Main Event. He was then given a bullfighter gimmick in 1991, and renamed as El Matador, a gimmick he hated. A year later in 1992, both Santana and Bret Hart were in consideration for a WWF World title reign, a story that both Hart and Santana have openly discussed and confirmed in various media sources. But as we all know, Hart was given the honors in late 1992 when he was penciled in to beat Ric Flair for the title in Canada. After being passed for a main event run, Santana's final year with the promotion was a bit low profile and not as noteworthy as his 1983-1990 run in the WWF. Since his departure, he's spent a limited time on the independent circuit, working on his own terms and schedule. 

    In 2004, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and in 2007, he was inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Here's the nice video of his WWE induction:

    Below the cut, I put together a list of recommended matches of Santana's career.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Rumel Fuentes - Corridos of the Chicano Movement

    One of the highlights of Les Blank's Chulas Fronteras was a gentleman by the name of Rumel Fuentes. He and Los Pinguinos del Norte performed a juicy little number called "Chicano", which was written by the great jack of all trades and Texas Tornados member Doug Sahm. Juan Tejeda, author of Puro Conjunto, talked to the San Antonio Express-News about how he was an obscure figure, and that "he was political, writing about Chicanos early on. That's what set him apart. He's an important voice in an oblique way." I was pretty intrigued by what I had read about the late native of Eagle Pass, TX, so I decided to pick up Arhoolie Records' "Rumel Fuentes - Corridos of the Chicano Movement" CD release (a collection of never-before-released tunes from Fuentes).

    The album is filled with interesting and emotional songs that deserve their own entries, but this entry is going to be focused on the track titled "Corrido de Pharr, Texas". With life, some things change and some things never change, and this song is a reminder of that. The corruption nowadays is different from what our people experienced in the early 1970s, but at the end of the day, it's still some pretty horrifying corruption (you really need a whole blog to cover all the corruption here in the RGV). The song was inspired by the tragic and barbaric murder of Alfonso Loredo Flores on the night of the famous 1971 Pharr riot (which I've written and posted vidoes about here). Anyways, I thought I would share the linear notes and lyrics of this great corrido from Rumel Fuentes:

    Corrido De Pharr, Texas

    Linear Notes - In 1970 and early 1971 there were complaints about unnecessary brutality by the Pharr, Texas, police force. These complaints focused on Chief Alfredo Ramirez, himself the possessor of an impressive criminal record, and Sergeant Mateo Sandoval, an immigrant from Mexico who had a reputation for a short temper and a penchant for violence. On February 6, 1971, a picket line to protest the brutality was set up at City Hall and at the jail. As more people started gathering to support the picket, Chief Ramirez gave a quick “order to disperse” and turned a highpressure fire hose on the crowd. Bystander Alfonso Loredo Flores, a construction worker home for the weekend from his job in Corpus Christi, was observing the protest when he was shot in the head by Robert Johnson, a deputy sheriff. When he fell to the ground, he still had his hands in his pockets. The grand jury returned an indictment of a misdemeanor “negligent homicide.”
    Song Lyrics - 
    Dicen que en Pharr hay serpientes
    con cabeza de marrano,
    y entre la gente de Pharr
    tienen gringo mexicanos.

    Un mayor que es mandamás,
    muchos son los mandaderos,
    momprados que son vendidos,
    ¡Ah!, que pelaos tan cuatreros.

    Les decía la comisión,
    de qué se admira la ley
    si sus mismos oficiales
    tienen “record” criminal.

    Hay cuatro o cinco testigos
    de mucha brutalidad.
    Se oyen gritos en las celdas
    que es una barbaridad.

    Una protesta calmada
    en contra los policías,
    la gente los denunciaba
    por cosas que se sabían.

    Mataron a Poncho Flores,
    fue un policía de Pharr;
    a un hombre empistolado
    no se le puede confiar.

    Los malhechores de Flores,
    esto no se va a olvidar.
    Fíjense todo lo que hacen
    con Diós lo van a pagar.

    Ya en varios pueblos de Aztlán
    esto ya una vez pasó,
    y nos va a seguir pasando
    si no hay organización.

    Vuela, vuela palomita,
    párate en aquel nopal.
    aquí se acaba cantando
    lo que nos pasó allá en Pharr.

    You can hear this corrido on this blog entry. You can pick up this essential CD or hear samples at Arhoolie Records or Amazon.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Les Blank's Chulas Fronteras (1976)

    "Chulas Fronteras is absolutely the best Chicano documentary film that I have seen to-date...It is our history, rescued without excuses and without romanticism but with vitality” - Prof. Juan Rodriguez (University of California, San Diego)

    “Blank’s most emotionally complex film. His camera weaves in and around lives documenting odd bits of vérité.” – J. Hoberman

    “A joyous, angry, complicated film—a multi-leveled document fully worthy of the people and music that gives it life.” – Michael Goodwin, Take One

    “Filmed with the excitement of discovery.” – Dave Kehr

    I stumbled upon this film since I was interested in Narciso Martinez and because I was a huge fan of Les Blank's Werner Herzog Eats His Own Shoe and Burden of Dreams. I learned that the film was shot in Texas in a variety of places that included Austin, San Antonio, Eagle Pass, and our neck of the woods here in the Rio Grande Valley. Chris Strachwitz, a great producer who is fascinated by regional music, got the inspiration and funded the project with Les Blank on board as the director. I was barely starting to discover the musical artists that are legends in South Texas, so seeing Les Blank's unique take on this from the 1970s was something that I was enthusiastic about.

    But as interested as I was in this film, I didn't expect I was going to find something this special, this rewarding and this touching. Incredible soundtrack, one of the best, if not the best soundtrack I've ever heard for a documentary film. A panoply of musical greatness from Lydia Mendoza, Narciso Martinez, Los Alegres de Teran, Rumel Fuentes, Don Santiago Jimenez, Los Pinguinos del Norte, Ramiro Cavazos, and most memorably Flaco Jimenez! At several points in the film, we see small glimpses of the Valley like the Del Valle Record pressing plant, several cantinas in San Benito and McAllen, and a bodega de cebolla in McAllen. One of the coolest moments was seeing the Tex-Mex conjunto pioneer, the Reynosa-born but RGV bred Narciso Martinez working at the Glady's Porter Zoo in Brownsville, TX.

    This is a wonderful, free flowing documentary that covers the lifestyle - the BBQ's, the tamales, the racism towards Mexican-Americans, la salsa, the dancing halls, la familia, migrant farm workers, las bodas, the social life, the police brutality, las cantinas, hard working conditions, the passion, and even the peleas de gallos! So poetic, it covers all this effortlessly while having the delightful pleasure of listening to some of the best music of this culture. Also included in the Chulas Fronteras DVD was Del Mero Corazon, another charming and excellent work by the same crew that is highlighted by Maria Antonia Contreras' wonderful voice over work. One sequence in this film is even shot in the infamous Boys' Town of Reynosa, which Strachwitz accurately describes as a place where "you can buy anything you want". Recently, I've expressed some rather unenthusiastic words about modern documentaries, about how a lot of them feel rather generic and empty. Now in contrast, these two documentaries are the type of documentaries I treasure! I can't thank Chris Strachwitz and Les Blank enough for what they created with these two brilliant films. So full of passion, excitement, and energy, it makes me want to make some tamales, hang out with my parents and get down listening to some Flaco Jimenez and Narciso Martinez!  

    The Library of Congress selected this wonderful documentary to the National Film Registry in 1993.

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Miracle at Donna

    One of the most popular blog entries on this site is the Donna Redskins' State Championship win in 1961. I've mentioned this before, but my dad is from Donna, TX so I've grown up hearing this story many times. So when I found out that they were making a documentary on this very topic I immediately thought "How Cool!". So I quickly got in contact with Frank Aragon, the director and producer of "Miracle at Donna", and he was kind enough to give Pharr From Heaven an interview and answer some of my questions.

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Bizzare video of a Pharr man being arrested.

    This is incredibly strange. No need to watch the entire video, so skip ahead to the 6:00 minute point. This guy is sitting down right in the front and a cop just randomly comes up an arrests the guy. This took place here in Pharr on May 27th, 2010. What a strange and awkward video. I'm wondering how it got released since apparently this was supposed to be edited out. What was the reason for this man to be arrested?