Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Delia Gutierrez Pineda

A few weeks ago, I was in Austin hanging out with some great friends and enjoying a great week there. I ate some great food at a place called Veggie Heaven and got to go watch Rio Jordan (the sons of South Texas' Esteban Jordan and Jordan's brilliant blind avant garde accordionist protege Juanito Castillo). During my time in Austin, I got an email from the daughter of Delia Gutierrez Pineda, and she sent me some information about their great contributions to South Texas music.

So as soon as I got back down to the Valley, I started looking up some information about them and spent some time with them. Delia, along with her daughter and son-in-law, treated me so nicely while I learned about their history. I got a wealth of great information and it ended up becoming my longest article yet for The Monitor. For those that missed the article, it can be found below this paragraph. I am really happy I wrote about Delia, her father Eugenio Gutierrez and her husband Moy Pineda. Thanks Delia for all your sweet help and wonderful contributions to Valley music.


Preserving family memories is very important to Delia Gutierrez Pineda. She remembers exactly where she came from and the life she's lead thanks to the great people who have surrounded her. Many people remember her charming nature and her great singing voice that was featured over the radio waves. However, Delia quickly points out that she wouldn't have had all this success if it wasn't for her father Eugenio "Tatita" Gutierrez and her husband Moises "Moy" Pineda.

Eugenio Gutierrez was born into a family of farmers in Runge, Texas at the turn of the century. Eugenio quickly established himself as a boy with musical talent at a very young age. As a young prodigy, he even made his own violin as he loved playing that instrument. Growing up working in the family farm, he found time to take violin lessons and also accompany his teacher to perform concerts. Later on, Eugenio moved to Weslaco and met Melida Ayala from the famous musical Ayala family of the Rio Grande Valley. They would have one child, Delia, who was born on July 5th, 1931. Like her parents, she would also grow to have a love for music and would develop into being a fantastic singer.

As she grew up in Weslaco, Delia would take singing lessons and perform for school events. She would also perform opening acts for movie stars that would make appearances at the Benitez Theater in Weslaco. She recalls being influenced by the music of Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee. Delia remembers that she was 12 years old when she started singing in her father's orchestra.

"My dad thought I was kind of young and he was kind of iffy about it," Delia remembers. "But he started teaching me how to read music and how to sing."

After World War 2, Delia and her father's orchestra would regularly perform at celebrations for all the returning soldiers to honor their service.

"It was so much fun because all the boys were coming back and everybody had parties for them," Delia said.

Delia was still going to school at this point in her life, so she remembers those early days as being really busy when she first started singing with her father at La Placita in Weslaco. Eugenio, who was known as "The Glenn Miller of the Valley", was very open-minded and his dream was to create an orchestra that would play both English and Spanish music.

"It was a lot of work but I wanted to help my dad because his dream was to have an orchestra that would play a variety of music. And he did it and we did it. That made us very happy."

Delia remembers her mother being the backbone of the group and the person that would hold everything together. Melida was a tremendous seamstress and was the person behind all of Delia's evening dresses. Delia feels very blessed to have had her mother there with her along the way.

The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra first started making recordings for Discos Falcón in the late 1940's, just as the local record label was getting started.

"When we first started recording, [Arnaldo Ramirez] was just starting out," recalls Delia. "But he was a fantastic promoter, I was very happy and my dad too. He gave us a lot of advertising, publicity, pictures and everything. We went on [that first] tour and it was a fantastic tour."

This orchestra is interesting for several different reasons, one of which is that they were Falcón's first orchestra. The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra would go on to tour Texas and the states surrounding the Lone Star State.

"It was a big band, it was a 12 piece orchestra, and that's the one we traveled with. My dad agreed [with Discos Falcón] to go ahead to go on tour to publicize and get advertising for the records."

Eugenio Gutierrez did something that was groundbreaking, he decided to add the accordion to his orchestra to create a unique sound. He acquired the services of his wife's cousin "El Monarca del Acordeón" Pedro Ayala to record with his orchestra. From this novel approach of combining two different styles arose "El Naranjal", one of their greatest hits.

In 1950 after their first tour, a dazzling trumpet player from McAllen High School by the name of Moises "Moy" Pineda would join the orchestra. Shortly after joining, Moy got the great opportunity of appearing in Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata, the Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn film that was shot in Roma. Moy would eventually fall in love with Delia and marry her in 1954. They would have three daughters: Cecilia Diaz, Norma Perez, and Melba Carvajal.

"[My daughters] are my pride and joy, they were our biggest fans."

The orchestra would visit Edinburg's KURV studios every Sunday morning to perform for the live radio audience. They were regulars there for so many years but it wasn't the only station they performed on.

"We went to all the radio stations, we went to KGBT when they were just starting out," Delia remembers.

Along with their recordings at Falcón, they would also made trips to Alice and San Benito to record for Armando Marroquín's Discos Ideal. Some of their most popular songs with Falcón and Ideal were "La Carta", "Pasito Tun Tun", "Mi Marianita" and "Blue Moon" (in Spanish). If you listen to their classic music that's currently available through Arhoolie Records (Arhoolie bought out Ideal's library), you will be able to appreciate how fantastic Eugenio, Delia, Moy and the rest of the orchestra were together.

"Those years were so much fun, we didn't have much but we had love and music. To us that was a lot."

Along with being a brilliant saxophone and clarinet player for his orchestra, Eugenio would also fix string instruments in his small shop in Weslaco. Unfortunately in 1972, Eugenio Gutierrez would pass away after a battle with cancer. After his death, Moy would form his own group, The Moy Pineda Mini-Band. Moy's right hand man for his musical ensemble would be Jose Peña, who he would play with for over 30 years. After the death of Eugenio, Delia thought that her singing career was over.

"At the time, I thought 'I'm not going to play anymore, I'm a housewife, I'm just going to take care of my kids.'"

As the gigs started rolling in for Moy, he asked Delia to join him and become the singer for his orchestra. She joined her husband as they would perform at conventions, clubs, weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and balls for all types of people. When Moy was not playing, he would usually be found managing the Klinck's drug store in McAllen, a position he held for almost 40 years.

Moy would also love to honor fallen soldiers and veterans by playing "Taps" at military funerals. Moy was not a veteran but he wanted to pay tribute to veterans with his exceptional trumpet skills. He was very much respected by the local veterans for everything he did for them.

"They even dedicated a brick in the Veteran's War Memorial on 29th street in his name," Delia said. "That's how much they thought of him."

Delia would go on to sing professionally with her husband until she officially retired in 1990. That same year Delia was interviewed and had her career documented by Dr. Clay Shorkey of the Texas Music Museum. She was asked to attend Shorkey's exhibit titled Musica Tejana: The History and Development of Tejano Music. Unfortunately she couldn't make it that year but she is proud to have been included in that exhibit with fellow great singers like Juanita Garcia and Lydia Mendoza.

In 2002 Delia was given the great honor of being inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame for her achievements as a professional singer. Other people who were inducted into that class of 2002 include Freddy Fender, Ventura Alonzo and Tony "Ham" Guerrero.

Tragedy struck the following year as Moy would lose a battle with cancer and pass away on June of 2003. Even though it's been 40 years since Eugenio passed away and 9 years since Moy passed away, people still come up to Delia to talk about them. She's very gracious that people are still keeping their memory alive.

"To me, it's very important that people remember my dad and my husband. It's more important to me that the people remember them."

Delia hopes to be remembered by the music she created with Eugenio and Moy. She currently resides in McAllen and loves to spend time with her three daughters, her six grandchildren, her two great-grandchildren and her son-in-laws (Bobby Perez and George Diaz). She still keeps in touch with so many musicians she's worked with over the course of her lifetime like Jose Peña and Rene Sandoval.

"It's been so many years and it's still fresh in so many people's hearts," Delia said. "I want to thank our fantastic musicians that worked with us, not just from the Valley but from all over. To all of our fans, my family and friends, I want to thank you. Our music lives on."

Here are two of their most well known songs:

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