Friday, March 30, 2012

Introducing Oscar Hernandez

From what I've been able to gather, Oscar Hernandez was born in Pharr, Texas (he still lives here and gives accordion lessons). His name is spelled two different ways, sometimes it's spelled "Oskar" and other times it's spelled "Oscar". Not sure what is the actual correct spelling but I'm going to refer to him as "Oscar" in this piece. When he was a kid, he already had his own band here in the Valley.

The one thing that sets him apart from other conjunto musicians is the type of accordion he uses. In conjunto music, most accordionist used the three row button diatonic accordion. On the other hand, Hernandez prefers to use the five row chromatic accordion. By the age of 13 years old, he was already recording music with his own conjunto.

His first band that got him a lot of attention was Oscar Hernandez y Los Profesionales. He would go on to join the legendary Conjunto Bernal in the 1960's. While there, he encouraged and convinced Bernal to also use a chromatic accordion. Together they created some absolutely beautiful dual accordion music. Hernandez is rumored to have played lead accordion in some of their most well known tunes like Odiame and El Preso Numero 9.

During the 1960's, Hernandez and Esteban Jordan created "Would You Believe", a fantastic jazzy number on an Jordan Brothers album called La Bamba. At some point, Hernandez also recorded a chromatic version of the TV theme of "I Dream of Jeannie" on an obscure 45 vinyl! Hernandez is also credited with playing with Fabuloso 4 and his Tuff Band. Among his peers, he's considered one of the greatest accordion players ever.

Here are some Hernandez songs and videos to check out. They are all pretty great and a good introduction to one of the greatest musicians South Texas has ever produced:

This track it titled "Homenaje a Paulino Bernal" (Homage to Paulino Bernal):

Oscar Hernandez (chromatic accordion) and Esteban Jordan (diatonic button accordion) creating a beautifully trippy and jazzy tune:

Oscar Hernandez and Paulino Bernal putting together a dazzling number:

Hernandez totally shredding on the chromatic, playing a great polka called "Pantalones" (Pants):

Oscar Hernandez, Juan Tejeda, and Joel Guzman having a fantastic jam session in San Benito:

Oscar Hernandez y the Tuff Band (which features Jesse Serrata as the vocalist) doing a cover of "Yesterday" from The Beatles:

Oscar Hernandez on his classic Playing with Myself album:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My third article for The Monitor.

My third article for The Monitor was published on March 11th, it was on Juanita Garcia of McAllen, TX. The article is available here for your reading pleasure. On my way to Juanita's house, I actually got lost around her neighborhood. I couldn't find her house, so I walked into the beauty parlor in her neighborhood. I saw a sweet woman about to leave and without even thinking I just asked, "Are you Juanita Garcia?", she just lit up and said "yes". 

I had a great time talking to her and her cousin Adelaida Ortega about her singing career. Very sweet person and she even sang a couple of tunes for me which I thought was awesome. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

IDEAL Records, Discos Falcón and Sunday morning television.

This video clip is from a PBS documentary called Accordion Dreams. It aired on that station back in 2001, and it featured a lot of great conjunto artists like Ruben Vela, Oscar Hernandez, Paulino Bernal, Benny Layton, and Eva Ibarra.

I'm posting this excerpt that discusses the creation of IDEAL Records and Discos Falcón. I've written here before about IDEAL records, which you can find here and I plan on writing more Discos Falcón related material in the future. One thing I never realized before was that Falcón had it's own television program and that it seemed to be syndicated rather well. In the brief clips we see of Fanfarria Falcón we see "El Monarca de la Acordeon", Donna's Pedro Ayala and Los Dos Gilbertos. This show started in 1964 and lasted until the early 1980's.

A September 7th, 1974 issue of Billboard Magazine has some more information about this locally produced television program:
"To promote this line of Falcon artists, the company produces a 30 minute TV show titled "Fanfarria Falcon," which is shown over some 160 TV stations nationwide, including major markets of Chicago and L.A. The show is hosted by Mr. Falcon and is produced by Falcon a&r Director Jeanne Le Normann with the facilities of KRGV-TV, Weslco, Texas. Falcon is also releasing this year a series of LPs titled after the show and featuring the top stars that have appeared in the show."
At some point the name of the show changed to Super Fanfarria and Carlos Guzmán would take over the hosting duties. Some records indicate that the show was finally taken off the air in 1981.