If you ever step foot inside McAllen's Cursilerias — located on the corner of Dove Ave. and 10th Street — make sure to take note of the live band's trumpet player. Throughout the years, on the road and in the recording studios, Rene Gasca has made his mark in the Tejano music industry.
"I've been playing a long time dude," said Rene Gasca laughing.
Originally from Houston, Gasca credits his two older brothers for exposing him to music at an early age.
"One (brother) played the trumpet and the other one played the trombone," Gasca said. "They started in school, they (then) became musicians and were playing with a lot of really good Tejano bands."
One of his brothers, Luis Gasca, would go on to become one of the most acclaimed trumpet players of the era. Gasca proudly recalls how Luis accompanied Janis Joplin and performed at Woodstock in 1969.
As an adolescent, he followed in his brothers footsteps by being a part of the school band. Gasca quickly immersed himself with the local music scene in north-side Houston. One of the first bands he played with was La Mafia.
"I played with them when I was in high school," Gasca said. "We weren't a professional band yet, we were just playing locally."
Gasca notes that these were the pre-keyboard era days of the genre. It was a period where horns reigned supreme in Tejano music.
"At that time, horns were more popular," Gasca said. "I was a trumpet player and at that time, all the (Tejano) bands had a brass section. Now a days, it's changed. Now it's more keyboards and accordions. Which is fine, maybe (it's) because of the economy, people can't travel with large groups. It's more expensive so they've cut down."
After graduating from high school, Gasca went to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music, majoring in Performance & Arranging. When he came back to Texas in the early 1980's, he joined Little Joe y La Familia.
"(Little Joe) gave me an opportunity to play with his band," Gasca said. "I got to see a lot at an early age."
Gasca estimates that he was about 20 years old at the time. For a year, he joined Little Joe on the road throughout Texas, California, Washington, and many other states. He would regularly be performing at the famous bailes in McAllen.
"I always loved coming to the Valley because the dances were really nice," remembers Gasca. "When we got to the dance halls, there would be lines of people outside waiting to get in."
After a stint in California that saw him perform with musicians from Mexico and Brazil, Gasca returned to Texas. In the early 1990's, he was hired to record for Selena's hit album Amor Prohibido (1994). That album included "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" and "El Chico del Apartamento 512".
"I was very fortunate to have been able to record with her," Gasca recalls. "She was a very good person, she had a lot of talent. The whole band at that time (did)."
He continued being a studio musician while still finding time to go on the road when the opportunity arose. In the past fifteen years, Gasca has collaborated with performers like Bobby Pulido, Elida y Avante and Alicia Villarreal.
For the past five months, Gasca has been performing with Rudo — Cursilerias' house band. The ten-member band is under the musical leadership of Mario Villarreal, a musician that Gasca met on tour with Alicia Villarreal. They play a variety of music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the genres they cover are pop, rock, norteño, Tejano, banda and salsa.
"It's a great band, I really enjoy playing with them," Gasca said. "One thing here (in the Valley) is that people appreciate music and they always like live music. They support live music and bands. It's always been like that, even when I came here thirty years ago with Little Joe."
Ultimately, Gasca feels he's been able to work consistently due to evolving with music throughout the decades. He credits his versatility and keeping an open mind with his success.
"(Music is) all I've ever done," Gasca said. "I'm fortunate that I've been able to last this long in the music business."