Friday, August 30, 2013

Lucky Joe Eguia

Little y Lucky.
Tonight, local accordionist Lucky Joe Eguia will be joining Little Joe Hernandez on a double-bill of conjunto and Tejano music at the Rodz Sports Theater in Edinburg.

"That first time I performed with him, it was just an honor," said Lucky Joe Eguia, of the time he joined Little Joe for an event at the Pharr Events Center. "It's very humbling to be able to share the stage with such a legend."

When I contacted the 34-year-old Edcouch-Elsa native, I had assumed that 'Lucky' was a nickname. I soon found out that my assumption was wrong.

"When I was born, I was a stillborn baby," Eguia said. "So the doctor's revived me and they told my mother, 'This is a very lucky baby, he's lucky to be alive.' So my parents named me Lucky; Joe is from my uncle."

While he was already playing the guitar due to the influence of his grandfather, his foray into conjunto music started when he met the late Benny Layton.

"My mother used to cut hair there in Elsa, she had a beauty salon — Rita's Beauty Salon," Eguia said. "Mr. Layton would go by and cut his hair there. One afternoon, Mr. Layton saw me messing around with a guitar, he told my mom, 'Hey you know what, I want him to enroll in (Edcouch-Elsa's) Estudiantina (Music Program).' So I enrolled in Estudiantina when I was a Freshman. Then I saw Mr. Layton play the accordion and that's when I got hooked on the accordion. I was about 15-years-old."

The year he got 'hooked' on the accordion, was the same year that Eguia lost his mother. Right before she passed away, she bought her son his very first accordion at Melhart's Music Center.

"It was called a Gabbanelli 101," remembers Eguia.

During this time period, Layton would become an important figure in Eguia's life.

"Mr. Layton was my mentor, my teacher," Eguia said of the beloved program director, announcer and musician. "Basically he's the main influence that I had growing up through high school, as far as for conjunto music, tejano music and all kinds of music. He made us listen to the Beatles, Buena Vista Social Club, jazz, rock, anything that had to do with music."

After a few years of learning the accordion under Layton, Eguia secured his first professional gig with Alma Pulido, the sister of Bobby Pulido, at the age of 17. He soon recorded with her, embarking on a career that lead him to work with other regional music acts like Siggno, Elida Reyna y Avante and Frijoles Romanticos.

Now in 2013, he signed with Freddie Records and is scheduled to release Suerte, his first solo album, on October 15. "Amor Escondido", the first single off this upcoming album will start airing on select radio stations this very week.

"This isn't easy, it's a job just like any other job and you have to be dedicated," Eguia said. "It's a crazy market, you never know what will hit. Putting in long hours is the key."

When he's not working on his music, he's working at Besos y Caricias, an adult day care in Mercedes. He describes his day job as doing a little bit of everything — cooking, a floor assistant, a driver and whatever else is asked of him.

As for tonight, he is eager to share the stage once again with Little Joe y La Familia. Eguia says this upcoming event brings back memories of his late mother Rita, who he deeply misses.

"It takes me back to one Sunday morning, I was watching 'The Johnny Canales Show'," Eguia said. "I was about 14, (with) my mom we were watching it together and Little Joe comes on. My mom, God rest her soul, said, 'Un dia mijito, un dia tu vas a estar tocando enseguida de el.' ('One day son, one day you will be playing next to him')."

Time: Doors open at 8:00 PM.
Date: 8/30
Cost: Presale tickets cost $15.00.
Where to Buy Tickets: Rodz Sports Theater, located on 1204 East Canton, Edinburg, TX.
Phone Number and Website: 956-720-4700 and

Friday, August 23, 2013

Cosechando Juntos

Roel Sandoval Flores
"It was a hard life."

Those are the few words that musician-turned-artist Roel Sandoval Flores uses to describe a life of working in the fields. A brush, some paint and a canvas is all Flores needs to tell the story of the world he grew up in.

"I don't know how to write, so I do it with a brush," said Flores, 70-years-old, with a smile.

In 1995, the Weslaco-native was working for a local gas company and was under a lot of stress. One of his daughters said that it looked like he needed something else to do besides work.

"With no training, I just started with some paints that one of my daughters was going to throw away."

Flores, along with his family, experienced first hand what it was like to work on the fields. In 1955, after falling under the spell of Valerio Longoria's music, he picked up a bajo-sexto and started performing conjunto music. He became a part of several different conjunto acts, like Los Supremos and Los Originales. It wasn't about the money for Flores, it was a way for him to live his dream of being a musician.

"Music and field work, to me, go together," Flores said. "You can't separate them 'cause that's where the music was born. That's where I first heard it, doing field work."

Walking with Flores, looking at his "Cosechando Juntos" art exhibit, he would casually open up about his life when looking at his work on the walls of the Weslaco Museum. We stood in front of one piece — a dreamlike blue scene, with a flowing river and an accordion hanging off the moon.

"My mind goes back to when I was little, to when my dad would take me fishing," remembers Flores. "Actually, I always had the radio on, so it goes back to the music."

Another painting, titled "Historia De Tejas", caught my eye. Flores starts discussing the painting with me, remarking on his use of colors and symbols.

"The pink is like the hopes and dreams that we had then," Flores said. "The hills were like open wounds of all the times we had a lot of people die on the fields."

While his themes are consistent, Flores' paintings reveal a broad spectrum of styles that include portraits, landscapes, and abstracts. He likes to bring a new, fresh ideas to his paintings, some of which are inspired by dreams he's had.

"I don't know anything about styles, I don't know anything about paintings," laughs Flores. "I don't go by the rules 'cause I don't know the rules."

Flores hopes that young Tejanos and Tejanas are able to get an idea of their past from the art he has created.

"To me, it's real important that people don't forget where they come from," Flores said. "We should be proud of who we are and where we came from."

With the help of his wife of almost fifty years, Epifania, he's been able to travel around and expose his art to people outside the Valley. He's had his art displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Texas Folklife in Austin and Houston, the University of Chicago, Mexico and many other places. When he makes appearances at schools, Flores tells students that his biggest regret was dropping out in the seventh grade. He hopes that they can learn from his mistake.

In the past twelve years, he's had to overcome a series of heart-related ailments. After a heart attack in 2001, he said he was given zero chance to live by his doctor. He feels lucky that he's been able to escape death on multiple occasions.

"Maybe why I haven't died (is) 'cause there is something I have to do," Flores said optimistically.

Nowadays, Flores keeps himself busy with a family that includes five adult children, fifteen grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. Despite having his hands full with his family and his art career, Flores still finds time to practice daily on his bajo-sexto and guitar. While he stopped performing at bailes in 1985, he's been playing music at local area churches since 1986. He is eager to inform me about a project he's been working on with a granddaughter of his.

"One of my granddaughters, Priscilla (Renee Cardenas), she's into singing," Flores said. "We started doing a CD of gospel music but Tejano (style). Hopefully we'll finish it this year."

Looking back at his transformation into an artist, he's amazed at all the opportunities that he's received since he first picked up a brush. He's not entirely sure how it came so naturally to him, but he's grateful that he's been able to express himself in a way that he never even imagined.

"A friend of mine, way back in the beginning, said, 'I didn't know you painted.' (I said), 'Well I didn't know either,'" laughs Flores.

Weslaco Museum's Cosechando Juntos exhibit started on Aug. 13, and ends on Sept. 28. Opening reception is Aug. 24, from 6 PM to 8 PM. Admission is $4, adults; $3, senior citizens, college students; $2, children 5 to 17; free, children 4 and under. For more information, call 956-968-9142.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Peter Anzaldua

Peter Anzaldua
Last October, I took a trip over to San Benito, eager to experience the 21st Annual Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Festival. It was going to be a stacked event with groups like Los Texmaniacs de Max Baca and Los Monarcas de Pete y Mario Diaz.

One of the acts featured that day was a 16-year-old, Veterans Memorial High School sophomore by the name of Peter Anzaldua. I had heard about him — the conjunto world is a tight community — but this would be my first time getting a glimpse of what he had to offer on the squeeze box.

He got up on the stage and busted out two dynamic polkas — "Atotonilco" and "Viva Seguin". Within minutes, the dance floor was filled up with people bailando in a circular motion.

"It feels good to know that people dance to your music," said Peter Anzaldua. "I never would have thought I would have been playing, much less people dancing to music that I'm playing. I feel blessed at that moment."

Anzaldua's been interested and involved in music from a very young age. He credits his family for giving him the 'conjunto-bug'.

"My uncles played, so I would see them play whenever they would have cookouts," Anzaldua said. "(Conjunto music) is the only thing we listened to, like Tony De La Rosa."

While his family has photographs of the prodigy playing with a toy accordion as a baby, it wasn't until he was 7-years-old that he received his first actual, button-diatonic accordion.

"My cousin taught me a polka here and there," Anzaldua said. "Then I let it go, 'cause I wouldn't have the patience 'cause I wouldn't get it. Then I kind of picked it up on my own."

Working at it by himself in his home in Brownsville, he was inspired by the music he heard from Tony De La Rosa and Ruben Vela. One day, his mom's co-worker received an email about the "Big Squeeze" accordion contest. She passed on the information to the Anzaldua family.

Anzaldua auditioned in 2010, but he didn't make it to the semi-finals.

"I remember the first time I performed (there), I was thinking, 'Man, these guys are all doing different things.'"

He didn't try-out in 2011 due to school activities getting in the way. He returned in 2012 and things would be different this time around.

"I wanted to stand out," Anzaldua said. "I just wanted to play something different."

That "something different" turned out to be "Carmela Medley"; a crowd-pleasing, showcase potpourri of different pieces, one of which was "Folsom Prison Blues". With that, he ended up advancing to the semi-finals and winning the "Big Squeeze" crown in Houston in the Summer of 2012.

"It was a good energy," remembers Anzaldua of that night, which also included him jamming out with Flaco Jimenez and Mingo Saldivar. "I feel like I've gotten a lot more exposure because of (the 'Big Squeeze' win)."

What Anzaldua seems most happy about is the community and camaraderie he's found in the local conjunto music scene. When he's at La Lomita Park, or around his fellow conjunto musicians, he feels like he's right at home with his family.

"La Lomita is like family there. I go to dances there and all the musicians there, they always get me up (on stage) to play. I want to thank all the musicians that have helped me out — Ruben De La Cruz, the Badd Boyz (del Valle), Los Dos Gilbertos, Lazaro Perez, Ricardo Guzman. All of those, I want to thank them for getting me up there to play with them and throwing me out there."

That night in San Benito, I remember observing what happened after Anzaldua got off the stage. Roy Rodriguez, the curator of the Hub City Conjunto & Tejano Museum, went up to Anzaldua and asked him to autograph a conjunto book of his. That particular book has been signed by many, if not most, of the top names in the conjunto music industry. If Anzaldua decides to stick with the accordion after high school and college, he's going to have a career that's every bit as bright as those musicians that signed their names in that book.

Peter Anzaldua and Los Badd Boyz Del Valle are scheduled to perform at La Lomita Park in McAllen on Sunday night. Event starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Entrance fee is $10.00. For more information, please call Pepe Maldonado at 956-867-8783 or visit

Friday, August 9, 2013

Remembering Esteban Jordan.

Esteban Jordan in Japan.

This upcoming August 13th will mark the 3rd year anniversary of the death of Esteban Jordan. The Elsa-native is considered by many to be one of the greatest accordionists ever. So I'm going to use this occasion to pay tribute to "El Parche" by listing the five must-see videos of his long storied career.

5. "Fly, Robin, Fly" (YouTube) - What an odd trip this turned out to be. This curious gem of a video first appeared online two months ago, uploaded on YouTube by the sons of Jordan. Jordan takes the European disco hit, "Fly, Robin, Fly", and makes it his own with his mind-bending accordion-playing skills. It takes a special kind of conjunto accordionist to branch out and do something as experimental as this. Part of the charm of this late-1970's video is its dated special effects — superimposed images and 'far-out colors'. I have been straight-edge my entire life, but I imagine this is what a hallucinogenic experience must feel like.

4. Caliente y Picante (DVD) - In August 1989, Los Angeles hosted a who's who line-up of Latino musicians. This one-night extravaganza was released on DVD in 2007; one can purchase it on Amazon for a good price. The internationally known stars that appear include Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. Jordan makes two brief but memorable appearances in this fantastic DVD. The first one is at the mid-point of a Santana and Garcia scene, where the two are playing "Get Uppa". Jordan hops on the stage, feels out what his fellow musicians are playing and then goes an dynamic run on his signature Tex-Mex Rockordeon. After stealing the spotlight, he starts banging on some drums and disappears off stage. There is something enigmatic about this particular Jordan moment. The second cameo is during a joyous jam-out session with over a dozen star musicians performing and singing "America The Beautiful".

3. Hermes Foundation (DVD/TV) - Jordan considered himself a jazz musician and these pair of videos are an examples of what he could produce when working within that genre. These two videos originate from a documentary that the owner of Hermes filmed during the 2000's. I've asked around for the DVD but have found nothing available for purchase. I did find out that a TV-version of this aired on syndication, in Mexico and certain areas of the U.S. After the death of Jordan, these two videos were uploaded on YouTube by Hohner's Gilbert Reyes Jr. The first video is Jordan's version of George Gershwin's "Summertime", a hugely popular jazz standard. The second video is a cover of George Benson's "Clockwise", which sounds incredible on the button-diatonic accordion. These recordings contain what might be the last two brilliant Jordan performances captured on video. Incredible stuff.

2. "Rhythms of the World" episode (TV) - Appearing on a double bill that included Valerio Longoria, a TV crew from Europe flew in to San Antonio to film some quality conjunto music in the early 1990's. This episode of the "Rhythms of the World" documentary series has aired in various countries in Europe. We wouldn't have known about this over here in the U.S. if it wasn't for the YouTube uploads of Netherlands' Kok De Koning. This episode includes five songs performed by Jordan — "Ran Kan Kan", "Por Un Amor", "La Cumbia De Chon", "Georgia On My Mind", and "La Hilacha". Longoria joins Jordan for the latter two songs. My favorite tune of this collection is "La Hilacha", which highlights the brilliance of both accordionists. Near the mid-point of the video, there is a shot of an older-gentleman, with a huge smile on his face. He gets so excited by what he is witnessing that he raises his fist in the air.


1. "Austin City Limits" episode (TV) - One of the ultra-rare video treasures in conjunto music. Never released commercially on DVD or VHS, this episode of ACL aired in 1979 and was headlined by a double bill of Little Joe y La Familia and Esteban Jordan y Rio Jordan. On TV, approximately 26 minutes of Jordan's performance aired, which showcased five different songs. I've also been fortunate enough to watch the unaired, raw footage of Jordan's ACL taping. That obscure footage runs for 64 minutes and features twelve songs. In my estimation, this is the best footage found of Jordan's work. Thanks to Jordan superfan Rick Cortez, three video excerpts have surfaced online on — "A La Heavy" (Jordan introduces this tune as a Disco Polka and says, "Disco is where its at right now."), "Vengo A Decirte" and "El Cascabel". The first two songs are examples of Jordan's use of the echoplex, a tape-delay effect that was mostly used by guitarists. Jordan, being a total original, uses it to give his accordion a unique sound. The latter song makes use of a phase-shifter, providing a whirlwind-like sound to the accordion. Let's hope that some day, ACL decides to release the entire session on DVD. Trust me, it's something special and it deserves to be out there on the market for purchase. We see Jordan playing jazz guitar, going on masterful accordion solos, and creating an otherworldly-sounding mash-up of "La Camelia" (a song about drug-trafficking) and "Squeezebox Man" (a powerful, psychedelic instrumental).

Steve Jordan Austin City Limit - Vengo a decirte by rcortez911

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Feliz cumpleaños Gilberto Perez!

Gilberto Perez has been playing conjunto music in the Valley and beyond for the past seven decades. It's been a life full of cherished memories for this proud accordionist and vocalist. 

"So many years, so many things," said Gilberto Perez, 77-years-old. "We can sit here for a whole day and I wouldn't get through (all of them)."

Perez was born on August 3, 1935, in Mercedes, TX. He was the youngest member of a family of 12 children. 

"We were only 12 in the family, no mas," laughs Perez.

To most, he is the epitome of what good, old-fashion conjunto music is. Interestingly enough, he actually got his start in a different genre of music.

"When I was in the teens, I started playing guitar, rock and roll," remembers Perez. "(Then) I started liking the accordion. Only one of my brothers didn't play the accordion, it was Alejandro. Most of my brothers were playing accordion. And I went to conjunto music."

In 1957, he got married with Amelia and the two would go on to have four children; two daughters and two sons. The two sons, Gilberto Jr. and Javier, have become well-known musicians in the Valley.

His first big break was joining Ruben Vela's conjunto in 1958. Vela, Perez and Manuel Medina recorded a few songs together before the latter two split off the following year.

In November 1959, Perez recorded with his own conjunto for the very first time. At Mission's Discos Falcón , Perez recorded "El Dia De Tu Boda" (The Day of Your Wedding), a tear-jerker ballad of a man, as he witnesses an old-flame getting married. Written by Medina, the song went on to become a major regional hit at the time.

When talking to my dad about this tune, he still remembers working on the fields and hearing some of the women singing this powerful tune — Me lloran gotas de sangre, al verte tus labios rojos (I cry drops of blood, as I see your red lips).

The group would eventually be dubbed Gilberto Perez y Sus Compadres, and they would become known for other popular tunes like "Mis Parpados", "Con Cartitas", "Por Que Dios Mio", "Aguanta Corazon" and "Te Estare Esperando".

"We tried as much as we could to record our own stuff. Alejandro, my brother, and Ramon Medina would do most of the writing. Everybody played a part but they were a little better at writing songs."

From 1962 to the 1980's, Perez would be on the road, from four to eight weeks at a time. From coast-to-coast, he and his fellow musicians toured across various states, bringing their original style of working-class music to the people working in the fields.

"Back in the early 60's, there was a lot of people that used to migrate to work on the fields," Perez said. "That's what we did at the time, we followed the people."

He stopped going on the road during the 1980's, but if an opportunity arose for something that interested him, he would make plans to travel for the performance. One such example was in 1999. Perez was invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institute, an honor he is deeply proud of. Shortly after that, he started making appearances in Monterrey, Mexico, where he played in front of thousands of fans on multiple occasions.

Unfortunately, open-heart surgery on November 2003 put an end to Perez going to Monterrey on a regular basis. A few years after that, he went back to the hospital for a pacemaker implant.

"That slowed me down, I have to take care of my health but I still play," Perez said.

When asked how many albums he's released over the years, Perez provided an honest answer. He says, that the market has seen about 50 of his albums, but many of those albums were using the same material as previous releases. Perez explained that re-releasing tracks was common for some of the labels he recorded for. Some of those labels include Freddie Records, Joey Records, Hacienda Records, Discos Falcón, and Ideal Records.

He still has the urge to record music at this stage in his life.

"I'm working on some new material that I'm writing up," Perez said "We just got through recording one (album) on instrumentals."

A recent song of his that caught a lot of attention is titled "Mi Ultimo Deseo" (My Last Wish). The heartfelt song is a personal one for Perez.

"Me and one of my friends thought of the idea of writing up a song about when I pass away," Perez said. "(The song) means I'm asking what I want my family or friends to do, because when I'm gone, I'm gone."

Let's hope it's a very long time before that happens. For now, the soft-spoken accordionist is looking forward to celebrating his birthday this upcoming weekend by performing at two gigs — La Villita in San Benito on Saturday and La Lomita Park in McAllen on Sunday. He says to those who plan on attending, be ready for a lot of singing.

"I love what I do, my plans is to keep doing it until the big man says you can't do it anymore," Perez said. "I'm no quitter and I won't change the music. When I started (from) rock and roll, I went to conjunto. I decided I was going to stay with conjunto because it's what my father liked and I'm going to please my father until the last day."