Friday, September 19, 2014
Javier Gonzalez's Path To The Delta Boyz
"Es acordeon," ("It's an accordion,") answered Ramirez Sr.
"Dejame mirarla," ("Let me look at it,") a young Javier Gonzalez requested. "I wanted to see it so bad."
It was a two-row, button diatonic Hohner accordion. That was his introduction to the squeezebox.
"That's when I started liking the accordion," Gonzalez, 32, said.
He would just press the buttons, pushing and pulling the box for fun until he entered the 7th grade.
"I used to live close to Lucky Joe Paredes," Gonzalez said. "He used to play with Los Frijoles Romanticos out here in the Valley."
Gonzalez would walk by Paredes' house after school as he headed home. While passing by, he would see Paredes playing the accordion outside his house.
One day, Gonzalez finally stopped by and told Paredes that he really liked the sound. Paredes responded enthusiastically by inviting Gonzalez to stop by the next day, so he could teach him what he knew.
"Lucky Joe me enseño mi primera polkita," ("Lucky Joe taught me my first polka,") Gonzalez said. "'El Sube y Baja', that's the first polkita I learned."
That polka was first recorded by Los Donneños on Falcón Records in the early 1950's.
His music education continued after he enrolled in Edcouch-Elsa High School in 1996. As he was registering, he came across the estudiantina class and met the great, late Benny Layton.
Gonzalez told Layton that he wanted to join the estudiantina, to learn everything he could from him.
"Since freshman 'till I was a senior, when I graduated, I was in the estudiantina," Gonzalez said. "(Layton) would teach us about our culture, about our backgrounds, our grandfathers, and all about the music. He influenced a lot of (Edcouch-Elsa) band members that now play with professional bands."
Layton passed away in 2011. He remains a beloved figure in the Rio Grande Valley conjunto scene.
While in his sophomore year, Gonzalez became a professional musician after joining Galante, a Mercedes-area group. He began performing at clubs, weddings, and quinceañeras. He went on to play the accordion for Margarita, then accompanied Ruben Vela on the bajo-sexto, and primera voz for 12 years. With Vela, he recorded four albums.
Over two years ago, Gonzalez, his little brother Jaime Gonzalez, who previously played bajo-sexto with Albert Zamora, and bass player Rigo Rangel got together to form a new band. The original drummer was Paul Layton, but he moved on to perform with his family. Tury Alviar is now the current drummer.
Gonzalez says the timing was right for them to try to branch out on their own. They just needed to find the right name, and that assist came from Gonzalez's other brother, Jessie Gonzalez.
"You're from the Delta area, so you're The Delta Boyz," Gonzalez remembers Jessie telling him right before a gig. "The name stayed with us. "
As far as the style used in The Delta Boyz, Gonzalez says he's been influenced by Esteban Jordan, Ruben Vela, Los Dos Gilbertos, and Mingo Saldivar.
This past May the group released their first CD titled Perdona.
"'Perdona' was a song we liked when we were small," Gonzalez said. "We first heard it with David Marez, then we heard it with Los Dos Gilbertos. I really like their style of conjunto, so I told my brother, 'Let's record this song, and name it as our CD.'"
The group is looking forward to their next major show, which will be at the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Festival in San Benito, on the weekend of October 24, 25, and 26. They will be playing on the first day of the event, on Friday night.
"I'm really excited that we're going to be a part of this conjunto festival this year," Gonzalez said.
Knowing there are kids in the Valley that are interested in this style of music, Gonzalez would like to leave them with some words of advice.
"Just to never give up, que le den pa' delante, siempre," ("move forward, always,") Gonzalez said. "If you have the music in your heart, if you like the accordion, bajo-sexto, bass, drums, do it man. Play with your heart and you'll get somewhere with that."