Friday, October 10, 2014

Four Things To Know About Jessy Serrata

Jessy Serrata
Tejano singer Jessy Serrata returns to the Rio Grande Valley this Sunday night at La Lomita Park in McAllen. After over fifty years in the music industry, he's still going fuerte today, working on new recordings and touring regularly. If you're not familiar with Serrata, here are four things that stand out about his unique career in music.

—He got his first big break with conjunto legend Agapito Zuniga.

Serrata was performing with his family in Robstown, when he heard that Agapito Zuniga was looking for a bass player in 1968. Serrata quickly took off to Corpus Christi to meet up with the popular piano accordionist.

"He hired me," Serrata said. "I played for him from '68, '69, '70."

This breakthrough was the beginning of his long journey in Tejano music.

"Comencé con el," ("I started with him,") Serrata said. "We were always on tour. To California, Colorado, Arizona, and all that. It was always an adventure with Agapito."

—Serrata did vocals for the only Christmas song "El Parche" ever recorded. 

Serrata was at Esteban "Steve" Jordan's side for four years during the early 1970's. While in Florida Serrata met up with Beto Ayala, a promoter in the area. Ayala had the composition of "Esta Navidad" with him, and asked for Serrata's vocals and Jordan's accordion licks that afternoon.

"It was almost Christmas," Serrata remembers. "I learned it right then and there in the studio (in Miami). We recorded it. It took about an hour and it was done."

Serrata stated that it was the only Christmas song Jordan ever touched.

Later in their musical partnership, Jordan invited Serrata to go perform with him at Staten Island. During that trip, Serrata saw Jordan go on stage, and have an impromptu jam session with two other musicians that were there at that time — Stevie Wonder and George Benson.

"That was an awesome experience," Serrata said of that day.

—He covered Paul McCarthey's "Yesterday", conjunto-style. 

In 1983, Serrata moved to McAllen, where he enjoyed local success with Oscar Hernandez and the Tuff Band. Serrata considers Hernandez one of his many mentors.

One day during this period, Serrata thought of doing his own take of "Yesterday". He translated the song to Spanish, and Hernandez's chromatic accordion produced the melody.

"It was a big hit here in the Valley," Serrata said of "Desde Ayer".

—He is known to some as "Mr. Iron Throat". 

In the 1980's, KIWW Tejano DJ Mike Cantu came across Serrata and his distinctive style of singing.

"He was a big time DJ in the Valley," Serrata said of Cantu. "I had that raspy voice, he heard me say 'Oh baby', and all that stuff. So he named me 'Mr. Iron Throat'."

Who: Jessy Serrata and Retoño.
Time: 6:00 PM
Date: 10/12
Cost: $10.00
Phone Number and Website: 956-867-8783 or visit
Location: La Lomita Park, in McAllen.
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