Friday, November 28, 2014

Q&A - Maureen Gosling

Les Blank and Maureen Gosling filming Burden of Dreams. Photos courtesy of Maureen Gosling.

On November 25, the Criterion Collection will be releasing Les Blank: Always for Pleasure. This highly anticipated three-disc, Blu-ray collection includes several classic documentaries on regional music. I caught up with film director and editor Maureen Gosling — one of Blank's key collaborators — to discuss her longtime association with the late, great auteur. This is an interview that was conducted last month when Gosling returned home after a theatrical tour of her latest film This Ain't No Mouse Music! (2013).

EM: How did you two first meet?

MG: I was going to school in Ann Arbor and I found out that there was a festival of anthropological films. I got very excited because I was a film fanatic, especially watching foreign films. So I ended up going to this festival at Temple University in Philadelphia. I think two or three of Les' films were showing there. I just thought they were beautiful and very poetic. I believe that included The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968), A Well Spent Life (1971) and Spend It All (1971). So I got my nerve up and talked to Les at a party, just asked him if he ever got reviews of his films, when he screened them in film festivals. I knew he was going to be showing films at a film festival in Ann Arbor. He said, "Yes sometimes the films get reviewed." I told him I'd send him the reviews.

So I did and he started to write to me. I was just ecstatic. Here I was, this little student graduating from her university and here was this seasoned filmmaker writing to me. I was sort of starstruck. At one point I asked him if he ever needed an assistant, I didn't really know what that meant but I figured he would tell me what to do (laughs). In about November he was saying that he had this film coming up and he was deciding whether or not to even do it. I kind of convinced him to go ahead and do it. He asked me to be his assistant because his film partner (Skip Gerson), who he had made two or three films with, was living with Les' ex-wife, so he was all upset. Suddenly he didn't have a sound recordist anymore and he didn't have his best friend anymore. So he took me on, even though I didn't know anything. It was very much a trial by fire, and the first film we did was in Southwest Louisiana. The result was Dry Wood (1973) and Hot Pepper (1973).

EM: Why was it split into two and what were your contributions to those early works?

MG: We ended up making it into two films because one of the sections seemed to focus more on (Zydeco accordionist) Clifton (Chenier). The other part focused on the Fontenot family, that was connected with (Creole accordionist) Bois-Sec Ardoin. They sort of lived near each other and it was hard to figure out how to integrate those two stories. In the Fontenot family, the mother Eva, was this very strong personality and she really stood out to me. We didn't do that many interviews with people but I know that I told Les that we should interview Eva. Her interview is featured in the film. We see her cooking, talking about her family, and so forth. You can hear my voice in the background asking questions. I was really interested in what women thought, women's point of view. That was one of the things I did, I really was just learning on the job at that point.

I always felt like I was doing things wrong because Les didn't tell me when I was doing it right. He would just complain when I was doing it wrong. I felt like I was getting worse because he was criticizing me so much. At one point I told him, "You have to tell me when I'm doing right because I keep feeling like I'm doing everything wrong." He didn't like the idea of having to give me positive feedback but I said, "You better do it or I'm going to keep screwing up." I was getting a real complex and he finally started to do it, very begrudgingly. It really helped (laughs).

EM: I haven't seen the unreleased A Poem Is a Naked Person (1974), but my friend Tom has, and he asks: "What was it like working on something where Blank was contemptuous of the artist versus his other work?"

MG: Things started out fairly well with Leon Russell. The conversations that are in the film, between Leon and Les, were really early on in the process. You could hear that they are having an interesting conversation. But at a certain point, and I'm not really sure what the problem was, Les just kept trying to get Leon to sign a contract. And Leon didn't want to do it, he would disappear. There were some times, as the process went on, that there just became more of a tension between Les and Leon. There was one point when Les sort of drank too much and got to be a little obnoxious. We were on tour with them and they told us we should go home (laughs). They threw us out, basically. So we had to go back home. Somehow we managed to finish the film, but when it was all done, Leon didn't want it to be released. We never found out what the problem was.

Harrod Blank, Les' son who took on Les' business after Les passed away, has had a mission to try to tie up all the loose ends in all the films. Especially the ones we had problems with like the Leon Russell film and the Ry Cooder film (Ry Cooder Group ’88 in Santa Cruz). So Harrod is now having conversations with Leon and has been meeting with him. He's actually making some progress. I saw Leon with Harrod one time when he was here in Oakland and it was kind of wonderful to see him after all these years. I avoided seeing him for 25, 30 years. We caught his concert in Oakland and went to his tour bus. We stayed there for like 45 minutes. He was very funny and kind of wry. So that was like breaking the ice. Harrod is still trying to make things work out with Leon, which would be a wonderful ending to this story because Les wasn't able to do it.

EM: You're credited as the assistant editor to Chulas Fronteras (1976), which was partially shot here in the Rio Grande Valley. What was your experience like working on that production?

MG: I didn't go on the shoot but Les and Chris Strachwitz shot the film. Because I had been Les' assistant (in those early films), he called on me to be his assistant on Chulas Fronteras. I moved from Austin to Berkeley to do that. It was really a fascinating experience for me because we had just made these films about Creole folks, and Clifton Chenier, who was kind of overtly soulful. All these people getting down in the dance hall. Suddenly we were working on a film about these very quiet, dignified musicians like Los Alegres de Terán, who just stand there and sing. They don't jump around, they don't have big expressive motions. So it took me a while to get into the music. I wasn't that familiar with Mexican music, I'd live in the north and hadn't really heard it. I wasn't that crazy about it but the more I learned about the songs, the passion of the music, where the passion lies in the songs, I just started getting really fascinated. I grew to love the music very much.

With Strachwitz being such an aficionado, and so knowledgeable about the music and traditions, I felt like I learned so much. I was just an assistant, Les edited the film, and I thought it was so beautiful the way he put it together. The music combined with the scenes of the family, people doing work, and all this kind of stuff, I just thought it was such a beautiful piece. I also helped with the translations of the songs, which was really fun. That made me appreciate the music even more. That started my interest in Latino, Mexican, Mexican-American, Latin-American culture.

Maureen Gosling editing Del Mero Corazón 

EM: Like an earlier production, this became two separate films with Chulas Fronteras (1976) and Del Mero Corazón (1979), right?

MG: Chris Strachwitz couldn't handle leaving any of the good songs just sitting on the editing room floor. He just wanted to do something with the outtakes. I said, "Well I can put something together." And I looked at all the stuff that was left over and realized that they were mostly love songs. I thought, "Let's make something about the love songs." So Guillermo Hernandez, who helped us with Chulas Fronteras, helped me figure out how to put a film together about the love songs. We realized that it would be really nice to have a reference to some of the poetry in Mexican tradition. We got a woman (María Antonia Contreras) with a beautiful voice to read poems in-between the music. It kind of complimented the songs, and that became Del Mero Corazón, which is a half-an-hour film. I realized years later that I kind of directed that film because I had the idea. For me it was an opportunity, it was the first time I really got to edit something. Those films were really key to a foundation for what I ended up doing later, which was working on many Spanish-language films, making a film in Mexico, and so forth.

EM: Were there any films that you and Les would have loved to have done but the financing just wasn't there?

MG: Way back, Les was interested in doing a film on James Booker, who is an incredible New Orleans piano player. Someone did that recently (but Les wanted to do it) in the early 1980's. Another film that we talked about, that I would have loved, was a film about the African influence on music on the coasts of the Americas. I just thought that would have been incredible. In every country, especially near the coasts, there is a lot of African influence in the music.

EM: One of the more memorable sequences of In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984) is the "Who Stole The Kishka" montage. Is that you making a cameo?

MG: Yeah (laughs). Yes and (Les' ex-wife and collaborator) Chris Simon is also in there, briefly.

It was a funny little thing that we did. That was unusual, not typical of what we would do.

EM: What's the story behind Blank, yourself, Simon and Susan Kell all getting equal "A Film By" credit at the beginning of Gap-Toothed Women (1986)?

MG: That is because every person did something of equal weight. Not only in giving feedback during the process but for example, Susan Kell interviewed all the women. She was basically the casting director and she figured out who should be in the film. Simon was involved in producing, she was also involved in the interviews, choosing who was to be in the film. It was a film about women, it would be unfair not to give proper credit to the women involved in the production. We all shared the weight of that film, and that's why everyone has a credit like that.

EM: Do you feel, having you, Simon and Kell involved helped the women being interviewed feel more comfortable about opening up about their ideas about this unique topic, as opposed to just having Les or other men do the interviews?

MG: Sure. You bet. Chris was married to Les at the time, she just wasn't sure what his motivation was to make this film about women. She just wanted to make sure that it was properly done. Sensitively done. And I felt that way too.

EM: For years, one could only buy Les' work through his website, or through Les himself, was there any particular reason why this was case?

MG: He started out by having other people distribute his films in the 60's, and he would get a check for $45.00 at the end of the year. He just said, "That's not acceptable, I know that there are people that are interested in this film, and would buy it. Clearly this company doesn't know how to distribute my films." He decided he better start doing it himself. I would say he's one of the first DIY filmmaking distributors, and it really worked because he could do niche marketing. He found the market for his films, and developed this incredible mailing list of universities, organizations, microcinemas, independent cinemas, festivals. He realized that he just needed to reach those communities. Nobody else was going to do it as well as he could because he had a lot of interest in promoting his own films. He didn't have to worry about other people's films. It really paid off, and he was actually quite successful doing self-distribution.

EM: Now that he's passed away, was it his son that made the deal with the Criterion Collection?

MG: I believe that Les did that before he passed away, and Harrod is following through with that. There are a few films that Criterion doesn't have. They don't have the films that Les did with Strachwitz, for example. Harrod still has the rights for 16 mm and broadcast, I think.

EM: Ah okay, yeah I also noticed Criterion wasn't releasing Marc and Ann (1991) in this collection.

MG: Oh, I'm not sure why that would be. That's interesting, I didn't even know that.

EM: Speaking of (Cajun accordionist) Marc (Savoy), one of the things I like about Les' work is that you see Marc grow up from the early 70's to the early 90's. You see the young accordionist develop into a spokesperson and authoritative voice for Cajun music and culture.

MG: It's true.

EM: And he comes out in your latest film This Ain't No Mouse Music (2013) as well, right? So between Les and you, it goes beyond the 90's.

MG: Yeah, he's also in our film. It's like that film Boyhood (2014), seeing this kid grow up. We've got Marc's boyhood (laughs).

I met Marc in 1972 when I first started working with Les, and I was just at his house like two weeks ago (laughs). Strachwitz is really close to the Savoys, and we're pretty close to them too. That's one of the by-products of making these kind of films, some of the amazing friendships you make. It's really cool.

ChaCha Jiménez

Abelardo "ChaCha" Jiménez Sr in Pharr. 
Abelardo "ChaCha" Jiménez Sr. spent most of his life bringing people up and down, on and off their feet, with the depth of his passionate voice. With a change of tone, and quality musicians by his side, he challenged what was being offered in Tejano and conjunto music for decades. His sensitive voz carried him to reach the highs he dreamed of as a young, lower-income kid in South Texas.

"The feeling he put into it," Juan Sifuentes Jr., Jiménez's cousin, said that's what made ChaCha's singing stand out. "He told me, 'If you want to sing a song beautifully, and if you're feeling pain, you want the people to feel your pain. If you're feeling happy about something, you want people to feel your happiness.'"

Abelardo "ChaCha" Jiménez Sr. was born to Abel and Elida Jiménez on May 23, 1947 in Kingsville, TX. To his fans he's best known as "ChaCha" — sometimes spelled "Chacha" or "Cha Cha" — a nickname that he drew during the 1950's.

"He came from a poor family, that's how he got his nickname," Sifuentes Jr. said. "He was really little and his mom would go buy him shoes so he could go to school. All she could afford was some chanclas for girls. So he had to go out wearing girl sandals. His older cousin would go over and make fun of him. He'd say, 'Mira la chachita!' And the name just stuck with him."

In a video interview with B.E. Kimball, Jiménez states that his musical journey began at the age of 8. Without Jiménez alive today, it's hard to determine exactly when he first got up on stage, and performed for an audience. Nevertheless, his cousin remembers hearing one specific story when he was growing up.

"Conjunto Bernal was playing at a grand opening of a store in Bishop," Sifuentes Jr. said. "ChaCha showed up with five or six of his friends in bicycles. He lived in Kingsville at that time, and Bishop is like five miles away. ChaCha asked Eloy (Bernal) if he could sing a song. Eloy went ahead and let him sing a song."

Sifuentes Jr. estimates that Jiménez was around 12-years-old at the time.

One day in his adolescence, Jiménez found an old guitar inside a nearby trashcan. Unfortunately it had no strings and there was no money around to buy any for his newly found treasure. He went to one of his screen doors, and found a way to remove strands from the tela. He attached those pieces to his guitar, and went to work.

"He basically taught himself," Sifuentes Jr. said. "Of course he had some pointers along the way. He became quite an accomplished guitar player."

Jiménez would eventually dabble in the keyboard, and the melodica as well.

As a teenager, Jiménez played for a few bands before joining Conjunto Bernal in the early 1960's. The transition was smooth, as the popular conjunto was already familiar with Jiménez from when he would pop up at their shows as a fan. Two canciones of that time period that are available through YouTube are "Siempre Junto a Tí" and "No Te Voy A Rogar".

"He had a pretty good high tenor voice," Sifuentes Jr., whose dad was also with Conjunto Bernal, said of those days. "He had almost become a seasoned veteran by then, even though he was the youngest in the band. He knew the singing part of it, he knew it well. And he didn't have any formal schooling."

As far as school went, Jiménez had dropped out to pursue music professionally. He enjoyed a brief stint with Los Fabulosos Cuatro, and was then drafted into Vietnam around 1965.

Local theater director and actor Pedro Garcia, became friends with Jiménez later in life. The two briefly talked about their time in the service.

"He had 13 service medals and ribbons," Pedro Garcia said. "He was a sergeant in the Army and to get to that rank of sergeant, man, that takes a whole lot of work and discipline. You could tell that's the kind of guy he was."

During their brief time collaborating together, Garcia was once able to get Jiménez to open up about the horrors he experienced in Vietnam. It was a difficult subject for Jiménez to discuss.

"Being that he was in Vietnam, and all the ugliness that he saw there, you could hear some deep rooted soul," Garcia said of the emotion that Jiménez conveyed with his voice.

After returning from Vietnam, Jiménez re-joined Conjunto Bernal, and met Herbie Lopez, who was now with the troop playing keyboard.

"We did a lot of recordings con el cantando (with him singing)," Herbie Lopez said. "There was several tunes that we recorded with ChaCha, that were really big hits back then — 'Ya Somos Dos', 'Aurora', 'Corazonada'."

Around 1974, Jiménez decided to branch out on his own. He formed Los Chachos, with himself as the vocalist, Bobby Naranjo as the accordionist, Juan Solis on guitar, Joe Solis on bass, and Ernie Ruiz as the drummer. Those five musicians decided to take a chance and present a new brand of Tejano music.

"They had their own ideas about the kind of music they wanted to play," Sifuentes Jr. said. "It wasn't that they were dissatisfied with Conjunto Bernal. It was more like they felt they were getting in the way of the sound of Conjunto Bernal. They had their own style that they wanted to play."

In 1976, the group released their first album, self-titled Los Chachos. Karlitos Way Accordions owner, accordion dealer and collector Karlos Landin Jr. recalls that gem of a release.

"I clearly remember being 6-years-old," Karlos Landin Jr. said. "I remember my dad coming home from the store. He had this album, and it was Los Chachos' first album. It was on Manny Guerra's label, and I think that may have been the only one that was actually on that label. I remember being a kid, and being tripped out looking at that cover. There's this artsy drawing of a turntable, and it had this guy's face with longhair. I remember (my dad) putting the album on, and just being really drawn into the vocal harmonies, the arrangements. Even at that age, my ears perked up."

To get a taste of the progressive sound they cooked up, check out "Visito Estos Barrios" from that debut release on YouTube. It's such a wild and unorthodox piece. There was one ingredient in particular that surprised Landin Jr. many moons later.

"At that the time, I remember thinking it was an organ," Landin Jr. said. "(The style) had a different edge because of the organ, but then I came to find out years later that that wasn't an organ. It was Bobby's Cordovox chromatic accordion that had like 25 switches on it. It had so many different sounds. It sounded like an organ; it sounded like a chromatic. It sounded like all these different things. The first one that told me about that accordion was (accordionist) Joel Guzman."

Sifuentes Jr. caught a glimpse of that rare squeezebox during the 1970's.

"He would plug a big ole' chord on there," Sifuentes Jr. said. "It was electronic and it was heavy as heck. He had to buy a stand for it, because he was hurting his back when he would play it."

From GCP (Guerra Company Productions), Los Chachos pressed on to record with Freddie Records and Hacienda Records in the late 1970's and early 1980's. They soon took their funky, eccentric Tejano sounds outside of South Texas.

"Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Florida, California," Lopez says were some regular stops for Los Chachos at their peak.

By the mid-1980's, the original members of Los Chachos had drifted away, embarking on new challenges. Jiménez found himself with chromatic accordionist Oscar Hernandez and The Tuff Band. With that ensemble, which also included vocalist Jessy Serrata, he recorded several albums, and made a few TV appearances, including a potpourri performance on "The Johnny Canales Show".

Early in 2011, Jiménez was attending the Pharr Literacy Project and Cultural Arts Center. One day he overheard two men talking about Vietnam. He went up to them, revealing that he had been in Vietnam.

"Oh yeah? Well there's a part in my play that I have, maybe you'd be interested in playing it?" Garcia answered back. While he had been a huge fan of Jiménez's music in the 1970's and 1980's, he didn't recognize him at first.

"I'm ChaCha Jiménez," said the then 63-year-old man.

"I was totally in awe," Garcia said. "I wanted to hug him."

Jiménez agreed to act in Pat and Lyndon after looking over the script and discussing the project with Garcia. According to Garcia, he was a natural and easy to work with.

"He did really well in the role of Marcel," Garcia said. "He sang 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee', in his style with a guitar, in the play. Then he sang 'America the Beautiful'. He had a great voice."

A few months later, following a battle with liver cancer, Jiménez passed away at the McAllen Medical Center on June 15, 2011. He was 64.

"I remember him talking to me about how he felt ill," Garcia said. "How he would grab a hold of his bible, and pray all the time. He seemed sad at times, because of the illness."

Jiménez during Pat and Lyndon.
Jesse Gomez, who was performing with ChaCha during the last two years of his life, has kept Jiménez and the Chachos name in the local public eye. Lopez joined the group recently.

"All we play with Los Nuevo Chachos is music from Los Chachos and Conjunto Bernal," Lopez said. "We try to stay true to the fact that we're trying to keep the memory alive de Los Chachos and el Conjunto Bernal. Because nobody really plays that type of music, the whole night, anymore."

Along with that tribute band, Jiménez is being kept alive through three major Tejano and conjunto music Hall of Fame institutions. In 2003, he was inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame in Alice, along with Chachos' bandmates Naranjo and Ruiz. In 2006, he joined the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in San Benito. Finally in 2012, he was recognized posthumously by the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in San Antonio.

The voice on those old songs still resonate with his peers, fans, friends and family. The heart-strings are still being pulled every time one listens to his old vinyls, eight-tracks, cassette tapes, CD's, or online uploads. The emotions and memories that Jiménez expressed through his craft continue to lift those that were fortunate enough to know him, and his art. His voz carried him when he was alive, and it still carries him today years after he passed away.

"If you ever listen to a really good ChaCha Jiménez song, like for example, 'Ando Todo Enamorado'," Garcia begins. "There can be this lapse of time where the rhythm and the lyrics just float, and you're savoring it, man. You're just floating with it, and then 'tas', it hits. Not only in vocalizing does that work so well, it works when you're on the dance floor. You're on the dance floor, then all of a sudden that hits, you take a dip, then you float up into heaven, and then you land back, and you keep going."

Javier Villanueva, Jiménez, Karlos Landin Jr., Herbie Lopez, Juan Sifuentes Jr. and Albert Martinez.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Refugio Ortiz

Refugio Ortiz at St. Anne's Church in Pharr

At St. Anne's Church Annual Fall Jamaica in Pharr, on November 2, Refugio Ortiz walked up to the stage after performances from Ramiro Cavazos y Los Donneños and Roberto Pulido.  He took to the microphone and told el público (the audience) that he was going to sing a piece of his titled "Cumbia Barack Obama" in a cappella.

Ortiz begins.

"Voy a cantar con respeto, y con mucha admiración,
Al señor Barack Obama, yo le canto su canción,
De corazon yo le pido, que arregle ya la nación,
Que arregle ya la reforma, reforma de migración."

(Basic Literal Translation:
"I'm going to sing with respect, and a lot of admiration,
To Barack Obama, I'm going to sing him his song,
From my heart I ask him, to fix this nation,
To fix the reform, the immigration reform,")

Born in Tamaulipas in April 28, 1983, Ortiz lived in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon before making the Rio Grande Valley his home six years ago. He started singing at the age of 8, around his house, at school, and at local events. He points to Los Tigres del Norte as a major influence, both in singing style and in the themes they illustrate through their music.

"Yo tengo la misma ideas que ellos," ("I have the same ideas that they do,") Ortiz said. "Lo que miro es lo que me interesaba más. Tratando de expresar (eso) con las canciones." ("What I see [around my community] is what interests me the most. Then trying to express that with songs.")

Topics in his large repertoire of corrido and cumbia compositions include the struggles that undocumented immigrants face, the ongoing violence in Mexico, school shootings in the United States of America, a sad Christmas tune and even a tribute to Jenni Rivera, who died in 2012.

I asked him if he had any plans to compose a corrido on the missing Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College of Ayotzinapa students.

"No he tenido tiempo de hacerlo," ("I haven't had time to do it,") Ortiz said. "Pero mejor si lo hago." ("But maybe I will do it.")

While he's been busy working on his material for years, Ortiz is not currently in a band, and has not been able to commercially document his canciones in audio recordings or videos.

"Siempre a querido pero pos no puedo económicamente," ("I've always wanted to [record] but I can't financially,") Ortiz said. "No conozco mucha gente (aqui). Pero si se presenta la oportunidad, si lo quiero hacer." ("I don't know too many people here. But if the opportunity presents itself, yes I would like to do it.")

If anyone is interested in contacting Ortiz, he tells me that the best way to get a hold of him is to look him up on Facebook.

Ortiz credits Joe Melendez for inviting him to the Jamaica in 2013 and 2014. He notes that he wrote this cumbia because he knows it's something that millions of people are struggling with, and it's his special way of bringing awareness to this issue.

He concludes his cumbia.

"Son once millones ya, de gente indocumentada,
Que le rezan a su dios, para trabajar con ganas,
Ya no quieren esconderse, ellos de la migración,
Quieren que entre la reforma, reforma de migración,
Quieren que entre la reforma, reforma de migración."

("There are 11 million now, of undocumented people,
That pray to their god, to work wholeheartedly,
They don't want to hide, those that have migrated,
They want the reform to be introduced, immigration reform,
They want the reform to be introduced, immigration reform,")

The crowd gave Ortiz a great response after he completed his passionate solo performance. When he walked off stage, he was greeted by several observers, fellow musicians and fans. Ortiz concludes that it was a great night for him, and he assures me that he will continue to focus on topics that affect la gente (the people).

Friday, November 7, 2014

"Mi Vida, Mi Musica"‏

Pepe Maldonado at La Lomita Park.

The local conjunto music scene will gather to pay tribute to one of its greatest legends on Wednesday night. The family of Pepe Maldonado is holding a celebration to recognize his outstanding career, which spans over seven decades. The event has been dubbed, "Mi Vida, Mi Musica".

"Dad has always stayed true to conjunto," Joe Maldonado Jr., Pepe's son, said. "That's what he does, and what he loves."

The 73-year-old pioneer has been involved in performing, recording, radio broadcasting, and promoting during his long journey in conjunto music. La Lomita Park, his intimate venue in McAllen, has become one of the most popular conjunto spots around today. Every Sunday night, the dance floor is filled with gente bailando to conjunto acts from all over the state of Texas.

The master of ceremony for this occasion will be Leonel Sanchez, who is well known in the local Tejano, conjunto, norteño, and Christian music communities.

Sanchez first met Maldonado in 1954.

"He was not playing with any particular group (at the time)," Sanchez, 77, said. "We used to go to Edinburg, TX. There was a patio there and the band there was Ricardo Guzman y sus Tres Ases. Pepe was very, very young. Of course, I was very young tambien. Pepe would like to sing with them. He started his (professional) singing there in 1954."

The friendship that began on that patio continued in the decades that followed. One of the highlights for Sanchez was when he accompanied Maldonado and Gilberto Lopez Sr. to Florida in 1963. He says that they were the first group of musicians to take conjunto music to "The Sunshine State".

"They didn't even have a radio station (that played conjunto in Florida)," Sanchez said. "The promoter was a contractor for people that worked in the fields. The guy would take us in the back of his truck, telling the workers there that there is going to be a band tonight."

The details for this party are still being worked out this week. Joe says that he's working on securing several conjunto acts to perform for this event. Some of the groups he is talking with include Los Dos Gilbertos, Los Fantasmas Del Valle, Ricardo Guzman Jr. and Los Delta Boyz. Joe notes that there is also the possibility of some surprise appearances.

When this get-together was first thought of, Joe was hoping that Gilberto Lopez Sr. would be able to make an appearance. Maldonado and Lopez played together for many years, and recorded "Nada Me Importa" and "La Quintanita" for Discos Ideal in 1957. Unfortunately, Lopez is very ill and currently in the hospital.

"We all grew up together," Joe said of the Lopez and the Maldonado family. "We are praying for him, and his family, for a speedy recovery. Get well soon."

The two people that came up with the idea for this social affair are Joe and his tia Diamantina Patlan.

"He's a very wonderful person, with a big heart," Diamantina said of her older brother. "He helps everybody that is interested in music. Everybody is very grateful for that. I believe that he deserves to be honored."

Diamantina says that people who attend can expect to have a great time, and experience a showcase of musicians that are regulars of La Lomita Park. The evening will be filled with family and friends acknowledging everything Maldonado has accomplished in his life in music.
As for the title of the event, that credit goes to Joe's wife, Sallie Trevino Maldonado.

"I came up with the title, 'Mi Vida, Mi Musica' because that is him," Sallie said. "To me, he is all about the music. He started as a teenager, and he hasn't slowed down since. He's never stopped (playing and promoting). So it's a big honor for his family to do this for him. I think the people (who attend) will appreciate this as well."

What: "Mi Vida, Mi Musica" (Celebrating Pepe Maldonado's Career in Conjunto Music)
Time: 7:00 PM
Date: 11/12
Cost: Open to the public, with concessions available to purchase at the event
Phone Number: Pepe's son, Joe Maldonado Jr., can be contacted at 956-821-0955
Location: La Lomita Park, in McAllen