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

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