Friday, January 29, 2016

Delia Gutierrez Pineda

Delia Gutierrez Pineda

Legendary singer Delia Gutierrez-Pineda lives in McAllen, with photos on her wall and a treasure trove of memories that brings her back to her past. Among the items found in her house are photographs, records, old newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia from a career that started in the 1940's and officially closed in 1990. Those memories, which include her late parents, her late husband, and various other musicians she's worked with, are very dear to her heart. She's always happy to share her memories when you ask her about them.

Delia Gutierrez was born as an only child to Eugenio Gutierrez and Melida Ayala on July 5, 1931 in Weslaco, Texas. Her father was part of a family of farmers from Runge, Texas. He was also a young musical prodigy, who started playing a violin at 9 years old, one that he had made from scraps.

"They would play at weddings, anniversaries, little things like that," Delia said.

Her mother came from the musical Ayala family of the Rio Grande Valley, so her love for music came from both her parents.

As a child, Delia first started singing while attending school in Weslaco. Later on, she would also start participating at talent shows at the Benitez Theater in Weslaco.

"I'm glad to say I always won," Delia laughs. "Nombre I got so used to winning that it was hard for me not to win. You know what the prize was? A bag of groceries. Coffee, sugar, bread, flour, and stuff like that. So I was very proud of getting those bags of grocery."

At that time, she also enjoyed opening for famous artists whenever they would drop by to perform at that theater.

Despite her obvious talent, Delia admits that her father didn't really want her to become a singer. Due to her father being ill, it was decided that she would start singing professionally with the family orchestra — The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra — at age 12.

"That was the only reason he let me sing," Delia said. "Let's face it, we needed the little help (it would bring us)."

For inspiration, Delia would listen to the radio stations from Mexico. She notes that her father's orchestra originally played English only, but his main goal was to be a bilingual band.

"He wanted to have a band that would play like the ones in Mexico," Delia said. "Spanish and English, with a variety of music."

Promo shot of Delia Gutierrez Pineda for Ideal Records.

They performed from one end of the Valley to the other, from Brownsville to Rio Grande City, and everything in-between. The orchestra would stop by Edinburg's KURV studios regularly on Sunday morning to perform for the live radio audience at 11:00 AM.

"Edelstein was a furniture store, and they had an hour on the radio," Delia said. "We would play an hour of our music during that time."

It wasn't long after that that The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra began recording for Falcón Records near the end of the 1940's.

"He asked my dad because he had followed my dad's music," Delia said.

After that, the crew, which became a 12-piece orchestra, went on tour to help promote the recordings. They stopped by in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Dallas, El Paso and many other stops.

"We were very blessed," Delia said. "I think what made a difference was that it was a father-daughter orchestra."

They left Falcón, and started recording for Armando Marroquín's Discos Ideal in the early 1950's, in Alice and San Benito. Popular recordings between both those labels included  "La Carta", "Pasito Tun Tun", "Mi Marianita" and "Blue Moon" (in Spanish).

During that same time frame, the orchestra added a trumpet player by the name of Moises "Moy" Pineda. He quickly became a part of the cast of musicians, joining them on tour.

"That was the first time we met," Delia said. "He was good, he learned fast, tambien (too)."

Delia and Pineda fell in love, and were married in 1954. They had three daughters: Cecilia Diaz, Norma Perez, and Melba Carvajal.

"It's funny, he was engaged to another girl, and I was engaged to another boy," Delia said. "We both gave the rings back to the boy and the girl."

Delia Gutierrez Pineda and Moy Pineda.

Delia continued playing with the orchestra until 1972, when her father passed away after a long battle with cancer.

"I told Moy I wasn't going to play anymore," Delia said. "We were married, and had our kids. He decided to get his own group going."

Delia Gutierrez Pineda, Eugenio Gutierrez, and Moy Pineda.

That group would end up becoming The Moy Pineda Mini-Band. Jose Peña was right beside Pineda for years, helping out with that ensemble. The band started getting more and more gigs, and Pineda eventually convinced Delia to return to singing. They performed at wedding, conventions, Bar Mitzvahs , anniversaries and gatherings of all types.

"We picked up where we left off," Delia said. "We had so much fun singing and playing."

She continued until she officially retired in 1990. That same year Delia was honored by being interviewed and having her career documented by Dr. Clay Shorkey for an exhibit at the Texas Music Museum. That showcase was dubbed Musica Tejana: The History and Development of Tejano Music. Unfortunately, Delia couldn't make it, but it's something she's very proud of.

In 2002, Delia was inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame in Alice. Other people who were inducted into that same class include Freddy Fender, Ventura Alonzo and Tony "Ham" Guerrero. A year later, Pineda passed away in 2003.

"He was such a good person," Delia said. "Moy loved people, he loved his trumpet (too). He loved playing music."

On October 2012, the Ben F. McDonald Public Library of Corpus Christi hosted an event where Delia was chosen to be one of the honorees by The Music of South Texas committee. A photo of her was included in a gallery of Tejano pioneers, to pay tribute to her contributions to Tejano music.

Now at 84 years old, Delia enjoys spending time with her three daughters, two son-in-laws, six grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. The memories she participated in are as strong as they've ever been.

"Thank the Lord," Delia said. "I am in good health, I can still walk, talk, and drive. And do Just about everything."

Q&A with Manuel Maldonado of Alto Mando.

Lead vocalist and accordionist Manuel Maldonado of Alto Mando was here in the Rio Grande Valley this past week to talk about his band, his influences, and his new CD.

Eduardo Martinez: How did you first get interested in music?

Manuel Maldonado: I was about 15 years old, I'm originally from Merced, California. Over there, I didn't really listen to Mexican music. But when I came over here, to Texas, I started listening to it more because a lot more people listen to Mexican music over here. I was really inspired by Ramon Ayala and his accordion skills. I asked my dad to buy me an accordion 'cause I really wanted to learn his songs. So that's how I started with the music.

EM: What part of Texas did you move to?

MM: San Antonio, and I still live there.

EM: Other than Ramon Ayala, do you have any other favorite musicians that influenced you?

MM: Since my family is from Nuevo Leon, my favorite bands were like Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon, Los Cadetes (de Linares), Lalo Mora. Those were the main bands that I started liking.

EM: When did you first perform in front of an audience?

MM: Professionally, in front of a live audience, about an year ago. Before that, maybe two years ago, in the backyard, BBQ's, quinceañeras, weddings.

EM: How did Alto Mando come about?

MM: I live in San Antonio, started playing in backyards. Everybody in the city knows each other, and they started saying, "Well these kids play music." And that's how we started to meet other musicians, that were playing in bands. That's how we found our tuba player, and we ended up playing our style, the genre of norteño banda.

EM: What can you tell me about your new CD, Dime Que Si?

MM: It came out in late November, November 20th. It's doing really well, especially with our newest single "Dime Que Si". It's track number three. As well as other songs that we promoted in the last year.

EM: Is this your first time visiting the Valley?

MM: Yes this is our first time here in McAllen.

EM: What are your impressions?

MM: I really like the people here. They are laid back, chill, and they are really nice people. And they are fun. I've been to a lot of radio stations today and it's been fun.

EM: What are some of your longterm plans for Alto Mando?

MM: We are already in the studio recording our second album. We are starting to record it already, but we are still writing more songs to complete the CD. I am writing some songs myself, as well as other band members. We are planning to promote exactly the way we have been doing (the first CD).

EM: Any other update you would like to tell fans?

MM: I would like to give my Facebook page: Alto Mando Oficial. Also on Instagram and Twitter you can find us at: PuroAltoMando.

EM: Great, any last thing you would like to say?

MM: Yes, I want to say thank you for everybody that has believed in us, and that is helping us.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Looking Forward To 2016

Gilberto Perez y su conjunto. Photo by Raul Robert Perez. 

As we are just three weeks into the new year, I wanted to share some of things I am most looking forward to in 2016. I feel that when the year is over, we will have a lot of great memories to look back on.

One of the events I'm most looking forward to in 2016 is Texas Folklife's annual "Big Squeeze" showcase and playoffs. The statewide accordion contest for players under 21 is set to start sometime soon, so keep a look out for an announcement from the non-profit that is based out of Austin. The previous two years have seen 'Showcases', or auditions in another word, take place at La Joya High School in the month of February. Last year, Raul Resendez from La Joya High School and Josue Garcia of La Feria High School made it to the finals in Austin. Curious to see which young accordionists, from the deep talent pool that is found in the Rio Grande Valley, will stand out this year.

La Lomita Park in McAllen is now entering its 14th year in existence, and it's still one of the must go-to places in the Valley for authentic conjunto music. They started this year on January 3 with a great night of music, featuring Gilberto Perez Sr. y su conjunto, and it was awesome. They got a lot of top conjunto acts that regularly stop by, like the aforementioned Perez and Los Fantasmas del Valle, but I'm also looking forward to seeing what new acts will show up to the dance hall in 2016.

There are going to be a lot of major festivals this year, but the ones I'm most excited for are the 35th annual Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio, during May, and the 25th annual Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center Conjunto Festival in San Benito, during October. I have never been to the San Antonio festival before, and am eager to go for the first time. I'm also excited about what the 25th installment of the San Benito festival will bring us later this year.

Not sure which artists will be releasing new albums this year, but am interested in seeing what gems pop out from those releases. Recently, Rio Jordan finally released Legendary Dynasty, which included ten tracks from them and ten never before released tracks from their legendary father, the late Esteban 'Steve' Jordan. I hope to see more unique releases along those lines, along with some traditional instrumental albums from some of the legends and established musicians of conjunto music.

More than anything, I'm interested in seeing what new conjuntos will pop up in the Valley, along with what direction and angle they plan to take conjunto music in. It's a form of music that can literally be taken to many different directions, and I hope to see some young musicians do something very special with it.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Albums To Check Out

On this weeks Regional Ramblings, I will recommend three under-the-radar albums that one can stream right now for free on Spotify. There are some gems on here that I think are really worth going out of your way to listen to.

Borders y Bailes by Los Texmaniacs - In 2009, Los Texmaniacs of Max Baca released their first album with the Smithsonian Folkways label, and it's a great taste of what this group is capable of. At the time David Farias, of La Tropa F, was the accordionist for the group and does a great job lending his sharp style of accordion playing to this ensemble. We get a little bit of everything here, as far as conjunto goes, like polkas, cumbias, a redova, rancheras, boleros, danzón, a huapango, and even an old fashion schottische (aka chotiz or chotis). Baca's style of bajo-sexto playing is such a treasure to listen to, and it's the backbone of all these songs on here. Check out how he shreds the bajo-sexto on the title track "Huapango". It's amazing the level of control that Baca has over the bajo-sexto. This modern take on traditional music release won "Best Tejano Album" at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

They All Played For Us: Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary Celebration - In 2011, roots music label Arhoolie Records celebrated their 50th anniversary with concerts that included Los Cenzontles, Santiago Jimenez Jr. y la familia Peña-Govea, Ry Cooder, Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, and several other bands that included various types of musical genres. For the two-row, diatonic button accordionist Jimenez, he played two classics — "Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio" and "Viva Seguin". Both are exciting and spirited performances of the songs, by Jimenez and crew. Los Cenzontles perform "Voy Caminando", "El Chuchumbe", "México Americano", "Prenda del Alma", "Arizona, Estado de Verguenza", and "Puño de Tierra". This California group plays this really whimsical string style of music that is both socially conscious and great to listen to. That's only two different groups, the rest of this four disc compilation is a great treat for roots music lovers.

La Conocí en La Pulga (I Met Her at the Flea Market) by Los Dos Gilbertos - Also from 2009, this release from the legendary conjunto based out of Edinburg might have my favorite Rio Grande Valley album title of all time. One of the tracks on here is a nice tribute to the late Cornelio Reyna. It's titled "Recordando a Cornelio" and it's a nice potpourri of the legendary norteño musician's repertoire. Of course the main draw on here is the title track "La Conocí en La Pulga", which is a catchy cumbia about a man who met his love at the pulga. A romantic cumbia about going to the pulga every Sunday is one of the most Valley-things ever and I absolutely love this silly song.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Spurs vs Cavaliers

Ridiculous game. Brother and I are leaving right now. Spurs were struggling in the first half, were down 15 points at one point. Tony Parker specifically kept us in the game early on. Manu Ginobili also had some bright moments early on. I was all worried they were going to lose since most of the team was cold. Finally things picked up in the second half, and the Spurs came back to win 99-95 in a nail biter. Kawhi Leonard had some great moments in the final two frames. Tim Duncan had this tough clutch bank shot at the end that was just lovely. Epic game, and so happy they won, especially since it's difficult making out to games. It's a risk watching sports live, because you can spend money to buy tickets and then watch your favorite team lose, and that's an awful feeling. But if they win, especially a difficult game, it's an amazing feeling. Spurs are now 23-0 at home. Also, props to LeBron James. The second the game was over, he immediately hugged Duncan, then started talking to him, and went around genuinely congratulating a lot of the Spurs. Tambien David West is so solid, feels like he's been a Spur forever. Here's a post-game selfie with my brother and me.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rogelio T. Núñez Fundraiser

Rogelio T. Núñez, co-founder of the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center (NMCAC) in San Benito, will be celebrating his birthday on Saturday night, January 9, with a major fundraiser that will benefit two organizations. Núñez, who will be turning 64, will have the proceeds of his celebration going towards the NMCAC and Casa de Proyecto Libertad, an organization in Harlingen where he has served as the executive-director since 1990.

The idea for the NMCAC, which is entering its 25th year in 2016, first started to develop when Núñez returned to the Rio Grande Valley in 1983, after he had been away studying in Kingsville and Austin.

"When I was in college, I got influenced by, and became part of the Chicano movement," Núñez said in 2014. "So that movement began to tell me that it was important that we do things to better our community of Chicanos. So one of the leaders of the Chicano movement was a guy named Jose Angel Gutierrez, who was the founder of La Raza Unidad (political) party. He used to say things like, 'We need to create institutions by us, for us, and about us.' Because it wasn't being done by the institutions that existed."

Since its formation on October 29, 1991, the NMCAC has presented a variety of events, showcases, classes, exhibits and festivals. This year will be the 25th anniversary of their highly popular NMCAC Conjunto Festival.

"Probably come February, we are going to start looking at bands," Soledad A. Núñez, coordinator of the NMCAC, said. "I know the bands that were cancelled on Saturday (for the 24th annual NMCAC Conjunto Festival due to weather issues) will be playing this year's festival."

According to their website, Casa de Proyecto Libertad "was founded in 1981 to provide legal defense and advocacy for detained Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the United States."

Soledad notes that there will be food available, beverages, and live music from yet to be confirmed musical artists for this birthday gathering.

The featured attraction of the evening will be a photo exhibit titled "Texas Farmworkers Valley March 1975 and Muleshoe to Austin 1979" from photojournalist Alan Pogue.

"He dropped the photos a while back," Soledad said. "We combined the photo (exhibit) and the fundraiser. Anybody that is interested can come down, listen to music, grab a bite to eat and check out the photo exhibit. There are probably a good 20 and 30 photos."

Soledad and the NMCAC are happy to be able to present this as the first event of 2016.

"It's for two great causes," Soledad said. "The cultural arts center and Casa de Proyecto Libertad. This is so we can keep on doing the work that we are doing. Come on down, and you will have a good time."

What: NMCAC and Casa de Proyecto Libertad Fundraiser
Time: 5:00 PM
Date: 1/9
Cost: $20.00
Phone Number and Website: 956-244-0373 or visit
Location: Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, in San Benito