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."

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