Friday, March 31, 2017
Road to La Villa Real Part 2
The first event Arnaldo “Nano” Ramirez Jr. held at the McAllen Civic Center took place on October of 1971, and it was headlined by Tejano star Ruben Ramos and conjunto accordionist Tony de la Rosa. While they filled up the house, Ramirez ended up losing money at the concert. What exactly happened that first night?
"We had a packed [house] that night, and when we were doing the finances, I realized that we had lost money," Ramirez said. "I told my wife [Dalinda], she was in charge of the door, of the box-office. How could we have lost money, the place was almost sold out. She asked me, 'Where were you all night?' Well I was in the front door, greeting people. Thanking them for coming to the dance. She continued, 'Yeah, what else were you doing? Half of them, you let them in free, cause you knew them. The people that sell you the shirts at the department stores, do they give you the shirts? No. Do the people you let in from the grocery store, do they give you free groceries?'"
Ramirez proudly credits his partner, Dalinda Ramirez, for making him a successful concert promoter. The following Tuesday night, Ramirez had a second dance at the McAllen Civic Center. He still greeted everyone, except this time, he did so after they had already bought a ticket.
With his promoter career underway, Ramirez would soon arrive to a deal with a star that would push him to the next level.
"Freddie Martinez of Corpus Christi, had a big, huge hit, the biggest hit in the country -- "Te Traigo estas Flores"," Ramirez explained. "He was being dictated by Paulino to pay him $350. So I made a deal with him that I would pay him $1500, and I would book him in Harlingen on Monday, Tuesday in McAllen and Wednesday in Harlingen. "
Ramirez explains that Martinez influenced other bands to follow suit and jump ship, ultimately leaving Bernal’s umbrella of musicians. Ramirez would offer more money guaranteed than what his competition was offering. The dynamics in the local scene were starting to change and get heated. After a year in a half, a syndicate meeting was arranged between various concert promoters to discuss the Rio Grande Valley promoter rivalry between Ramirez and Bernal. Ramirez explains that this syndicate of promoters, which booked Mexican and Mexican-American musicians across various territories across the nation, attempted to pressure Martinez to go and team up with Bernal.
"At that time, Freddie and I had become very good friends, there was no cell phones back then, but he was keeping me in touch from a public phone, calling me at the house," Ramirez said. "At the end of the meeting, Freddie said he was sticking with his guns and staying with me. And if the other promoters [of that syndicate] didn't want to take him, there were other promoters in those other cities that would take him in a heartbeat. The meeting came to an end and I continued, still doing my events on Tuesdays. Paulino continued doing his on Mondays."
A year later, another syndicate meeting was scheduled in New Braunfels. This time they invited Ramirez, along with Martinez, to discuss a compromise. According to Ramirez, the group asked him if he would be interested in having alternate weeks with Bernal; one week a Bernal concert on Monday, the following week a Ramirez concert on Tuesday. Ramirez and Martinez stood their ground and rejected their suggestions.
Several months later, the rivalry between Ramirez and Bernal came to an end. Bernal took a different direction in life, as he left the music industry and moved on to become an evangelist. With Bernal out of the picture, Ramirez was now without any direct competition. He notes that there were other promoters here in the Valley, like Joe Vera and others, but they got along just fine.
"He had an old Lacks building in Weslaco called Vera's Palladium. But we were really not in the same type of competition, even though we were both utilizing the same bands. We respected each other and we had no problems. Of course, after a while, Joe Vera left doing concerts so I was by myself."
After many years of working with the McAllen Civic Center, Ramirez was ready to take a new step in his professional life. The idea of getting his own venue kept lingering in his mind. In 1976, Ramirez started looking for properties for where he could build a place of his own. During that year, he developed a friendship with Mr. Gegenheimer, who happened to own some property on Bentsen and Expressway 83 in McAllen. The two came to an agreement and Ramirez secured ten acres there. Now he needed to find a way to raise more money to continue his dream.