News Column

Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum holds annual induction ceremony

June 23, 2013


June 23--SAN BENITO -- Volunteers scrambled on Saturday to accommodate visitors streaming into the San Benito Community Center for the sold-out 13th Annual Texas Conjunto Music Induction Awards ceremony.

Saturday evening, five people, including musicians and a television pioneer, were inducted into the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame.

The late Juan Sifuentes was a member of Conjunto Bernal, playing bass and singing.

He toured with Conjunto Bernal from the 1950s to the 1970s and the band was known as "El Mejor Conjunto del Mundo" (the best conjunto band in the world).

The late Ramon Medina was known as one of the best bajo sexto players in Texas, said Rey Avila, president of the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He played and recorded with accordion pioneer Tony de la Rosa, Ruben Naranjo and Gilberto Perez.

He founded his own band, Ramon Medina y Los Alegres, in 1985. As a songwriter, his biggest hit was "Bellos Recuerdos."

Present at Saturday's program was Hall of Fame inductee Mario Saenz, who formed his own band, Los Gavilanes de Mario, and received a lot of radio play and carried out live performances around Texas, Arizona, California, Ohio and Illinois.

He also worked as a studio musician with Falcon records.

Also attending was inductee David Lee Garza, known for a unique accordion style.

He has recorded with Grammy Award winners Little Joe y La Familia, Jimmy Gonzales and Joel Guzman.

Known as a small-town Texas cowboy with roots in Mexican culture, he is well known on the Tejano circuit.

TV music host Johnny Canales TV program, "El Show de Johnny Canales." took to the airwaves in 1983 and ran for more than 20 years, Avila said. Canales introduced Selena when she was 13 years old and introduced many other future stars on his program, he said.

"Over the past 12 years, we have inducted 58 people who have contributed to the history of conjunto regional music," Avila said.

A 2012 Hall of Fame inductee, Wally Gonzalez, toured the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame and Museum with wife Rosa and granddaughter Sandra Ortega before the evening ceremony.

He got an early start to his music career, Gonzalez said.

"I was in school in the seventh grade when I performed in a school assembly with a one-line accordion," he said.

"A friend played guitar and we sang 'Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.'"

By age 16, he had dropped out of school, he said. His mother bought him a three-line accordion.

"As the years went by, I learned more and more," he said. "I met Mario Saenz. He needed an accordion player, so I stated in 1967."

Some of his hits include "Frijolitos Pintos," which was a cumbia; "El Riky Riky" and "El Tiquetito," (speeding ticket), he said.

He even recorded songs about his love for CB radios in the 1970s, he said.

"In 1983, I came out in Texas Monthly," he said. "They called it 'The Ballad of Wally Gonzalez.'"

Today, he is retired and now only performs occasionally, Gonzalez said.

Making last-minute arrangements for the program, Avila explained that the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum has an important mission to preserve the history of conjunto music and assure its future.

"Conjunto is the original Tejano music," he said. "In the 1980s, they came out with the word 'Tejano' and that includes Selena, Little Joe and those," he said of modern Tejano stars, who perform a more amplified, faster and rock-and-roll-style approach to South Texas regional music.

Conjunto has its roots in the days of outdoor dance venues with simple instruments and basic beats, he said.

"The accordion, the bass player, the bajo sexto (a 12-string Mexican guitar) and drums make it up," he said of a typical conjunto band.

Early stars included Narciso Martinez, Pedro Ayala and Juan Lopez in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Avila said.

"In the 1980s, the radio stations came out with Tejano," he said. Traditional conjunto bands were acoustic, "but in the 1950s the electric bass came in."


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