BY EDUARDO MARTINEZ
This week, I’m going to recommend four great Rio Grande Valley jams to check out this summer, to add to your Tejano and conjunto playlists.
>> “El Corrido de Jhonny el Pachuco” by Esteban Jordan — “El Corrido de Jhonny El Pachuco” is a wild take on Victor Cordero’s “Juan Charrasqueado.” The original lyrics are transformed into Jordan’s unique language and Rio Grande Valley surroundings. He changes things up, adding terms from his own vocabulary like “al alba,” “chismear,” “cholas,” “muy alto,” and “slicka.”
The classic tune is now arranged with Jordan’s accordion as the lead instrument, and he does some amazing things on the squeezebox on here. The tale that Jordan tells here is set in Robstown, but McAllen is referenced in passing, where this song was recorded in the 1970s. The master was later acquired by Arhoolie Records, and re-released there on vinyl and CD in later years. Might be my favorite Jordan song ever.
>> “El Dia de tu Boda” by Gilberto Perez — This song was composed by Ramon Medina, a Rio Grande Valley musician who performed with Ruben Vela y su conjunto and Gilberto Perez y su conjunto. Esta cancion was first recorded by Gilberto Perez y su conjunto on November 1959 for the local Falcón Records company. It got a lot of airplay in regional music radio stations. In 1968, Los Tigres del Norte did a cover of this song for their debut album. This is such a great song, and a classic conjunto standard.
>> “Visito Estos Barrios” by Los Chachos — Los Chachos branched out from the style that Conjunto Bernal established in the 1960s, and would go on to become one of the top South Texas conjunto acts of the 1970s. Cha Cha Jimenez’s vocals stand out among everything else, but one of the most interesting sounds to come out from them is their accordion. “At that the time, I remember thinking it was an organ,” Karlitos Way Accordions (Karlos Landin Jr.) told me. “(The style) had a different edge because of the organ, but then I came to find out years later that that wasn’t an organ. It was Bobby’s Cordovox chromatic accordion that had like 25 switches on it. It had so many different sounds. It sounded like an organ; it sounded like a chromatic. It sounded like all these different things. The first one that told me about that accordion was (accordionist) Joel Guzman.” Check out “Visito Estos Barrios” to sample this very unique sounding accordion.
>> “Luna Azul” by Delia Gutierrez Pineda — This is from Delia Gutierrez, originally of Weslaco, and her father’s group, The Eugenio Gutierrez Orchestra. This was recorded either in 1951 by Falcon Records out of the Mission/McAllen area. Gutierrez was one of the most popular singers of the area during that era, where she also recorded with Discos Ideal. She came from a musical family, and one interesting note is that her mother was related to local accordion legend Pedro Ayala. This particular recording was acquired and uploaded online by Arhoolie Records. This a beautiful take on “Blue Moon” by Gutierrez.