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Freddie Martinez, or simply Freddie, is one of the most influential men in Tejano music history. Since beginning his professional career in the 1950s, Martinez has seen both sides of the business. He built a record company from scratch in the 1970s, which became successful enough for him to retire from being a working musician.
Conjunto legend Nick Villarreal, or “Nicky Snick,” if you prefer, is a character larger than life itself. He is a man with charisma so strong, it’s almost radioactive. From his jokes to his laugh, to that big booming voice, he’s just FUN.
Much has been made of the decline of Tejano, and more than a few groups that made it big back in the 80s and 90s have either broken up quietly, faded into obscurity, limited their activity, melted down publicly, or have struggled to remain on the radar in a post-terrestrial radio world.
If you ask any Tejano music fan to list some of the most popular performers in the industry, Ram Herrera will be near the top of the list.
He hardly has to use his last name anymore, “Ram” is usually enough. He’s also known as the “Most Wanted Man” and the “Man of 1,000 Roses.”
Crystal N Crew is one of the youngest groups in conjunto today. With all members under the age of 17, the family band from Pasadena includes Crystal Garcia on bajo sexto, Jose Garcia on accordion, and Lily Garcia on drums. They’ve had a couple of bass players, including Anthony Diaz (included in this interview) and current bassist Isaiah Tellez.
Julian Limon Fernandez of Los Texas Wranglers has worked really hard to keep Conjunto alive in Austin. Along with bandmates Sonny Trujillo (accordion), Amador Salazar (bass, vocals), Junior Sandoval (bajo sexto, vocals), Tim Torres (saxophone, vocals), Joyce Adams (vocals), and Rocio Valdez (vocals), Los Texas Wranglers play in all kinds of venues around Austin and also at Rodeos around the state and beyond. Tardeadas, benefits, festivals, you name it, the Wranglers are always there. And so are their dedicated and loyal fans.
Conjunto Baraja de Oro is one of the hottest bands going these days. Affectionately known as Conjunto BDO or simply BDO, North Texas husband and wife duo Mario and Betty Barajas are taking the conjunto world by storm, boasting multiple Tejano Music Award nominations, incredibly well-attended shows, high-quality songwriting and recordings, and a loyal army of fans.
Rick De La Rosa has conjunto running through his veins. The family name alone evokes the sights and sounds of his father Alfredo, his uncles Tony and Adan, and his aunt Eva, and their rich history building and dominating the conjunto scene for over fifty years.
The “King of the Brown Sound” is a fitting nickname for Little Joe Hernandez. The music he has played over his storied career has blended together everything from mariachi, orquesta, conjunto, country, doo-wop, Sinatra-style standards, jazz, rock, salsa, and whatever else sounds and feels right, creating a sound that has resonated with Chicanos for over 50 years.