They called him “El Ciclon del Valle” or “The Valley Cyclone,” a nickname he had no problem living up to. When Alfredo “Freddie” Gomez took the stage, the audience was blown away, especially when he set his bass guitar ablaze — literally.
“He was known as the man who played the bass with one hand and he’d set it on fire,” said Lupe Saenz, the president of the South Texas Conjunto Association said. “People would go crazy.”
With the help of a little lighter fluid and a lot of guts, Gomez dazzled audiences with his rock ‘n’ roll style at bailes all across the Valley. He was the Jimi Hendrix of conjunto music.
“He was very unique in the way he would play. He was the one who introduced the electric guitar to conjunto,” Saenz said. “He was a one of a kind and had a unique voice and sound that made him stand out among the others.”
The South Texas Conjunto Association, in partnership with the Brownsville Society of Performing Arts commemorated the legend with a ceremony in downtown Brownsville on Monday. Gomez died Sept. 3, 2005. The event will featured a bevy of conjunto performers including Lost Tejano Boys, Los Halcones, Grupo Conteno, Frutty Villarreal y Los Mavericks and Gilberto Perez.
Gomez, who played alongside Ruben Vela in the late 50s, was a native of Rancho Los Carricitos, near Los Indios. He formed his own band Los Dinámicos which became a popular conjunto act in the 1960s. He’s best known for the classic “El Soldado Razo,” a song about a soldier who leaves his family behind to join the military.
The song hits home with Al Senteno, a Vietnam veteran and the event’s director. Senteno, who knew Gomez personally, said he used to work security at the many of the conjunto dances.
“It was the best song he wrote for all the veterans and soldiers in WWII, which is still being played today.” Senteno said. “He was very popular all over the state of Texas, especially here in the Valley. He made a lot of people happy back then.”
Gomez went on to release more than 20 albums on two of conjunto’s most legendary labels, Falcon Records and Ideal Records. He also appeared in the films “Los Hermanos Centella,” “El Sherif” and “CincoJinetes.”
Gomez left the conjunto music scene in the ‘70s and got a steady job working as a salesman at J.C. Penny in Brownsville, but he returned in the ‘80s to record receiving a “Comeback of the Year Award” from KFLZ radio station in Kingsville and was named “Bass Player of the Century” by the STCA.
The ceremony featured VFW Post 2035 Color Guard, an accordion rendition of the National Anthem, as well as proclamations that will honor the Freddie Gomez family, Los Dinámicos, KMBH Public Radio & TV Station and the STCA.