BY EDUARDO MARTINEZ
This week, we take a look at four regional gems you can look up on YouTube of popular Rio Grande Valley Valley songs in different styles.
Hope you enjoy this playlist:
>> “El Sapo” by La Sombra — This video has the group’s performance from The Johnny Canales Show. La Sombra was one of the best Tejano bands of that era and had several hits, but the song probably most associated with them is the cumbia about a sapo (frog). “That song went gold and platinum,” Tony Guerrero of La Sombra told me a few years ago. “It was a very big surprise for me. I liked the song, but at the same time it kind of freaked me out because I thought, ‘This is a song about a frog.’”
>> “The Commercial Song” by Conjunto Bernal — I heard this thanks to Juan Sifuentes Jr., whose father Juan Sifuentes Sr. was a member of Conjunto Bernal. This is a wild potpourri of commercials that aired during the 1960s, performed in the conjunto style that Paulino Bernal and his group forged during that era. Bernal was never afraid of taking chances, even they were kind of bizzare like this one. This was recorded by Bego (“Be” for Bernal, “Go” for the Gonzalez family behind the El Pato and Ms. G’s Tacos restaurants), which had their office on 415 S. 17th St. in McAllen.
>> “Pideme La Luna” by Cali Carranza — Cali Carranza is pure Pharr, 100 percent. For many years, he played at the Jamaica at St. Anne’s Church in Pharr near my house. This is not an original song for Carranza, but he made it his own during the 1990s. Also, I love the comments to this song on YouTube. Some person writes that when they were a kid, Cali went to their school, sang this song, and gave them this CD for their birthday. Check out this other comment: “Song gets stuck in my head lol … sometimes i cant concentrate on my ghost hunting tasks cuz of this song haha..” – GhostHunter TejanoLover (yes that’s their actual username.)
>> “Knife Handles (Mercenary Song # 1)” by Charlie Daniels Death Wish — This is a wild and interesting song from the previous decade in the Valley Punk scene. I was trying to get some insight from my brother Angel about this song. He only told me he wrote and played the organ part on an old Casio keyboard. “I kinda forget about old bands I was in and reinvent myself with new ones,” he said with a laugh. A Texas Monthly article by Dan Solomon (who also uploaded this song) has some nice words about Charlie Daniels Death Wish if you are interested in reading more about the band. One sentence Solomon wrote in that article is: “The music was weird, aggressive, and interesting — 15 years later, there still aren’t a lot of people making music like this — and for as many bands as there were who wanted to write pop-punk songs to play with their friends, there’s something else that can happen in communities where music is basically being made in the dark.”