Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman honors a migrant farm worker who helped revolutionize conjunto music.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Valerio Longoria was born the son of migrant farm workers in Clarksdale, Miss., on March 13, 1924. He grew up in South Texas, where he learned to play accordion. In the 1940s, Longoria recorded for Texas-based Ideal Records. He soon began pushing conjunto beyond its traditional folk music boundaries by introducing modern drums into the lineup and incorporating boleros and other popular dance steps. Perhaps his single most important innovation was adding vocals to conjunto music, which had always been almost exclusively instrumental. Longoria not only established the instrumental lineup which nearly all future conjunto bands would follow, but he also helped launch the careers of many younger conjunto singers.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember a blues legend that also made some of the first known recordings of zydeco music.