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This Week in Texas Music History: 'Deguello'

by Stephen Becker 9 Mar 2012 2:00 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll hear a performance that signaled certain death to its audience.


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 brings us a performance that signaled certain death to its audience.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. 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 KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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On the morning of March 6, 1836, the defenders of the Alamo heard a sound that meant their siege had reached its grim conclusion. Mexican General Santa Anna’s troops are believed to have played a song known as the “Deguello,” which translates as “slit throat.” The song warned the defiant Texans that they would be given no quarter. The “Deguello” has long been a part of Alamo lore, and there are a number of melodramatic versions of the song in films. Recently, however, copies of what may be the original sheet music for the “Deguello” were found in Mexico City. Now it’s possible to hear the chilling anthem just as the Alamo defenders did. (Start clip at :54 for the new recording.)

Along with Davy Crockett’s fiddle and John McGregor’s bagpipes, the “Deguello” has become an enduring part of the Alamo’s musical legacy.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall a special evening when the “Boss” showed up early for work.