KERA Arts Story Search

Looking for events? Click here for the Go See DFW events calendar.

Ernesto Alonzo (top left) has been playing mariachi music in Dallas since 1961. Photo: courtesy of Ernesto's Music

This longtime Dallas mariachi musician saw the rise of Vicente Fernandez firsthand

by Miguel Perez 13 Dec 2021 5:45 PM

Fans of Vicente Fernandez are still reeling from news of the Mexican superstar’s death Sunday morning.

The announcement from his family did not give a cause of death, but the singer had been hospitalized since August after a fall, NPR reports.

A local memorial service for Fernandez is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 16, at 7 pm., at  Hughes Family Tribute Center, 9700 Webb Chapel Rd.

An icon of Mexican culture, Fernandez was hugely influential to mariachi musicians everywhere. He was considered the last living legend of Mexican ranchera.

72-year-old Ernesto Alonzo began playing mariachi music in Dallas in 1961.

“I was 11 years old, and my family and I sang out at Six Flags,” he said. “We were out there for five years, then five years at the Marriot. We played six nights a week there.”

Performing mostly in business settings like restaurants and hotels, Alonzo said he didn’t hear many requests for Fernandez in those early years.

“We were just doing what I call ‘tourist’ Mexican music like ‘Cielito Lindo’ and ‘Guantanamera,'” he said. “It wasn’t until the ’90s that we started doing more Fernandez.”

What changed? The introduction of the Internet allowed Alonzo and local mariachi bands to reach more Mexican clients, who wanted to hear Fernandez’s songs at their parties and family events.

“Once the ’90s hit, I realized we had to start learning more of his songs,” Alonzo said. “If I start playing a Vicente Fernandez song, their whole world lights up. Obviously, he can’t be here for them, but I’m kind of like a messenger for him.”

Alonzo’s December was already booked with performances well before the news of Fernadez’s death hit, but he said he’s already received messages requesting “a lot of Vicente Fernandez.”

Got a tip? Email Miguel Perez at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @quillindie.

Art&Seek is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.