Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Ma Fiancee" - Louisiana Pete

"El Huracan del Valle"!  This title would be given to the founder of a specific type of Tejano music called "conjunto".  His name was Narcisco Martinez from Reynosa, Mexico but was raised in La Paloma, Texas.  In 1928 he learned the accordion and by 1930, he began recording with his accordion and friend Santiago Almeida.   Santiago played a bajo sexto (a type of 12-string instrument) and together they recorded polka music in their native style.  He recalls:
I started playing the accordion around 1927 or 28...playing on very bad accordions, because one couldn't buy good accordions-nothing but little pieces of junk, with one row, and then two, but-well, nothing but junk.I didn't get to buy my first new accordion until about 1930.  It was a Hohner.
Many of their recordings would sell throughout Texas.  However, in one San Antonio session in 1937, Martinez would record 4 songs that would be marketed to Louisiana.   Bluebird realized his cultural music wouldn't sell well in other areas and some confusion exists about Bluebird's marketing attempts.  In order to market his music in Louisiana, they either re-issued (or solely issued) the songs as Cajun music and he was called "Louisiana Pete" on the Bluebird Cajun 2000 series.  For example, his conjunto "Delfo Vals" (B-3073) was one of them that was rebranded as Cajun entitled "Delta Waltz" (B-2032).  According to Richard Spottswood's Ethnic Music On Record, "La Flueve" is the same as "El Colorado" and "Ma Fiancee" is the same as "Muchacha Bonita" (B-3048).  In northeast Texas, he was billed as either "Polish Joe" or "Polski Kwartet" on either the Bluebird Ethnic 2000 or 3000 series (not quite sure).  Some of these were released on Montgomery Ward label as well.
Narciso Martínez and Santiago Almeida

After Bluebird quit recording ethnic music, Martinez ended up recording for other labels and continued his career. However, he never made a living off of his music and ended up working other jobs.  To support himself in the 1930s he often played at outdoor public dances throughout the Valley. He also entertained at bailes de negocio, public "for-pay" dances where women earned money for their families by selling dances to men.  He was inducted into the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and was honored the following year with a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts for his contributions to the nation's cultural heritage. 

None of the four songs would constitute anything resembling Cajun music.   After listening to his music, it's clearly an attempt by Bluebird to sell more records in difficult markets.  One of the Cajun songs was called "Ma Fiancee".  The fact that his diatonic accordion is similar to the Cajun diatonic accordion, creates the only similarity between his music and early Cajun songs of the time.  His playing style and wet-reed sound are way more related to Tejano music than Cajun.  It makes an interesting story adding to the narrative of the Cajun recording industry in the 1930s.  Only one of the four songs Bluebird released as Cajun, "Silencio De La Noche", can be found on a compilation CD entitled "Father of the Texas Mexican Conjunto" (361 Arhoolie, 2009).

  3. Mexico and the United States edited by Lee Stacy
  4. Handbook of Texas Music edited by Laurie E. Jasinski
  5. The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-class Music By Manuel Peña
  6. Música Tejana: The Cultural Economy of Artistic Transformation By Manuel H. Peña
  8. Conjunto By John Dyer
  9. Texas Monthly, Dec 1991

1 comment:

  1. Columbia did the same in the 20s--issuing Slovenian artists [most notably the Hojer or Hoyer trio] as Slovenian, Slovak, Polish, German and even Scandinavian!!!!


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