Exploring the Rio Grande Valley through music: Playlist #2

In this second playlist for Neta, I wanted to shine the spotlight on women who have created incredible music here in the Rio Grande Valley. Whether it’s Tejano Orquesta, conjunto, rancheras, punk, or Ska, there have been women producing some of the very best music in all these genres here in South Texas. This is just the first of what I hope to be many installments of this particular theme, as there are and have been so many great women musicians here in the Valley over the past 80 years of recorded music.

Read about each song below or click here to listen to the playlist directly on YouTube.

1. “Luna Azul” by Delia Gutierrez

Weslaco native Delia Gutierrez was one of the great singers in the Valley during the 1940s,1950s, and 1960s. She is currently 86 years old and resides in McAllen. This is a Spanish version of the classic song “Blue Moon” that she recorded with her father’s orchestra in 1951 for Falcón Records out of Mission.

2. “Papalote” by Juanita Garcia

Tejano singer Juanita Garcia of McAllen recorded with acts like Beto Villa, El Piporro, Angel Infante, Los Alegres de Terán and Los Donneños during her long and storied career. Her biggest hit was a Rafael Ramirez Jr. composition titled “Llorarás” in the 1950’s for Falcón Records. Unfortunately, much of her work is very difficult to find, so it’s a blessing that “Papalote”, another major hit of hers, is currently on YouTube. She sadly passed away on January 2014 at the age of 83.

3. “Cheque en Blanco” by Chelo Silva

I’m not as familiar with Brownsville legend Chelo Silva as I should be, but I’ve been getting into her work this year, and it’s so powerful. She’s one of the great legends of ranchera music and performed from the 1930s until her death in 1988. The number of hits attached to her name is impressive, but this is one song that stood out to me and one that I strongly recommend.

4. “Eternamente” by Laura Canales

Before Selena took the crown in the late 1980s, Laura Canales was known as “La Reina de La Onda Tejana” here in South Texas. Truth be told, both are very different singers, with different Tejano backdrops, and both were great in their own special ways. Canales first became a part of the Tejano group Snowball & Company in 1975, then with Felicidad in 1978 (both groups had most of the same members and recorded for Pharr’s Fireball Records). This is a really funky (phunky? ’cause Pharr…) tune that is one of the most famous songs that Canales did in that early 1980s era.

5. “La Carcacha” by Selena

Not from the Valley, but how could I make a South Texas playlist without including Selena?!? There are so many different songs I can include, but the one nearest to my heart is “La Carcacha”. When I was a child and attending Buell Elementary in Pharr, we did a mini-theatrical production of “La Carcacha”, and it’s something I always think about whenever I hear this wonderful song. It takes me back right to the early 1990s when Selena and Emmitt Smith ruled the Texas world, and it gives me all the feels.

6. “Luna Llena” by Elida y Avante

Elida y Avante has established itself as one of the premiere Tejano groups since they first emerged on the scene in 1993. In the post-Selena Tejano landscape, it was Mercedes native Elida Reyna who stepped up to carry the torch for this genre of music in South Texas. She still sings to this day and has continued to evolve as the group moved into the 2000s and 2010s. There was something quite magical in her early releases in the 1990s, and “Luna Llena” is the one that appears to have had the most enduring touch. Check out the YouTube comments for this song, people are pouring their hearts out in there, talking about lost loves.

7. “Sucker” by All Choked Up

Monica Hinojosa led this group with her great vocals, and they would go on to win a free recording session (that resulted in this very song being recorded) at a local “Battle of the Bands” contest in 1999. Don’t know much about this band other than my older brother Angel Martinez was involved as well. Fantastico’s Esther Martinez once told me, “Monica was probably the reason I started singing in front of people.” Love this song.

8. “Party” by Fantastico

Fantástico! has been around for several years now and is a group that you can always count on for a great show. Led by Esther Martinez, along with Eric Fly and Fabian Gomez, Fantástico! has performed at major events like Galax Z Fair and AQUInceañera to all types of benefit shows that support grassroots organizations and causes here in the Valley. I love Esther’s voice so much and I’m glad she’s been blessing us with her singing and playing for many years. This is a wild song of theirs called “Party”, and it’s from the 2016 album “Where Dreams Go To Die”, which I encourage all of you to go out and buy at Bandcamp. Support local music!

9. “La sicodélica” by the Texas Sweethearts

The Tex-Mex conjunto powerhouse The Texas Sweethearts is one of my favorite bands in the Valley. This group from Weslaco consists of Mari de Hoyos, the band’s singer and guitarist, with her daughters Elisa on the accordion and Diana on the bass. In this video, they are performing at the Tejano Conjunto Festival in 2014, and are playing the classic polka “La sicodélica”, which was originally composed by the late McAllen accordionist Ernesto Guerra. I love that they can play a little bit of everything.

10. “Infinitely” by L@s Skagaler@s

I’ve always been super impressed by how big of a draw L@s Skagaler@s are with crowds here in the Valley. Along with their local appeal, they put on a great live show! If you haven’t been to one of their shows, hope you change that when they return from their current hiatus. Like Fantastico!, L@s Skagaler@s have given so much to the community over the years by performing at so many benefit shows. This is a great music video that was put together by Jeff Antons to introduce you to L@s Skagaler@s.

11. “La Pulga” by Veronique Medrano

Brownsville’s Veronique Medrano is one of the up and coming Tejano singers, and has performed and hosted events at various places including Yerberia Cultura. This is a video that is a tribute to the pulga and a good example of what she has to offer. She has been building a big following in recent years and has a great social media presence, across various platforms.

12. “Autograph” by Jesika

Jesika has been one of my favorite artists here in the Valley ever since I first heard her music on Tumblr in the earlier part of this decade. I’ve seen her perform in so many different spaces, all across our region, and the one thing that’s always been consistent is her beautiful voice. I was so happy for her when she got to perform with Mitski and Helado Negro outside of the Valley earlier this year. Hoping more and more people get exposed to Jesika, and this song she composed and recorded in 2017 is a great starting point for people new to her world. If you want to listen to more of Jesika’s work, you can buy her album “HORA MÍSTICA.