the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center,
the Arhoolie Foundation,
and the UCLA Digital Library
Valerio Longoria is considered one of the most innovative conjunto musicians who shaped the music’s classic period in the post-World War II era, a group considered “la nueva generación,” the new generation. The son of migrant farmworkers, he is credited with a number of firsts in the Tejano genre during a career that spanned more than 60 years.
Eva Quintanar was a prolific composer, instrumentalist, singer, and musical director during the 1940s and ’50s in Los Angeles, and one of the few women to take leadership roles in the male-dominated music industry of her day. She appeared regularly with her own orchestra at renowned downtown venues, especially the Million Dollar Theatre, and gained a reputation as a first-rate accompanist for internationally known stars from Mexico, such as Pedro Infante and Pedro Vargas.
A new feature, the Q&A, makes its debut on the Frontera Blog this week. First up is this informative conversation with John McGowan, the son of Eva Quintanar, a composer, pianist, and orchestra director who had a successful career in Los Angeles during the 1940s and ‘50s. (Read her Artist Biography here.) McGowan, professor emeritus of liberal studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has worked to preserve his mother’s legacy and collect her recordings, many contained in the Frontera Collection. Still active in her art as a centenarian, Quintanar is one of the few surviving musicians from an era that featured a particularly productive music scene within the local Mexican American community in Los Angeles. In this interview with Frontera website editor Agustín Gurza, McGowan, 70, provides personal recollections of his mother’s life and times.
Miguel Aceves Mejía (1915-2006) is one of the leading exponents of Mexican folkloric music, with a gifted, versatile voice that made him a star throughout the Spanish-speaking world. During a career that spanned half a century, the singer and actor recorded more than 1000 songs on 90 discs and starred in over 60 films.
The Frontera Collection is studded with curious novelty records of many kinds: rare, amusing, historical, campy, or ridiculous. One that qualifies on all counts is a Beatles tribute album by a scruffy village band named Banda Plástica De Tepetlixpa. Titled Adios a Los Beatles, the album contains 10 instrumental renditions of classics spanning the Fab Four’s career, from the seminal “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Carry That Weight” from Abbey Road.
Accordionist, vocalist, and songwriter Ramón Ayala is a pioneer of norteño music who has sustained an active recording and performing career for almost half a century. As part of the trail-blazing duo Los Relámpagos del Norte, along with Cornelio Reyna, he defined the modern genre with signature songs and distinctive instrumental styling that have made him a superstar of the genre on both sides of the Rio Grande.
José Alfredo Jiménez (1926-1973) was by far the most important, prolific, and popular composer of música ranchera in Mexico during the 20th century. His extraordinary repertoire of more than 1,000 songs encapsulated the sentiment, ideals, and concerns of the common man in a folksy yet poetic way.
Little is known about the life of violinist Melquíades Rodríguez, not even when or how he lost his eyesight. His disability, however, earned him the stage name of El Ciego Melquíades, also known as “The Blind Fiddler.” Rodríguez represents a bygone era in Tex-Mex music when small orquestas típicas and rural string bands were still popular.
Los Tigres del Norte, the world’s premiere norteño band, started out as an actual band of brothers playing corridos they learned from old-timers in their tiny hometown in northwestern Mexico. From the very start, leader and older brother Jorge Hernandez saw music as a window on his working-class culture and way of life. The goal was not just to entertain but also to communicate culturally with the outside world.
Chris Strachwitz spent more than a half-century assembling the recordings that are now part of this unique digital archive. From the tens of thousands of songs he acquired, here are his 50 favorites.