Tejano Music Today
An interview with Texas's Crazy Chuy Hernandez
Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Like the Blues, Tejano music is a unique American art form born out of the great state of Texas, albeit mostly in the Spanish language, made by Mexican-American artists.
Published on LatinoLA: April 3, 2008
Likened to country music, Tejano music is a take off from traditional Mexican Boleros, Rancheras, and Norte??o music as it includes a taste of big band, rock, blues, polka, and jazz.
Like early Rock & Roll, the West Coast East Side Sound, East Coast Doo-Wop, Big Band, and Disco, Tejano music had it's heyday in generations past, but remains alive in a large segment of our population for more than sentimental reasons.
Migrating Mexican-American workers & performers across the country , G.I.'s traveling around the World, and the hometown faithful carried this music with them as a piece of home and hearth wherever they went, and the stories told in these songs made many an artist a local hero.
Like any generational transition, Tejano music today is in-between staying alive and becoming a thing of the past. Like Classical & Symphony music, supporters of this genre are striving to keep it part of the fabric of our society as a cultural and artistic treasure.
That being said, we went to one of the icons of Tejano music, the legendary "Godfather of Tejano & Chicano Soul", Mr. Jesus "Crazy Chuy" Hernandez, to get the 411 on today's Tejano Music. As a musician, performer, music historian, radio personality, and member of the prestigious Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame with over 45 years in the business, Crazy Chuy has helped expose the unique Tejano sounds around the World via his internet radio shows on ChicanoExpress.com and eastLArevue.com .
He shares his views exclusively with Frankie Firme and LatinoLA:
LatinoLA: So, what made you want to become involved with music in the first place?
Crazy Chuy: I grew up hearing my dad play, he was a musician. Plus, I was exposed to it as we lived across the street from a cantina in San Antonio, Texas, where on weekends, you could hear conjuntos play.
LatinoLA: As the Godfather of Tejano Soul, how do you compare today's musical audience, with it's large diversity of choices, to the audiences of yesterday, when choices were few?
Crazy Chuy: There's no comparison. The audiences of yesteryear really enjoyed going out to hear the bands perform live, to dance the night away, and wear their finest tacuchos or dress whether it was conjunto or orquestas, a small club or a grand ballroom. They would also respect those who were with their wives or girlfriends. Today's generation are more astute as to who they go to hear and dance to. They also have no respect as to how they dance or who sees them.
LatinoLA: Tejano music has been compared to Blues music as a unique American music form, albeit in Spanish. How do you differentiate Tejano music from standard "Mexican Music", and how do you compare the Tejano music audience with say, today's rock music audience?
Crazy Chuy: Tejano music is the music of our ancestors, but with a different flare as we sorta jazz it up a beat. Tejano music are some Mexican standards performed & recorded by Tejano artists, who can also perform anything from Country, Rock & Roll, and Blues, they are more diverse, whereas Mexican artists can't do the same. Audiences who enjoy music are no different. Last year in Las Vegas, over 5,000 people attended the dance at the National Tejano Convention.
LatinoLA: It seems that in Texas, many commercial radio stations have shied away from classic and contemporary Tejano music on their airwaves. Besides a generational change, why do you think this is happening, while classical, symphonic, and Broadway types of genres remain on commercial radio, even supported by municipal entities?
Crazy Chuy: It's called GREED. Many Tejano owned stations have been bought out by the big Mexican Companies. When offered money for the station, they sell. Sales is the name of the game. It's not the music, but greed. Classical stations survive because they are publicly owned stations, such as WRR in Dallas, that get their money through grants supporting the arts.
LatinoLA: At present time, there are a number of grass roots efforts coming out of Texas trying to have Tejano music recognized as a cultural icon, and demanding political intervention in having Tejano music played at various venues and radio stations. Do you think this appropriate?
Crazy Chuy: I don't speak for the community or the state, but what they do, well, that's their thing and more power to them. I just entertain the masses with the music we play on the Internet and hope they will attend the dances and concerts, buy the CD's, and support all venues pertaining to Tejano music.
LatinoLA: Besides yourself, why hasn't anybody else undertaken the task of bringing Tejano music to a larger audience outside of Texas?
Crazy Chuy: Here again, I don't speak or know what others are thinking, but what I do comes from my heart and soul. I believe that music is a universal language all it's own whether it's Tejano, Chicano, Mexican, Rock, etc, etc, and I want to share it with those who will listen. Not everybody likes Tejano, but for those who do, it's that audience that I play it for, and then some.
LatinoLA: If you were to start a Tejano music movement...where would you start?
Crazy Chuy: I would begin by educating our youth first, because if you do that, they will hopefully like and appreciate it, and pass it on to the next generation as my parents did us.
LatinoLA: In closing, where does Crazy Chuy see the future of Tejano music going, and what suggestions do you have for up and coming artists who wish to continue in this genre?
Crazy Chuy: I see a bright future for Tejano music on the horizon, despite what some people might think or say. As to the young artists, I'll say this: Years ago, when I was starting out, a great man told me "You have to love the music first and foremost, work hard at your craft, the recognition and wealth will follow, but always stay humble, never think yourself better than others, and the public will love and respect you for that". His name was Juan Sifuentes Sr. (of Conjunto Bernal fame). I've lived my life and musical career that way. I'm not rich monetarily, but I'm rich in the wealth of friends, both musical & non-musical, and the accolades that have been bestowed upon us (which I have trouble accepting, but I'm grateful). We worked hard, never backed away, always believing in oneself and still loving the music to this day until GOD calls me home. I'm no one famous, just someone who loves music, and loves sharing it with others.
Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
Crazy Chuy Hernandez can be heard daily on Internet Radio Stations www.chicanoexpress.com and www.eastLArevue.com
Email the author