“We sure like to travel,” said Jimmy Sr. with a chuckle. “Just stop and go, not so far—because you know how gas is. It’s nine miles per gallon and that’s not very much.”
The elder Bejarano also plans to teach his grandson Alejandro, age 4, to play the accordion.
“He loves to play, that boy,” said Jimmy Sr. with a big laugh. “I bought him a little guitar. Toes tapping, moving all over the place. He loves to play.”
Jimmy Jr. also explained that his father has had back problems for several years and needed to slow down. He and Rubén would load and unload the instruments so he could rest, but the younger Bejarano stated his father struggled to stand on stage for a couple of hours at a time and it began to take a physical toll.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Jimmy Jr. said of his dad’s retirement from music. “He’s an amazing accordion player, even today. He still has quite a range.”
Jimmy, Jr., 49, stated he planned to retire early from UPS in Toledo, move to Texas, and seek to join another conjunto musical group or form his own. Most of that genre of Latino-influenced music still is based in the San Antonio region. The bold move makes his father proud.
“It’s pretty important to me and the boys to keep it alive,” said the elder Bejarano. “There’s not very many bands over here. It’s important to keep it up.”
Rubén, 44, plans to stay in Fremont.
Bejarano was born on July 25, 1939 in Brownsville, Texas. When Jimmy Sr. was ten years old, his father Joaquin bought him his first accordion from a pawn shop in Lima, Ohio for $25. Little Jimmy quickly taught himself his first polka.
According to his hall of fame biography, Bejarano joined El Conjunto de Eddie Cruz, playing guitar in 1953 and formed El Conjunto de Jimmy Bejarano a year later. In 1976, the original version of Los Cuatro Vientos was formed; a father-son/father-son team, with Jimmy Sr. on accordion, Jimmy Jr. on bass guitar, Roque Cuevas on bajo sexto, and Leonel Cuevas on drums. In 1986, Jimmy Jr. switched to bajo sexton and Rubén first joined the band on bass. Since then, Rubén has since switched to drums. The current lineup of Los Cuatro Vientos, formed in 2000, added Angel Torres on bass guitar.
In 2004, Jimmy Sr. received a certificate of recognition from the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, presented by Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur for 50 years of contributing music and culture to the Latino community.
“Music is a big part of our family heritage and tradition,” Jimmy Jr. explained. “It was such a big part of being a migrant worker, even when we first came to Ohio.”
Jimmy Jr. explained that his father and grandfather first started playing conjunto music while the family worked the fields as migrant farm workers. The family traveled as far as Nebraska and Montana before settling in the Fremont area near a Heinz factory, where tomato and pickle fields were plentiful.
Evenings were frequently spent in Jimmy Sr.’s youth playing music as families gathered to cook dinner together. Conjunto bands would travel the migrant camp circuit on weekends, playing at dances across the region.
“After a long day of work, that’s how they would relax,” said Jimmy Jr. “It would relieve a lot of stress.”
Jimmy Sr. and his father continued to play conjunto music even after finally obtaining jobs at a nearby steel mill in 1959.
“It was more like a hobby for him at that point, because of his factory work,” said Jimmy Jr.
Other Tejano Conjunto Hall of Fame inductees
Five other conjunto music legends joined Bejarano as hall of fame inductees, including: Román Martínez from The Hometown Boys, George y Magüe Orosco del Dueto Carta Blanca, Santiago Jiménez Jr.(Flaco’s brother), Richard “Güero Polkas” Dávila from KEDA Radio, and Bene Layton from Los Layton, who passed away this year.
The festival itself featured 25 concerts from some big names, including hall of famers Mingo Saldivar, Eva Ybarra, Oscar Hernández, and Los Dos Gilbertos, as well as music clinics and other events at San Antonio’s Guadalupe Theater and Rosedale Park Other events included a Seniors Conjunto Dance, workshops for the button accordion and bajo sexto, a CD Release Party for the “Best of the 29th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival” (recorded live at the 2010 festival, and a student recital.
“We appreciate all of our fans, because air time is hard to come by in the Midwest,” said Jimmy Jr. “Almost all of the air time we have had comes in Texas. But playing our music has made us all very happy.”
Celso Rodríguez contributed to this report. Photos by Celso Rodriguez.
On the Internet: http://www.guadalupeculturalarts.org/tejanoconjunto/ http://www.kedaradio.com/