SAN BENITO — Bajo sexto artist Ruben Garza of Ruben Garza y La Nueva Era Musical will be the highlighted performer at the 3rd Thursday Conjunto Nites at the Chicho on April 21.
Garza is a local, with a long history in the area.
Ruben has played the bajo sexto professionally for more than 50 years, has recorded more than 30 albums, and has been inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame in Alice, and the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame in San Benito.
His roots are deep in the Rio Grande Valley. He was born in Harlingen on July 8, 1948.
Looking at Ruben’s evolution as one of the most recognized artists in conjunto music is like traveling through the historical development of the Mexican origin community in Harlingen and San Benito.
The aficionados (amateur nights) at the teatros Ruenes, Palacio, Azteca, and Grande were Mexican theatres in San Benito and Harlingen and were located in the barrios of Mexiquito (the neighborhoods where Mexicans and Mexican Americans resided).
That’s where Ruben competed with other artists when he was just 6 years old.
At the time, Ruben lived with his grandmother in San Benito and attended Fred Booth Elementary School in his early youth.
When she passed away, he moved back to Harlingen to live with his mother.
Growing up, he listened to Los Alegres de Teran, Lydia Mendoza, Valerio Longoria and other conjunto pioneers.
He listened to these artists on the KGBT radio station, the premier Spanish language station in Harlingen that began in late 1952.
As a teenager, he began playing with Conjunto Hermanos Ramos and would also jam with other conjunto artists like Chuy Villegas, Martin Zapata and Issac Villegas.
As many other conjunto musicians, Ruben also followed the migrant stream and traveled to Lubbock to pick cotton and Traverse City, Michigan, to pick cherries.
It was in Traverse City that he met Cali Carranza and would play on weekends with the Carranzas.
At 19, that dream he had was fulfilled when the great conjunto artist Ruben Vela asked him to join his conjunto as the bajo sexto player.
Vela was at the peak of a great career and Ruben at a young age was going to play and tour the U.S. alongside Ruben Vela.
It was during these formative years that Ruben met and learned from other master bajo sexto players like Eloy Bernal, Adan de la Rosa and Amadeo Flores.
From them, Ruben learned “pizaditas” musical riffs that would improve his musical talent.
Ruben played with Ruben Vela until 1978. He became friends with the late Gilberto Garcia of Los Dos Gilbertos, because “everywhere we played, he would greet us.”
Garza told Garcia if he ever needed a bajo sexto player and vocalist to give him a call.
There came a time when Garcia needed a bajo sexto player, and Garcia invited him to be a part of Los Dos Gilbertos. Despite not having the “Gilberto” name, he became an honorary “Gilberto.”
In 1978 Garza joined Los Dos Gilbertos and it was Garza who would become the other major face of “Los Dos Gilbertos” as the bajo sexto player and first voice.
Garcia and Garza were now known as Los Dos Gilbertos, as a new duo their first hit was “El Rosalito.”
The style of music the duo produced has been referred to as “Conjunto Fino” for its refined sound, not only for dancing, but for listening.
Together the duo won two Tejano Music Awards and garnered a Grammy nomination.
Ruben continued to play with Los Dos Gilbertos until September 2015, when his longtime musical partner Gilberto Garcia suddenly passed away.
Ruben has now started his own conjunto, Ruben Garza y La Nueva Era Musical and feels they will soon continue with success he had with Ruben Vela and Gilberto Garcia.
His motto is simple and sincere and passionately lives by it, “Cunado le metes el corazon y el alma a la melodia todo va a salir bien” (when you put your heart and soul into the melody it will always come good).
The band released their first album, entitled “Porque Nosotros No” in the fall of 2015. The band is expected to release their follow up album in the spring of 2016, which will include a tribute to Ruben Vela and Gilberto Garcia.