This Day in Texas History:
Father of Conjunto Born in Reynosa
October 29, 1911
On this day in 1911, Narciso Martínez was born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. His parents immigrated to the United States that year and settled in La Paloma, a town outside Brownsville.
Martínez took up the accordion in 1928. Around the same time he moved to Bishop and absorbed the accordion-playing traditions of the local Czechs and Germans. Martínez and his partner, bajo sexto player Santiago Almeida, established the accordion and bajo sexto as the basic instruments of the conjunto and became well regarded as a team. Their pairing led to Martínez’s major innovation in the development of the conjunto: he emphasized the right-side melody and treble notes of the accordion, leaving the left-side bass notes to the bajo sexto player. All other conjunto accordionists soon adopted this change.
Martínez made his first recording with Almeida for Bluebird Records in 1936, but switched to Armando Marroquín’s Ideal label in 1946. Nicknamed “El Huracán del Valle” (“The Hurricane of the Valley”) for his fast-paced playing, Martínez remained a popular performer throughout the 1950s, but worked as a field hand in Florida after a new generation of conjunto musicians emerged in the mid-1960s.
His career revived, however, after he was featured in Chulas Fronteras (“Beautiful Borders”), a 1976 documentary film about Texas-Mexican music. He was inducted into the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 1982, received a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1989. He was scheduled to appear at the annual Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio in May 1992 but was prevented by illness. He died the following month.