The Austin Tejano Trails has been a labor of love for a dedicated group of volunteers committed to preserving the history, diversity, and cultural assets in East Austin.
Johnny Degollado is the premier conjunto accordionist, band leader, and songwriter in Austin and surrounding areas. In 1952, at the age of 15, he started his own conjunto along with his neighbor, Vicente Alonzo, who is still a member. Johnny studied under Camilo Cantu, another important conjunto band leader from the Austin area. Cantu also taught Johnny to tune and repair accordions. Johnny has composed more than 200 songs, and he is the event coordinator for the Austin Conjunto Festival that has been held in May for the last 20 years. He was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 1986.
The accordion is one of the most important instruments in Tejano and Conjunto music. The story goes that Mexicans working in the Texas Hill Country would watch the German and Czech Polka bands that were so popular in the early part of the 20th century. The instrument soon spread like wildfire through the south Texas and northern Mexico, and the rest is history. It seems appropriate then to pay homage to one the great masters of the instrument. Watch the master perform live at White Horse below.
Austin is fortunate to have so many of its music legends still around. Like Manuel Donley, Johnny Degollado is a living link to the golden age of Tejano and Conjunto music. He has been playing accordion professionally since the early 1950’s, touring on what was known at the time as the migrant worker circuit. The pavilion hosts a wide variety of different events, including some younger Tejano and Conjunto bands who followed in Degollado footsteps. It is comforting to know that the Tejano accordion will be played at this pavilion and in this neighborhood for a long time to come.
Cover photo credit: Carlos Lowry via Flickr