Beto Villa


Beto Villa (Falfurrias, Texas, October 26, 1915 - November 1, 1986, Corpus Christi, TX) was an American tejano alto saxophonist and father of the orquesta Tejana. During his career he created a new musical style for Mexican Americans, the orquesta Tejana, which helped them express both their ranchero (country) and jaitón (cosmopolitan) identities, with a unique blend of American swing-era jazz instrumentation and traditional, cantina-oriented Mexican ranchera music that, over the years, had been cleverly updated and popularized by various conjunto, mariachi and norteño combos. Beto's father, Alberto, Sr., was both a tailor and a musician and strongly encouraged his son to learn to read music. In 1932, while in high school, Beto formed a band called The Sonny Boys, which performed at local festivals and school dances. Four years later, he got his first full-time gig in Freer, Texas, at a dance hall known as the Barn. For the next several years he played in primarily Anglo dance halls, where he learned to imitate popular American swing bands. Although Villa appeared to be well on his way to establishing a musical career, in 1940 he opened a meat market with his father-in-law. After serving in the United States Navy during World War II (he played in a band for enlisted personnel), he returned to Falfurrias and opened up the Pan American and La Plaza dance halls. While still working in his meat shop, Villa occasionally performed music on the weekends. He soon realized that he...

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