Lorenzo Garza

Duration: 32Mins
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Interview with: Lorenzo Garza
Interviewed by:
Date: April 15, 1981
Archive Number: OH 336.1

Interviewer
0:00:04.3 This is an April 15th, 1981 oral history interview with Mr. Lorenzo Garza of Magnolia Park. If you want to express yourself in Spanish, don’t worry about me. You helped start the Rancheros—the band the Rancheros.

Lorenzo Garza
Yes. Me and my brother, Jesse.

Interviewer
When was that?

Lorenzo Garza
1928.

Interviewer
Where—who was in the band?

Lorenzo Garza
I can tell you—Velázquez.

Interpreter
Johnny Velázquez.

Lorenzo Garza
Rosendo Velázquez.

Interpreter
Rosendo Velázquez—the 2 brothers.
Lorenzo Garza
Kiko Tijerina.

Interpreter
Henry Tijerina.

Lorenzo Garza
Tres primos. Hermanos y primos.

Interpreter
0:00:50.5 The Velázquez’s were cousins to Kiko, Henry.

Lorenzo Garza
Tocaron saxophone.

Interpreter
They played saxophone.

Lorenzo Garza
El estaba con Henry del Bosce. Ellos eran los primeritos. The first people.

Interviewer
0:01:09.9 Yes, sir.

Lorenzo Garza
Tocaban los tambores, Jose del Bosce.

Interpreter
Jose del Bosce placed drums. And Jesse del Bosce played violin. Jesse Garza played the accordion, and Rodessa Garza played the guitar.

Interviewer
Were you all from around Magnolia? Where were you all from? Where are you from originally, Mr. Garza?

Lorenzo Garza
I’m from Matamoros. I’ve been here ever since 1922.
Interviewer
0:01:40.9 Why did you come to Houston?

Lorenzo Garza
Well, looking for more money.

Interviewer
You and your brother came?

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah, my brother, too.

Interviewer
In 1922.

Lorenzo Garza
1922.

Interviewer
Did you all come to live in Magnolia at first?

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah, all the time we live here in Magnolia Park.

Interviewer
What was your profession? What did you do for a living?

Lorenzo Garza
My profession the first thing was a barber. And then I barbered, and the same thing at the same time I play at nights. And I played barber for the café business.

Interviewer
Yes, sir. Here in Magnolia.

Lorenzo Garza
Right here in Magnolia.

Interviewer
What instrument did you play?

Lorenzo Garza
Guitar.

Interviewer
0:02:34.8 You played the guitar. Where did you learn to play?

Lorenzo Garza
I learned myself.

Interviewer
Here or in Mexico?

Lorenzo Garza
No, in Mexico a little bit and not much. I learned more here.

Interviewer
Did you go take lessons or just pick it up yourself?

Lorenzo Garza
Well, yeah, I got the professor—a good professor, you know, as a—it’s easy to learn when you want to know.

Interviewer
What professor was that?

Lorenzo Garza
When I have a barber, nobody—there was no college at that time. No college, no nothing. I started barbering, and I didn’t know nothing. In 3 years, I was the first barber here in Magnolia Park. For 19 years. Many years. The first barbershop in Magnolia. That’s it.

Interpreter
You were the first barber in Magnolia. ¿Fuiste a la escuela para estudiar la guitarra?

 

Lorenzo Garza
No.

Interpreter
He played by ear.

Interviewer
What did your brother play? What instrument?

Lorenzo Garza
The accordion. He got a good professor. Albino Torres (inaudible).

Interviewer
0:03:58.6 Oh, he learned from Albino Torres?

Lorenzo Garza
And Professor Bañuelos. Antonio Bañuelos. Really, really, really good.

Interviewer
I see. Why did you all get the band together?

Interpreter
¿Porqué hicieron el conjunto?

Lorenzo Garza
Por qué? Oh, we made money. Charged fifty cents an hour. I got to see the land, I got to Galveston. I go to a lot of places. Two dollars apiece.

Interviewer
Two dollars a person to—

Lorenzo Garza
Two dollars a person.

Interviewer
To play. How long did the band last? How long did the Rancheros last?

Lorenzo Garza
It must have been 15, 20 years.

Interpreter
More than that because I was still a youngster when I was going to the barbershop. Like I said, we lived close together, and they were still playing, and that was in the ‘40s.

Interviewer
In the ‘20s when you all started playing, what kind of music did you—?

Lorenzo Garza
0:05:09.7 Not in the ‘20s, no.

Interviewer
Didn’t they organize—?

Lorenzo Garza
In ’28.

Interviewer
In ’28. What kind of music did you all play?

Lorenzo Garza
The first time I started with rancheros music.

Interpreter
Polkas. Mexican polka-type music—what they call Mexican ballads, things of that nature.

Lorenzo Garza
And then they changed a little bit, a little bit, a little bit. I got the en la época de (inaudible) Lawrence Welk. I played all his music.

Interviewer
Lawrence Welk.

Lorenzo Garza
All kinds of music.
Interviewer
0:05:48.4 Where did you all—in the ‘30s—in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, where did you all play? What places in town here?

Lorenzo Garza
We don’t have no more orchestra—just the 1.

Interviewer
There was just 1 orchestra.

Lorenzo Garza
One orchestra.

Interpreter
He was telling you that he was the first and only orchestra during that period of time.

Lorenzo Garza
0:06:13.5 Clubs—the Mexico A Club, Siesta Club—all the major clubs.

Interviewer
I noticed—I saw an advertisement for La Consentida. You all played in La Consentida?

Lorenzo Garza
We played in La Consentida, yes. We played in Galveston, San Antonio, Wharton, Sugar Land, all the—

Interviewer
The Gulf Coast area.

Interpreter
¿Tocaron los viernes, sabados, y domingos?

Lorenzo Garza
Les dieron permiso para que nos pagaran siempre que no había otra orchesta.

 

Interpreter
Primarily it was on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays that they played, but they also played during the week because there was no other—no other competition other than—they were the only ones that played Mexican music.

Interviewer
And you all played up until the 1940’s? You all played up through the 1940’s?

Lorenzo Garza
Yes.

Interviewer
But you all played all over the city then.

Lorenzo Garza
All over the city. And Galveston, Beaumont, Port Neches, San Antonio.

Interpreter
0:07:40.3 That’s why I told you earlier—that they mainly played around the bay area, and the people that were tied in with him—like he mentioned Velázquez—so when they went on their own, they kept up the same thing because they already had the connections. In other words, it’s just like I told you earlier. Somebody’s got to set up the road, and then the other people just followed, you know. And that’s what—you know, like he also played in San Antonio, like he stated before.

Interviewer
I see. Did the other members from the band—you and your brother were from Matamoros originally. Were the other fellas from Mexico also?

Lorenzo Garza
No, Mr. Johnny Velázquez (inaudible).

Interpreter
Gonzales.

Interviewer
Gonzales.
Lorenzo Garza
Si quiere hacer major, si puede venire mañana yo le tengo todo, todas las—

Interpreter
He said that if he could come tomorrow to do a better interview, he can have all the pictures and everything that we—he’s got something to show you and something to talk about.

Lorenzo Garza
(inaudible)

Interviewer
Yes, sir. I’d like to. I’m just going to be out at the office all day tomorrow.

Interpreter
He said whenever you want to just set it up, and he’ll be better organized.

Interviewer
Okay.

Lorenzo Garza
0:09:15.4 I have pictures from the Buccaneer Hotel in Galveston.

Interviewer
What year is that—in the ‘40s?

Lorenzo Garza
In the ‘40s.

Interviewer
In the ‘40s.

Lorenzo Garza
El Buccaneer era cuando de veras eran strong, you know? The best in Galveston.

Interviewer
It was best to play in Galveston?

Interpreter
No, he’s talking about the times. See, Galveston—I don’t know where you’re from, but Galveston used to be a wide-open town. So there would be gambling, drinks, and whatever—and the Buccaneer was the best place in Galveston for playing or club activity or whatever, and that’s why he said that that’s where he played at.

Lorenzo Garza
En el café (inaudible).

Interviewer
I’d really like to reproduce those. I really would.

Lorenzo Garza
(inaudible) I played the Aragon Ballroom. One of the best in Houston.

Interpreter
So, what he’s trying to tell you is he doesn’t play in any clubs.

Lorenzo Garza
Los Rancheros eran (inaudible)—todo el tiempo que hicieron bailes, estaban bailando con los Rancheros.

Interpreter
He says that when the Woodmen of the World used to have their dances—you know, like say for example, another band would play. There wasn’t that many people there. But when the Rancheros played it was always to a full, packed house.

Lorenzo Garza
0:11:01.9 (inaudible)

Interviewer
You all played all during the ‘30s then, huh?

Lorenzo Garza
Yes.

 

Interpreter
I remember—I think—I’m not sure, but I think they played up until about ’43 or ’44. I think that’s when—¿El ’43 fue el ultimo que tocaron, ¿verdad?

Interviewer
If you know any interesting questions you’d like to ask him about that—that you know of—please, go ahead.

Lorenzo Garza
0:11:37.4 My brother quit. I quit. Mr. Alonzo—he take over the orchestra.

Interpreter
That’s why the Alonzo y sus Rancheros came into being.

Interviewer
I see. Frank Alonzo took—more or less took it over after you all—

Interpreter
He took it over, and that was like around ’45, and then right after that, Johnny—well, no. Before that there was Johnny Velázquez, and then Alonzo took over the Rancheros because Velázquez had already broken away. And then after Alonzo y sus Rancheros, which was about the same time as Johnny Velázquez, okay—then 2 years later Eloy Pérez came out.

Lorenzo Garza
En ’43 (inaudible) Eloy Pérez, ¿verdad?

Interviewer
I see.

Lorenzo Garza
De ’43 a ’49 por eso ¿no? El también tiene voz. Kiko Perez y los Rancheros, eso fué a long, long, long time back.

Interpreter
See, the reason—like you said that Alonzo y sus Rancheros want to go all the way back—they go all the way back, but not under Alonzo y sus Rancheros. But like he said, he and his brother Jesse Garza were the ones that set up the Rancheros. Then when Velázquez went and set up his own thing, then Alonzo—and then they quit playing while Alonzo went and set up the same people and called it Rancheros, see? But he took over as the leader of the band. But he was not the original leader. So, really and truthfully, you could say that he was the first band—or he played with the original band, but he was actually the third orchestra that came out.

Interviewer
0:13:25.0 And it was Mr. Garza’s brother who started it.

Interpreter
Jesse Garza and Lorenzo Garza.

Lorenzo Garza
Jesse Garza (inaudible).

Interpreter
No, he don’t know who Jesse Garza is.

Lorenzo Garza
Oh, you don’t know?

Interpreter
No, he—he’s not this Jesse Garza because he’s talking about the nephews. Not him. But that’s when they broke out—

Lorenzo Garza
0:13:47.2 All dead. Just me.

Interviewer
You’re the only 1 who’s left.

Interpreter
Out of the original Rancheros.

Interviewer
There were how many in there—5?

 

Interpreter
No, there were 7.

Interviewer
Seven Rancheros. How’d you all get the name Rancheros?

Lorenzo Garza
Well, I don’t know. My brother picked that name. I don’t like it. I never liked that name choice.

Interpreter
0:14:10.5 Primarily the reason was because it played, like he said before, ranchero music.

Lorenzo Garza
Ah, because when first it started we played violins, you know. Maybe that’s what happened. Violins and accordion.

Interpreter
See, in Mexico the violin and the accordion were very predominant in your norteño-type dances—your norteño-type polkas. And you know where Matamoros is, which is in the northern part of Mexico, so naturally they went with that portion of the music first, and then they started reverse clan.

Lorenzo Garza
When we started to play all the dances—play dances—if we played a Mexican orchestra nobody wanted to hear it. Nobody. If they played, colored people or regular people, they beat us. They only wanted the Spanish music, and nobody liked it.

Interpreter
Did you understand that?

Interviewer
No.

Interpreter
Okay, he is saying when they first started out they had a lot of trouble because it was a Mexican orchestra or a Mexican band. If say, for example, they’re playing down the street, nobody would attend because it was a Mexican band. But if it was a black band or an Anglo band, everybody would go. So that’s when they started diversifying, and that’s how they started getting more and more recognition.

Interviewer
Even the Mexican-American people would go to the black and Anglo bands?

Interpreter
No, no. What he’s saying—see, like he mentioned that he was playing like at the Buccaneer Hotel or Aragon Ballroom and stuff like that—well, they weren’t a hit because they were playing the northern-type Mexican music, see. So they diversified themselves and became sort of a—like he mentioned—the Lawrence Welk-type thing, you know.

Interviewer
0:15:57.3 How long did you all just play the rancheros and polkas and things like that? Just in the ‘30s or—?

Lorenzo Garza
I think about ’28 to the ’30.

Interviewer
And then after ’30—?

Lorenzo Garza
Around ’30 it changed.

Interviewer
Did your brother Jesse—did he learn to play in Mexico or in the—?

Interpreter
No, he played here. He answered my question—

Lorenzo Garza
(inaudible)

Interviewer
I see. He—

Interpreter
Albino Torres and Antonio Bañuelos were the instructors.

Interviewer
0:16:29.7 I see.

Lorenzo Garza
The professor Bañuelos.

Interviewer
I see.

Lorenzo Garza
Antonio Bañuelos—you know Antonio Bañuelos? Is a good, good, good professor (inaudible).

Interpreter
He asked me if I remember Antonio and I shook my head, and then he started getting mad because he knows that I know most of the people.

Lorenzo Garza
At one time we played together—he make a lot of noise, and the bases man had told me— ¿bajarla puede?

Interpreter
To turn it down.

Lorenzo Garza
Turn it down a little bit. I turned it down just a little bit—a little bit. Well, he talked too much— and they turned it down a little bit and these guys—hey, cool it. Oh, it was really good. I never see people like that.

Interviewer
You all played for Mexico Bello.

Lorenzo Garza
Oh, a long time ago. Fiat. The Club Fiat.

Interviewer
The Club Fiat?

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah. All the clubs—the best clubs. We like them because I started to play the Mexican music and that everybody is soul people, you know. We like them, we like them, we like them.

Interviewer
0:17:54.5 The Mexican music.

Lorenzo Garza
The Mexican music. That’s why we go out too much. Just clubs.

Interviewer
But you all played—when you all played with like the Club Fiat and the Mexico Bello and these places—you all played some Mexican music, didn’t you?

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah.

Interpreter
¿Nunca hicieron discos?

Lorenzo Garza
No.

Interviewer
You all never cut records or—?

Interpreter
No, because he said in those times nobody ever knew about records. You know, you have to crank your jukebox.

Interviewer
Did you all—you all never went to San Antonio and played—you all stayed in the area.

 

Interpreter
No, he went to San Antonio.

Interviewer
Oh, they all went to San Antonio?

Lorenzo Garza
San Antonio, Victoria, (___??), Sugar Land, You know in Sugar Land había unos platanados (?) muy grandes. And then he started in record some contest for 5 orchestras. El que sacaba el premio se quedaba con los tocases.

Interpreter
And they had a battle of the bands, so to speak, and there were 5 other bands that had entered the contest, one being the Rancheros, and the Rancheros came out ahead for the finals.

Lorenzo Garza
And the Aragon Ballroom the same thing.

Interpreter
And the winner of the contest would get the contract for that ballroom.

Lorenzo Garza
And we got that job anyway.

Interpreter
They would get the contract for that, and they had done that in Sugar Land and also the Aragon Ballroom and stuff like that. That’s why they were like a club band, so to speak, because they had an extensive contract with them in that they won the battle of the bands.

Lorenzo Garza
0:19:41.5 Y el Aragón Ballroom también. ¿Te acuerdas de aquel sitio? Remember the Deacon Sedillo? Deacon. Deacon Sedillo. Good orchestra. Good. He played in the final—5 orchestras.

Interviewer
Who is that?

 

Interpreter
Deacon Sedillo.

Lorenzo Garza
He played a lot of times in the Aragon Ballroom. Very good.

Interpreter
What’s he’s saying is they competed against the—y contra los Americanos también ¿verdad? The competition was—of course, it wasn’t no other Mexican bands so what he’s saying—he was in competition with the Anglo bands to get the contracts, and they would beat him out.

Lorenzo Garza
My group was 7 pieces, and Deacon Sedillo had 13 pieces. You know how the people say. When the people said something (claps hands) that’s all.

Interviewer
That was it.

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah.

Interpreter
So that’s how they got their contracts—extended contracts.

Lorenzo Garza
0:20:43.3 Yeah, y tocamos allí por 3 years straight.

Interpreter
At the Aragon?

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah, for 2 or 3— Los Dinamos fueron contra ellos y quedaron los Rancheros.

Interviewer
Was it pretty hard during the Depression to get jobs?

 

Lorenzo Garza
Oh, yes. Nobody worked.

Interviewer
But they always went to a dance, didn’t they?

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah, you know it. People dance. Fifty cents.

Interviewer
To get in to the—

Lorenzo Garza
Fifty cents.

Interviewer
How much did you all get paid?

Lorenzo Garza
Fifty cents.

Interviewer
Fifty cents?

Interpreter
Fifty cents an hour. Or when they went out it was $2 a musician.

Lorenzo Garza
0:21:22.9 Two dollars, 4 hours. Then I had to go to Galveston, had to go to San Antonio, had to go to Victoria for $2.

Interviewer
Two dollars apiece.

Lorenzo Garza
Two dollars apiece. By the time you have something to eat, drink a little beer or something—by the time you’re coming home there was nothing left.
Interviewer
There was nothing there.

Lorenzo Garza
Anyway, I liked it.

Interviewer
You liked playing in the band.

Lorenzo Garza
Yeah.

Interpreter
That’s when he was a young, handsome man, right?

Lorenzo Garza
Me gustaría que viera los retratos (inaudible).

Interpreter
He’s going to come back. He’s not going to come back tomorrow, but he’s going to call Jesse, okay? And then—

Lorenzo Garza
By the time you’re coming back, I’ll get everything. You won’t have to lose a bunch of time.

Interviewer
0:22:20.5 Okay.

Lorenzo Garza
Everything. Everything ready.

Interviewer
Okay. Do you got— 0:22:32.8 (recording turns off and back on again)

Interpreter
Uncle Leo? Yeah.

Lorenzo Garza
That’s three-quarters meaning. One time I worked in the Shell refinery, in 1937. I find a job in the Shell refinery. You go in the water—lots of water—and they have a lot of sardines in there, and I have called the bends and my uncle—he caught 3 and put them in my pocket. All right. In 2 days, anytime I go to the restroom, everybody said, “Oh (inaudible).”

Interpreter
He smelled like a woman.

Interviewer
Discharging?

Lorenzo Garza
0:23:32.6 (inaudible) I’m so scared, you know. I look and I don’t have nothing in my pocket. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I got 3 sardines in my pocket.

Interpreter
Remember when I told you they used to have the barbershop? Right next door, they used to have a meat market. And he and Jesse had a barber. He used to like to drink a lot. Not him or his brother. I’m talking about this other barber. And he had a real pretty wife, huh? So my uncle Leo, he said, “I’m going to fix this guy where he’ll never drink again.” So, he went to the meat market and got some liver and unbuttoned his pants and rubbed the liver all in his underwear, and he zipped up his pants and pulled them up. The guy wakes up, he puts on his coat, he goes home. And he takes his pants off, and his wife saw that. They got divorced behind that. And my uncle went up there and told him, “It was me, it was me.” But the woman wouldn’t believe him. But they were pranksters.

Lorenzo Garza
They was. They was.

Interpreter
My father and my uncle.

Lorenzo Garza
This is the same thing.

 

Interpreter
They used to be pranksters. They used to pull a prank on you until it hurt.

0:24:51.7 (recorder turns off)