University of Houston Libraries Special Collections will preserve and make available stories, interviews, and other digital documentation produced through the community project Tejas Got Soul: Early Chicano Sounds in Houston’s East End.
Tejas Got Soul was created by musicians and scholars Nick Gaitan and Isaac Rodriguez to recognize and celebrate 1950s-70s Tejano soul in Houston. Through the project, Gaitan and Rodriguez have conducted oral histories with musicians of the era, making an important contribution to the limited documentation of this fascinating piece of Houston’s culture and musical history.
“Houston’s place in the origins and cultivation in many genres of music is a somewhat hidden gem when it comes to very important figures and recordings,” Gaitan said. “Tejano music’s roots are no different. This tells a story of its own. Musical lines are always crossed and we hear the influences coming from all directions. Listeners and fans of Tejano music, Chicano music, or other flavors that Mexican-Americans and Latinos are listening to and influenced learn that lots of these great bands writing and performing in the late 50s and early 60s were largely influenced by soul music. It’s amazing how many of these aspects of this rich history are connected. Houston is just that type of place.”
“The late 1950s, 60s, and 70s were a great time in Houston for Chicano music,” Rodriguez said. “Bands like The Rock’n Vee’s, The Exiles, and Rocky Gil & The Bishops were playing R&B and soul music but were unknowingly planting the seeds of La Onda Chicana, the sound that we know today as Tejano music. Many of these groups were no longer playing by the time Tejano music was at its peak in the 80s and 90s and did not get the recognition they deserve as pioneers within the genre in Houston. After years of collecting records, hearing stories of the music and dances from my parents, I began to make contact with several of the musicians from the era, like Oscar Villanueva, to get their personal story of what it was like to be playing music at the time. Tejas Got Soul was formed to fill the generation gap and shine the spotlight on the artists, sound and era — which I would consider to be the golden era of Chicano music in Houston.”
The project will culminate in an April 6 public event at Morales Radio Hall, the previous home of KLVL, the first bilingual radio station in Houston. In addition to live performances from Houston-based acts, the event will offer attendees the opportunity to help build a living archive by sharing stories related to Houston’s early Tejano soul era. Dr. Jesus Jesse Esparza of Texas Southern University will lead a storytelling booth, and Houston Public Library’s Memory Lab will host a scanning station for community documentation activities during the event.
The digital files of the oral histories conducted by Gaitan and Rodriguez through the project as well as those created at the event will be added to the archives of the Tejas Got Soul project, and will be preserved and made available to researchers, the public, and the community at UH Libraries Special Collections.
For more information, visit the Tejas Got Soul Facebook page.