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Home Music Tejano / RegMex Ramón Piñon: The Musician Responsible for Freddy Fender’s Discovery
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Ramón Piñon: The Musician Responsible for Freddy Fender’s Discovery

Sometimes, key people play an important role behind the scenes. In this report, Ramon Hernandez profiles Ramon Pinon and his role in Freddy Fender's career.

By Ramón Hernández

The untimely death of Ramón Piñon on Sunday, April 20 marked another loss in South Texas among the few remaining conjunto music pioneers.

Although a music legend in his own right, the Kingsville, the Texas native is also known as the man responsible for bringing Freddy Fender to the attention of Falcon Records. It was an unselfish act since Piñon was already on the label’s long roster of recording artists. The rest, as they say, is history.

Although bed-ridden, the 84-year-old conjunto pioneer’s memory proved to be as sharp as a tack when this writer interviewed him last December in regard to his own story.

“When I started out there were no fancy clubs,” Piñon said. “If somebody wanted to have a dance, they’d hung up lamps on the clothesline in the back year and people danced in the dirt.

“Back then, we played at farms, in back yards, in bars or wherever anybody wanted to have a dance. That was no singing because of the dust, just music, music, music. The pay wasn’t much. We would play from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. at the going rate of $2 for the bajo player and $3 for the accordion player. My fingers were so raw from playing so hard that I could still hear the music in my ears on the way home after the gig.”

In 1956 Piñon convinced Fender to sing backup on four of his recordings. Two of those songs were "Alegre Me Ando Paseando” and “La Traicionera.” That same night, Fender was asked to record a demo tape as an audition for the label.

As it turned out, Rafael and Arnaldo Ramírez, the owners of Falcon Records, wanted to start recording rock’n’roll and they thought Fender had the right voice, so they offered Fender a contract.

By the time Piñon was 30, the slim, tanned, handsome green-eyed bajo sexto player was an established singer/songwriter as Ramón Piñon y Su Conjunto Los Pumas; and his biggest hit on Falcon Records was “Contestación a Con Cartitas.”

In 1968, his wife, Dominga (nee) Quesada gave birth to their 14th child and Piñon had to settle into a full-time job as a plumber and his playing was now reduced to weekends only. However, that did not stop him from composing and recording more hits.

They then moved to Lansing, Michigan where he turned “Un Siglo de Amor” and “Corrido de Los Hermanos Aldaco." He also recorded “El Gato Viudo,” “Mujercita Encantada,” “Regreso Pronto” for Ideal Records plus “Traicionera” for González Records in Austin – all his own compositions.

(Latest PHOTO DATED 12-6-08 by Ramón Hernández; All others are Courtesy Photos)

Piñon’s conjunto included his brother José Manuel Piñon on drums. In 1975, Aldaco Records presented Piñon with an award for “Te Siguiere Esperando,” which became the fastest selling record in the label’s history. Later, Piñon also wrote and recorded “El Corrido de Freddy Fender” and “El Corrido de Chicho Martínez.”

At the beginning of this century, now in artificial knees and his fingers crippled with arthritis with the inability to play fast enough, he hung up his bajo sexto.

As for Fender, he never forgot the man whose friendship had survived a lifetime and on Saturday, November 4, 2000, Fender recognized Piñon with a bouquet of roses and honored him with a plaque giving him credit for his discovery.

If not for Tammy Huerta-Mallini, who located Piñon and was the first to document his recollections on video and advised this writer of his importance, we would have lost this valuable piece of history.

The saddest part is the brutally of Piñon’s murder at his San Benito, Texas home. Funerals are still pending and when available will be posted on this Web site. 


 

 

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