Temple logged another honor for native son Little Joe Hernandez on Saturday with a special Day of Recognition at the Martin Luther King Festival Grounds, 301 S. Fourth St., and the dedication of Sixth Street as Little Joe Hernandez Drive.
Event coordinator Roney Castor, Ritmo Tejano DJ for 98.5 KRXT in Rockdale, said he prepared for 8,000 to 10,000 people to attend. In addition to Little Joe y la Familia, the entertainment ticket included Michael Salgado, Ruben Ramos, Roberto Pulido, Kingzi, Christina Valdez, the 80H Project and Neal Sharpe.
Castor, a 2011 Tejano Music Hall of Famer himself, said there’s an inspirational side to Joe’s story.
“Joe worked in a blue jean factory with his brother Jessie,” he said. “Jessie got tired of working in the plant, and told Joe, ‘If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right.’”
So Joe followed his brother into full-time music. However, a few years later Jessie died in an automobile accident, Castor said. At the graveside, Joe made a promise to his brother that one day he was going to make it big.
“Now here we are at this dedication,” Castor said, with Joe a five-time Grammy Award winner who’s performed all over the world. “We just like to say congratulations to Joe. He made it. The promise is kept.”
Joe isn’t slowing down, Castor said. He recently played in Las Vegas for a month.
“He’s going stronger than before,” he said.
As for Tejano music, Castor said it’s on the rebound, and that Tejano radio stations are opening up all over the state of Texas.
“It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” he said.
There has been a progression of Latino music, going all the way back to the Mariachi band, he said. When the accordion was the main instrument, the music was called Norteno. Modernization of the instruments, and the addition of the horns changed the music, he said.
The three musicians most responsible for the development of Tejano music, he said, were Little Joe, Ruben Ramos and Roberto Pulido. It’s been a while since they’ve toured together, he said, but when they do they call themselves “The Three Amigos.”
Neal Sharpe of Chicago was on Saturday’s program. He said he’s done vocal backup for Hernandez.
“I’ve been messing around with Little Joe for years,” he said. “Joe is the only Tejano band that I’ve performed with.”
Otherwise he prefers rhythm and blues, he said. He likes Smokey Robinson, and has sung with The Drifters and Archie Bell. Sharpe performed in Copperas Cove a few weeks ago, and will be on stage in east Temple in September, he said.
One of the groups on stage was Christina y los Latinos, and one of their numbers was “Folsom Prison Blues.” Christina Valdez, 19, of San Benito, played the accordion for the group, which also includes her father and brother.
“I’ve been with this band two years,” she said. “I’ve been playing since I was 11. Mainly every weekend we’re booked. So it’s fun traveling. We haven’t been to Temple before, so it’s nice.”
They do Tejano, conjunto, polka and a variety of other music, she said. She’s been practicing on vocals.
“I want to do it for the rest of my life,” she said. “I don’t want to stop.”
She’s met Little Joe before, she said. “He’s very nice.”