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Bandleader Oscar Martinez celebrates 75th
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Bandleader Oscar Martinez celebrates 75th
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We played polkas.  Music that the Mexican-Americans liked.  They liked the polkas.  Beto Villa Music.

As you were coming up and considering what you wanted to be when you grew up did you ever consider being a trucker or plumber or something like that?  

Well, I always wanted to be a musician, but I had a job working as a truck driver and delivery man when I was playing with Isidro Lopez.  I played for Isidro Lopez for two years.  After that I couldn’t stay with Isidro because he was getting a lot of jobs all over.    I couldn’t do my job and travel with him so I had to quit the band.  That was ‘54 to‘56.  I got out and I decided that I wanted to start my own band here in Corpus.  So in ‘58, I started my own band.  I started playing down here doing quincenieras, weddings and then started recording and playing out of town.  Later on I had to give up my job because I started working a radio show on KCCT radio.  I worked at KCCT from 7 to 8 in the mornings and then in the evenings from 6 to 7, Monday through Friday.   

I remember some of that growing up in Kingsville. You used to say, “Yes, no, what, maybe, please, thank you” What was that all about?  

(Laughs) I used to sign-off with that.  I learned that from the bellboys who worked at the Driscoll Hotel here in town.  I picked it up from them.

Did you have any role models as you were developing your career in music?

Of course.  Everyone was looking at Beto Villa and his band.  And of course, here in Corpus we admired Ralph Galvan, who had a big band.  We were watching those people. Then after I started with Isidro, we sort of watched everything he did.  Isidro had a very unique and original voice.  And the way he played the saxophone was very original. 

What is the dividing line between a Ralph Galvan and groups like Isidro Lopez or Beto Villa, who attained widespread fame? 

Ralph Galvan’s was like the Glen Miller band.  Big time.  They played American music.  Beto Villa added polkas, more of a dance band, like the Lawrence Welk Band.  Then Isidro added the voice to the polkas.  The polkas were plain instrumentals before, and then Isidro added the voice also and that made a lot of difference.  And that started the Tejano trend. 

Did Ralph Galvan record and did he tour nationally?

He made three records.  No, he never toured nationally as we know it. He only played in the area because band members had other things they did locally. But Ralph had a tremendous band. 

What about frustrating obstacles that got in your way that you managed to work through, or maybe didn’t?

Nobody wanted to record us.  I can understand it because it’s a gamble to record someone new.  We had that problem. Finally I decided to make my own record.  So I did that.  It was a number one hit on KEYS radio here.  It was called “Makes No Difference.”  I had a hard time getting people to play it on radio.  But I had an ex-boss of mine and he introduced the song to Jimmy Bell and he played it and it became the number one song in Corpus.  

What was it R&B? Who wrote that song?

Rhythm and rock, blues.  It was a slow piece and it was rhythm and rock.  It was a Spanish song that I translated into English. In Spanish it was called “Que Me Puede De Importar?”. I translated the lyrics to “Makes no difference if you love me now.”   The song belonged to a friend of mine from San Antonio, Arturo Vasquez.  He’s dead now.  Arturo wrote that song. We just hit with it.  We were lucky that my boss took the record to Jimmy Bell and that he started playing it.  It was recorded by a bigger band in San Antonio and they made a big hit with it up there.  But we just played it here in Corpus.  I was so green that I didn’t know what to do with the record. Pero we had a big exposure with that record. 

Did you ever consider moving away from Corpus to seek better opportunities?

No, because I knew I could do it from Corpus.  It took ten records to start getting more jobs.

And you always recorded your own material? 

Yes.  I made my own records.  I was the one who got Freddie Martinez going also.  He was having the same problems.  

So you would rent studio time and do it that way?

Yes. We would record here in town.  And then sell the records at dances around the state. 

Tell us about “Tejano Enamorado,” your signature tune.

Well it’s an every day thing for musicians.  You’re trying to conquer the women.  The song says nobody likes him because he drinks beer.  In the music business you have to keep women in mind, because those are the ones that make it for you.  Women go to the dances and the men follow.  Everyone wants to be a Tejano Enamorado.  It was just something that happens to a musician.  Nobody likes him because musicians carry a no-no tag.  Like car salesmen.  Nobody wants them because you don’t know what they’re going to do.  Unpredictable.  My wife gave me such a hard time about “Tejano Enamorado” that I switched to animal subjects and wrote “El Gallo Copeton” to try to change the subject.  And that tune was a hit also.  In San Antonio Flaco Jimenez made a jingle for Burger King using that tune.  All my friends who recorded “Tejano Enamorado” are divorced (laughs).

Was it a surprise to you that it became such a big hit?

Yes it was. I wrote it one day, Isidro needed a song, and he recorded it right away.  Isidro’s recording was with accordion, in conjunto style.  Then I recorded it the next day with my orchestra. 

So it was a simultaneous hit for both of you?

Yes. It went all over and it is still being recorded. I have counted about 42 artists who have recorded it.  

You also recorded La Del Mono Colorado, which has a lot in common with Tejano Enamorado.  Do songs like that hit because of the lyrics or the arrangement?

Parece que es la novia (laughs). Both. The catchy lyrics and repetitions stay in the mind of listeners.

So how long were you active?

My daughter was counting and she came up with 50 years. 

Are any particular dance halls that stand out as special?

We traveled all over, Victoria, The Valley, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston.  We always had jobs and had three bookings a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The one that stands out is La Lomita in Victoria. They were real good to us.  

You’ve written a book.  Tell me about it.

It’s called “El Tejano Enamorado.” The book has photos and some personal notes that I call “Tejano Music Talk.”  In it I bring up people like Balde Gonzalez, Beto Villa, my good friend Johnny Herrera.  I also included sheet music to some of the great Tejano tunes because many of the writers did not have the skills to write sheet music.

Writers Note:  The book “El Tejano Enamorado” can be purchased for $10.00 by contacting Mrs Iris Simmons at 361-815-3211 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

During your first 75 years you’ve been a musician, a radio personality, you wrote a book and you’re also an artist.  What’s Oscar Martinez going to do next?  

I’m still writing music.  In fact, Leo Saenz, who heads Latin Express Band wants to record two of my songs. I can’t stop.  I’m still trying to come up with another hit tune.  

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