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Santiago Jiménez, Sr. Interviews

Santiago Jiménez, Sr. learned to play accordion watching his father, Patricio Jiménez, who was the only accordion player Santiago recalls playing at dances around town in San Antonio, where he grew up. He talks to Chris Strachwitz about learning to play at age 10, and buying his first two-row accordion from a pawn shop in 1935. He would later become known for his consistent use of the two-row button accordion. Jiménez, Sr. was inducted into the Tejano Music Awards Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003. Since he passed in 1984, the musical family tradition has continued to live on through his sons, Flaco and Santiago Jiménez, Jr.

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  • Santiago Jiménez Sr. Interview 1 00:00
  • Santiago Jiménez Sr. Interview 2, 1979 00:00
Interviewee: Santiago Jiménez Sr.
Interviewer: Chris Strachwitz
Date: unknown, 1979
Location: Texas
Language: English

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. info@arhoolie.org

See below photo gallery for a transcript of the 1979 interview

Santiago Jiménez, Sr. 1979 Interview Transcript:

Chris Strachwitz:

I think you once told me your dad came from …

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Eagle Pass.

Chris Strachwitz:

… from Eagle Pass. Uh-huh (affirmative).

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes. Yeah, he was from Eagle Pass.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you grow up in Eagle Pass too, Santiago?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, I grew up here in San Antonio.

Chris Strachwitz:

Right in town?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, I was born over here by the Brackenridge Park. They used to call it the rock quarry. Now, in Spanish, it’s La Piedrera. That’s the reason I make that polka, La Piedrera.

Chris Strachwitz:

What is your birth date?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

My birthday is on April the 25th.

Chris Strachwitz:

Which year were you born?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

1913.

Chris Strachwitz:

  1. This brother’s name is?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Frank.

Chris Strachwitz:

Frank, and he also played accordion?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he used to play before me.

Frank:

A long time ago. I forgot already.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you father teach both of you?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, well, my father, we learned just looking at him, see? He used to play the guitar too, long time ago. My father and him used to play in dances. They start first. I didn’t know how to play in those days. They start- You know, I was always behind them because I want to learn too, myself.

Chris Strachwitz:

Is Frank older than you?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Frank:

Yeah, I’m older than him, [inaudible 00:01:16] years.

Chris Strachwitz:

Were there other brothers or sisters who played music?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, just Frank and I and my father.

Chris Strachwitz:

Back in those days, the accordion wasn’t too common, was it?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. No. My father used to play the accordion in one row. It was not two rowed in those days.

Chris Strachwitz:

Just the one row.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That’s the way I learned first, one row. Then later on, my father saw that I was interest to learn, he bought me an accordion with two rows.

Chris Strachwitz:

Do you remember roughly about how old you were when that came in?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, I was about, around 10 years, 12 years.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh really? I’ll be darned. At that time, did he sing too, your father?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

He sing, but not in dances, just in houses.

Chris Strachwitz:

In those days, the dances where they had the accordion music that was just accordion music, no singing?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No singing. No singing, just the melody. That’s all.

Chris Strachwitz:

Just the melody. Way back when you were 10 years old, do you remember, what did they have accompanying the accordion? Did they have a bajo sexto?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, they used to play the accordion and guitar, well, I mean, six string guitar.

Chris Strachwitz:

Just a six string guitar.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, that’s all.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you use a little drum sometimes?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. They not use. Just those things, two of them, that’s all.

Chris Strachwitz:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

They used to make dances in houses. There were no saloons at all, just in houses, they used to make dances.

Chris Strachwitz:

Somebody would give a party or something?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

People would come?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

Would they charge admission to it?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. They never charged anything.

Chris Strachwitz:

How did they pay the musicians?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well I’ll tell you. I remember that. I remember that. My father used to go and play in those [00:03:09] about 25 miles from here. He’d start playing maybe from 8:00 at night until 7:00 the next day, for one dollar and 50 cents.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did your father make a living playing music?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, he had his job all the time, but he made extra money when playing.

Chris Strachwitz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Did you ever talk to him about where he got some of his music from?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, I remember he used to learn those polkas, the German polkas. I think he used to hang around in New Braunsfels, some place there where they used to have German dances, a long, long time ago. He picked up some of those pieces of music, and that’s the reason I always said that this kind of music comes from Germany. I’ve always said that. I might be wrong, but all the accordion players, I mean, the first accordion thing, they come from Germany, then they pick it up here later, see?

Chris Strachwitz:

Like in that movie, Jose Morantes says, “But we give a little different taste.” Don’t you think that’s true?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Strachwitz:

Because I can hear a note of your playing and I can tell right off that’s no German thing, because you give it a really nice flavor that I don’t think anybody’s ever done before. Did your father play- Can you recall any of the tunes that you learned from him?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, I remember that he used to play a waltz that they used to call Los Tecolotes, and I also record that with Rangel. It’s an old waltz. I didn’t remember that when we were recording, because we could have recorded that too. That’s a good one.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s a good one. Do you remember hearing any other accordion players besides your dad, when you were growing up?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. I don’t remember. There were some others that pick up the violin, but not the accordion.

Chris Strachwitz:

The accordion really wasn’t too popular back then, was it?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

When my father started playing it, the people started liking it because at first, they used to play the violin and guitar in dances and then when my father started playing the accordion, then my father used to keep on playing more than the violin in dances.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, so it already started back in your father’s time?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, that’s right.

Chris Strachwitz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Did he take you out to dances sometimes?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, when I was a little boy, he used to take me to Helotes all around.

Chris Strachwitz:

Was there mostly Mexican audience there or was it a German one?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, it was nothing but Mexican around.

Chris Strachwitz:

Was it mostly farm workers out there?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Farm workers, yes. Yeah, they used to have a very good time in those days.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did they live out there or were they migrant workers?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, they used to live there. They worked there and on Saturdays, Sundays, they came and take my father and to go over there and play all night. They used to play sometimes outside. They just dance in the dirt there, you see? It was funny then.

Chris Strachwitz:

Those were the days before cars.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, they used to take my father in wagons, with mules. They used to take him over there and bring him back.

Chris Strachwitz:

Your brother, you remember him going along too?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he used to go over there …

Frank:

I used to go with them too.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

… and dance too. He likes to dance.

Chris Strachwitz:

Those pretty women he kept his eyes on.

Frank:

I think it was 1930 or 1929, something like that. 1927.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

’27. In the twenties, we used to go.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you ever play also in the plaza?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

[inaudible 00:07:34] Plaza?

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I used to go there before I recorded. I used to go and hear Pedro Rocha, Lupe Martinez. They used to sing there. And I used to go and hear. I knew how to play already, but I never had recorded in those days.

Chris Strachwitz:

Who did you carry with you? Did you have a guitar player friend of yours?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, a friend of mine.

Chris Strachwitz:

Just the guitar and accordion?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I think you used to know him. Montago.

Chris Strachwitz:

No, I don’t him, but I know he made records with Berlanga.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That’s right. Montago and I, he used to play the bajo and I used to play the accordion in the plaza.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you both sing too at that time?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he had a nice voice, a strong voice.

Chris Strachwitz:

That must’ve been quite a scene. Would you sit in one place of the plaza, or would Lydia Mendoza be in some place … ?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, Lydia Mendoza used to play there too with the family. They had a group over there and a group here.

Chris Strachwitz:

People would just pay a little when they wanted to hear a tune or something?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Ten cents apiece.

Chris Strachwitz:

I guess 10 cents was a lot of money back then in the Depression time.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, in those days.

Chris Strachwitz:

What kind of work were you doing full-time?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I was working for Fort Sam Houston in those days. On Saturdays and Sundays, I used to go over there, you know, just for fun and make good money.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you work as a janitor there too?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, I used to work in warehouses.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, warehouses.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Loading this and that, furniture.

Chris Strachwitz:

On weekends, you tried to play music?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, right.

Chris Strachwitz:

How did you come to make your first records?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, this is the way I started. I was playing at the plaza there with Montago. Then, Mr. Acuña, the furniture company, I think you’ll remember him, he used to have furniture store on West Commerce. He went over there, and he heard me play when I was playing. He called me up from there and said, “What is your name?” I told him my name. “You really can play that accordion. Do you want to make records?” I’d never made a record before. I don’t know how. “We’ll show you.”

The next day, he told me to come to his house. We talked and that’s the way I started making records. He used to represent Pedro Rocha and all those from Decca. He called me and I recorded my first record on Decca.

Chris Strachwitz:

Were they made right here I San Antonio?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, yes, at KCOR.

Chris Strachwitz:

At the radio station?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Strachwitz:

At that time, you were about the only accordion player?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, there were some others. One was called El Gallito, Jesus Casiano.

 

Chris Strachwitz:

Lalo-

 

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, Jesus Casiano. He was one of those …

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, he was already playing at that time?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he record in the same year I record. Also, Narciso Martínez, but Narciso Martínez was in Hawaii and I was here. There was about 2 or 3 accordion players in those days.

Chris Strachwitz:

After you made the records, did you get more popular?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, the first record I made-  I made 3 records right away with Decca. When the people started to hear it, they used to like it a lot. They used to play them over the radio all the time, and then, another company called me right away to see if I wanted to record for them. It was Imperial.

Chris Strachwitz:

That was after the second war then?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

That was about 8 years later.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I recorded for Globe too. Before I recorded for Imperial, I recorded for Globe. I remember, Globe.

Chris Strachwitz:

At that time, you made some that were just guitar duets?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, with 2 guitars. After that, RCA Victor from Mexico. He came over here and offered me 75 dollars a record. That was pretty good.

Chris Strachwitz:

What did Decca pay you back then in those days?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Seven dollars.

Chris Strachwitz:

Seven dollars?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

He really got me.

Chris Strachwitz:

You were actually paid by Acuna, or … ?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

By Acuna.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, so he may have kept some of it?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he kept all of that money. He kept all that money from everybody at the plaza. He got rich. I didn’t know anything about royalties, nothing like that. Just giving 7 dollars to these boys.

Chris Strachwitz:

Well, it probably helped you get your name around.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That’s right. We have to start from the bottom, you know that.

Chris Strachwitz:

During the wartime, did you have to stay here? You didn’t have to go into the service?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, I stayed here. I used to work for the Fort Sam Houston for 5 years.

Chris Strachwitz:

Five years?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

On Saturdays, I used to play. I worked 5 years for the Fort Sam Houston during the war.

Chris Strachwitz:

What were some of your favorite places that you played around here during the ’30s and during the wartime?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, there were 2 places I used to like to play a lot. It’s there no more. They used to have a saloon over here on Laredo, Doppler, someplace there. I used to play there every Saturday and Sunday.

Chris Strachwitz:

What was the name of it?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Perales Night Club.

Chris Strachwitz:

Perales Night Club.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

How many years did you play there?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I played for a year. I played a year for him, and then, the expressway, that place there. I started playing at Gaucho, it’s over here in El Paso and Navidad. I played there about 10 years. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did people dance there, or just come and drink beer?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, dance. People were dancing there. That’s from that picture you have there.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s where that was taken?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That’s El Gaucho.

Chris Strachwitz:

You must’ve had a good time. A lot of musicians cam.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

A lot of musicians came and played. Also, Flaco was learning a lot when he was his age there. I used to take him over there so he could learn how to play.

Frank:

Did you see the picture? Show him the picture.

 

 

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

He’s the one who gave –

Chris Strachwitz:

Diesca gave it to me. I put that record out, yeah.

 

Frank:

Oh I see.

 

Chris Strachwitz:

When did some of those others fellows start playing accordion? Did they start coming in about that same time? Like Fred Zimmerle?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Fred Zimmerle started coming in the ’30s too.

Chris Strachwitz:

Uh huh. He started playing that far back? Do you think they started doing it because you were getting popular?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, I think so because he always used to tell me, “I’d like to pick up your style. I like the way you play.” We both record, Fred and I. Fred was on the bajo and accordion. We recorded for Globe.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, that was Fred Zimmerle on the bajo?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That was Fred Zimmerle on the bajo. Also, his brother record in …

Chris Strachwitz:

Yes, Henry Zimmerle.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah. They both recorded with me.

Chris Strachwitz:

I want to go see them tonight. They’re playing in Lerma’s again. I haven’t seen them in a good while.

Frank:

He said that picture over there was Flaco at El Gaucho.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah. He made it.

Frank:

… He went to see Jim how play out there.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Uh huh. Yes, Flaco was real skinny in those days. He was thin as a rail.

Frank:

Yeah, he used to take Flaco. He used to play before. El Gaucho.

Chris Strachwitz:

Was that about your busiest time, during the time when Globe and Imperial Records were out?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Right, yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

When you had that hit with Viva Seguin, La Piedrera. Yeah, they sold them- Did you come to California ever?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. I’ve never been to California. I used to play around here, Devine, Carlota, New Braunfels, San Marcos. Not far from here. About 35 miles, 40 miles. I used to have it pretty good over here, and El Gaucho, I used to play there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I didn’t have much time to go out.

Chris Strachwitz:

I thought about 15 years ago, I heard on a radio program in Salinas, CA., they mentioned your name. You didn’t go out there about 10 years ago?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, I think there was my record.

Chris Strachwitz:

Do your other children play music too? I know Flaco does, and do you have another daughter?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, all my family play a little.

Chris Strachwitz:

What is your daughter’s name?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Adriana.

Chris Strachwitz:

Adriana?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, she plays the accordion a little bit, too. Also, Reuben, he plays the guitar and a little bit on the accordion. They all play.

Chris Strachwitz:

And Santiago Jr.?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he’s been recording already. He’s pretty famous now. The others all play, but just to have a good time around the house.

Chris Strachwitz:

How many children do you have?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Eight.

Chris Strachwitz:

Eight?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Eight, yes. They’re all married except one.

Chris Strachwitz:

Uh huh. There’s Santiago Jr. and there’s Leonardo and Reuben. Who’s the fourth?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Luiz and Roberto. He’s the youngest, Roberto. He’s about 22 years old. He’s not married yet. Eddie. I’ve got another one, Eddie.

Chris Strachwitz:

Six boys?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah. Eddie and Jim are twins.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh really? They all play?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, they play. You ought to hear. He’s plays the accordion pretty good too, Eddie.

Chris Strachwitz:

What is the other sister’s name?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Antonia.

Chris Strachwitz:

Antonia and Adriana.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Just two girls.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s an amazing family. When did you move to Dallas?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

It was 1967.

Chris Strachwitz:

You were there over 10 years, in Dallas.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Eleven.

Chris Strachwitz:

Eleven years. Now you’re back in San Antonio?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Back in San Antonio, yes. I love San Antonio because I was born here. [Tape stops]. My grandfather on my mother’s side also used to play. He used to play the harp and sing.

Chris Strachwitz:

The harp? Did he come from Veracruz?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, he was from over there in Monclova.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s still up in Tamaulipas?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Some place.

Chris Strachwitz:

He played the harp?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, he used to play very good. He used to sing some of those songs, corridos, like the revolution, “Pancho Villa.” He used to sing those songs with a harp. I was a little boy when I used to hear him play. He was a shoemaker. He used to fix shoes, and when he had spare time, he used to pick up the harp and start singing.

Chris Strachwitz:

Just by himself?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Just by himself. We have musicians from both sides.

Chris Strachwitz:

You don’t know where your father came from?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

My grandfather?

Chris Strachwitz:

On your father’s side.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

On my father’s side?

Chris Strachwitz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, my father was born in Eagle Pass. My grandfather, I think, came from Monclova.

Chris Strachwitz:

Your grandfather on both sides came from Monclova?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. My grandfather from my father’s side was from here.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, he was from San Antonio? What were some of your favorite musicians when you coming up back then, or did you have any favorites?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, I didn’t have any favorites. I liked to hear everybody the same.

Chris Strachwitz:

You have amazing talent for making songs. How do they come to you? How do you write your songs?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, I tell you, sometimes I’ve got something in my mind that I want to make a song out of something. I start with the first words and I start thinking and writing and finally, when I make 2 or 3 verses, then I’ll start putting in the tunes. That come from my head here. If I see something that I like, I can make a song out of it. If I want to make a love song, just looking in some books and seeing what romance or something like that, I get those words and start making it myself.

Chris Strachwitz:

I see. Did your brother ever write songs too?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. Anybody who can come and tell me, “I’d like for you to make me a song,” I would ask them, “What kind of song do you want me to make? A love song or something?” “Yes, love song would be all right.” They start telling me that he’s in love with somebody so I start making it the way he wants it.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you always rhyme it up really easy?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

For me, it’s easy. People say they don’t know how I make it.

Chris Strachwitz:

A lot of musicians don’t make any songs. So the melodies come to you?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

They come to me. Sometimes, I get it at the guitar because I play the guitar too. With the little strings, I start taking some tunes. In my mind, they come to me and I start putting the words on it. Another thing is I don’t record them, I just get them in my head. I don’t have to record it. I’ve got it in my head already.

Chris Strachwitz:

And you can keep them there for a while.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Keep it there.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s amazing. You do write down the words now?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did you always do that?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes. I always do that.

Chris Strachwitz:

I guess that’s the standard thing because you always have to teach it to the other singer, don’t you? Because of the directo style.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Right. When we record, Flaco knows nothing about those songs. I have to write them so he can follow me.

Chris Strachwitz:

Do you remember when you were little, were they already singing duets then at that times or where there more solo singers?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Solo singers, and then they can have 2 of them and then 3.

Chris Strachwitz:

You don’t have any idea where that started?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, it was in those days, in the ’20s. Some of them used to sing by themselves. Then came 2 voices and then 3.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh, they use 3 voices sometimes, huh?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

Hmm. The only ones I met of the old timers was the Echeverrías. I think they both died now.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I don’t think Martín is alive yet. I don’t know his brother. His brother was very sick a long, long time ago.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I don’t know if he’s dead or not. A very good voice right there.

 

Chris Strachwitz:

He had a very strong voice.

 

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Strong voice.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah. Nobody sings quite like that anymore, do they?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I don’t hear nobody. Some people say that I got a strong voice, I don’t know.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah. I found that out.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

You found that out?

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah, you don’t need a microphone for that. Yeah you can sing… In those old days, you didn’t have microphones. That didn’t come in until the …

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, they never used microphones in those days. They just count.

 

Christ Strachwitz:

But they didn’t have any trouble hearing?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No, they can hear.

 

Chris Strachwitz:

Maybe they didn’t make so much noise back then. Yeah, it has a nice sound to it. When did start using a stringed bass behind?

 

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

You mean the contrabajo?

 

Chris Strachwitz:

The contrabajo.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

The contrabajo, a long, long time ago. I think that was first one that came when we started playing with bajo, they start the contrabajo. That’s one of those instruments they always like to record with. That big one. I’ve been recording with electric bass, but I still don’t like it.

Chris Strachwitz:

No, I don’t either.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

It drags the notes out too long, I think. I’ve always liked that bass. It’s not many that have it now.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s the trouble, yeah. If you can play it … get Viesca one of those bows and he can probably play the bow too.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I tell you, it sounds very nice one week when you play a waltz, we’ve got all that.

Chris Strachwitz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

It sounds very good.

Chris Strachwitz:

I hope next time when I come, maybe we can do some …

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah. I would like to do 1 or 3 numbers like that.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah. When I get this one out, we’ll see if we can do something with it. I don’t want to hold you up too long, you know? [Tape stops].

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

… nice time, but they can go pretty close to me, but I’m not exactly.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah they don’t have those little licks.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That’s where the difference is.

Chris Strachwitz:

Also, you’ve always stuck with the 2 row instrument now. Did you ever try to play the 3 row?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Oh yes. I can play the same thing on 3 rows, but I like better the 2 row. I started that way and I don’t want to go out from it.

Chris Strachwitz:

I don’t blame you. It sounds- This is nice.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I can play as good with 3 rows as I can with 2, the same thing. It’s harder to play on 2 than 3.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh really?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Did you know that?

Chris Strachwitz:

No I didn’t.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

It’s easy to play 3 rows. Two rows, you have to work little more. I’m used to playing 2, so I’ll stay there.

Chris Strachwitz:

Were you ever tempted to get a piano accordion, or … ?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I tried one time, and I can play a little piece on it, but for myself, I like better the bottom part.

Chris Strachwitz:

You think, for this kind of music?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes, for the kind of music we play, I like better that bottom part. I don’t know why, but you can get more music on the piano. You can get a lot of music there, but not as happy as you can get on the bottom accordion. That’s what the difference is.

Chris Strachwitz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I mean the way we play.

Chris Strachwitz:

That’s right. It just doesn’t get as happy.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No. Can’t get it happy.

Chris Strachwitz:

It doesn’t have that snap on it.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah.

Chris Strachwitz:

What do you think of these bands that use these organs now and stuff like that?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, I’ll tell you, some of them, they pick up those organs very good, very easy, but some of them put that thing there … you can hear the music, but you cannot understand what they’re playing. You cannot understand them. They go so loud and so this and that, and some of them play slow and you can hear what they play, some not. Now, they like to hear all that noise, nothing but noise. Some people like it. They like it to dance and everything.

Chris Strachwitz:

I don’t know where things are going to go.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

For me, I don’t know much music, but what I think to myself, that’s nothing, all that ringing. I don’t like those things.

 

Chris Strachwitz:

I don’t either.

 

Santiago Jiménez, Jr.:

I like something that you can understand. What we’re doing.

Chris Strachwitz:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It has a nice feeling to it.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

That music they’ve got now, what do they call that? Disco? I don’t know what kind of music that is. I don’t where it comes from either. For me, I don’t think it’s good. A lot of people like it, see? Do you like that?

Chris Strachwitz:

No. I wish it would go away. I’ve talked to some musicians who’ve played. They say it’s terrible because it’s the same thing over and over and over and over. I think the polka music here seems to be pretty strong.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

It’s really strong. A long time ago, they didn’t pay much attention to it when we started. Now, many American people now, they don’t pay as much attention to that music. Now, they’re starting to listen, see? They’re starting to like it.

Chris Strachwitz:

Yeah, I’ve felt there’s much more acceptance. Twenty years ago, when I first came to San Antonio, in a lot of places, I think a lot of people were even ashamed to speak Spanish. Do you think people are getting more proud of who they are and the kind of music … ?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, I think so.

Chris Strachwitz:

And I guess with Anglos hearing it more, maybe they- I have a feeling in the old days- This kind of music appealed mostly to the poorer workers, didn’t it, in the beginning?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Right. Yeah, because in those days, they used to pay those farmers. They used to work on the farm. They used to pay just a little money. These people, they don’t have nothing, just working all the time, working so much. When they have a little extra money, they used to go and hear us play and dance. They forgot about all those days they used to work hard. When they go and hear our singing over there, they forgot all about it, see? They had a good time that night, because the next time, they have to go to work again.

Chris Strachwitz:

I think people really need the music to keep them alive.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Keep them alive, that’s right. Enjoy themselves.

Chris Strachwitz:

So much hard, it’s hard, and it’s always the same kind of field work. Did you ever have to do much field work?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

I used to work pretty hard myself when I was a young boy. In those days, no matter what you could do, it was nothing but hard work all the time. I used to work hard making ditches, a big shovel and everything like that. Sometimes, I know I could make more money playing, but they don’t pay you much. You just have to work hard. Little by little, the people start working more and more, and then I quit working as hard to start music. That’s how I made my living for a long time. I played music. Then I had to work very hard. I started working hard.

Chris Strachwitz:

The people who liked your music in the old days, they didn’t have any money either, so they couldn’t really pay you anything.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

No.

Chris Strachwitz:

As things went on, they were making more money. You could get a little more at the dances and stuff? I think that’s the reason it’s getting more and more popular because there’s more money.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Now it’s good because everybody earns a lot of money. They enjoy themselves too. That’s the reason the musicians have to charge a little more money for playing. It’s a lot of money right now. [Tape stops].

 

Chris Strachwitz:

That saxophone with the accordion, that was never too big here in San Antonio, was it?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, a saxophone used to play with me at El Gaucho. Some people like it, and sometimes, not. The owner that played there, he said, “I would rather hear just the accordion and the bajo and the bass.” I used to play with saxophone. Some people doesn’t like it. I don’t know why. That music sounds very nice.

Chris Strachwitz:

If they’re really together, I think. Remember, there’s a conjunto in … [Tape stops].

 

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Well, it was all over here on Leona Street, on Santa Rosa. You know, over here where the plaza is? They used to have a lot of saloons all around here.

Chris Strachwitz:

They’ve torn it all down now?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, they’ve torn it all down.

Chris Strachwitz:

Where they’ve built a freeway and all that?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yes.

Chris Strachwitz:

Oh.

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Guadalupe Street, they had- they still got some.

Chris Strachwitz:

They were dance halls, or were they just a lot of …

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Just cantinas. Just cantinas. It was wide open. You could start there at 7 o’clock in the morning to the next day again. A lot of people used to go there and have a good time.

Chris Strachwitz:

Did they have a lot of women?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, a lot women. They used to dance. If you have to dance with one of them, you have to pay a quarter so you could dance there. Some of the soldiers from Fort Sam Houston, they used to come over there and see the women, dance all night, have a good time with those polkas. It was a long time ago.

Chris Strachwitz:

Why did they close all that down? Why’d they start tearing all these buildings down?

Santiago Jiménez, Sr.:

Yeah, well they tore everything down. They started making something else. They quit all those. They close pretty early now. They don’t have– til one. They close everything.

Chris Strachwitz:

They’re spread out more all over the place.

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