This week in Texas music history: The birth of Balde González

Sightless since birth, the Beeville native learned numerous instruments while attending the Texas School for the Blind.

By Jason Mellard, The Center for Texas Music History at Texas State UniversityMay 29, 2024 10:15 am, , ,

From KUTX:

On May 30, 1928, orquesta bandleader Baldemar “Balde” González was born in Beeville, fifty miles north of Corpus Christi.

González was sightless since birth and attended the Texas School for the Blind in Austin from the age of eight. The curriculum at the state’s blind schools encouraged a classical education in music, counting among their alumni gospel pianist Arizona Dranes, honky-tonk songsmith Leon Payne, and Austin’s “King of the Whistlers” Fred Lowery.

Balde González (Center) among bandmates. KUTX

It was there that González learned piano, saxophone, clarinet, and violin. He then returned to Beeville where he formed his first professional orquesta and began recording for the Melco and Ideal record labels in nearby Corpus and Alice.

Balde’s orquesta performed foxtrots, ballads, and boleros, with nods to smooth jazz and ballroom standards. He sang with a buttery baritone croon.

Tejano music scholar Manuel Peña described Gonzalez’s music as jaitón, a “sophisticated, urban repertoire and orchestration” that gained popularity with an upwardly mobile, bilingual South Texas middle class.

Balde González’s contributions to música tejana slowed in the 1960s, as the popularity of his jaitón style gave way to the funk countercultures of la onda chicana with Little Joe and Sunny Ozuna. But, he remained active as a solo pianist at hotels and bars in greater Houston until his passing in 1974.

Balde González is remembered today as an innovative bandleader and recording artist in South Texas who emerged from the rich musical community of the Texas Schools for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

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