This week in Texas music history: Conjunto musician Eloy Bernal is born

The bajo sexto player teamed up with his brother to jazz up the genre with rock ‘n’ roll influences and matching stage outfits.

By Jason Mellard, Center for Texas Music History at Texas StateMarch 11, 2024 2:24 pm, , , ,

From KUTX:

On March 11, 1937, conjunto musician Eloy Bernal was born in a South Texas farming community.

Influenced by conjunto pioneers like Valerio Longoria and Narciso Martinez, Eloy took up the bajo sexto while his younger brother Paulino adopted the accordion. The two formed a duo as teenagers, and by 1954 were turning heads in Kingsville with their experimental take on the conjunto sound. Paulino mixed in flashy accordion solos and curious phrasing, and Eloy’s arrangements edged toward complex vocal harmonies that would become a genre standard.

In 1955, as El Conjunto Bernal, Eloy and Paulino cut their first track with Armando Marroquin’s Ideal Records in Alice. The brothers often served as the backing band for other Ideal vocalists such as Carmen y Laura.

Journalist Ramiro Burr also credits El Conjunto Bernal with taking the folksy genre of conjunto and jazzing it up with their dual accordion attack, matching stage outfits, and even experiments in rock ‘n’ roll.

Paulino left the group at its height in the 1960s and resurfaced in the next decade as a leading artist in Spanish-language gospel. Eloy took El Conjunto Bernal forward with vocalists Ruben Perez, Cha Cha Jimenez, and Laura Canales, mentoring new generations of artists in the field and performing into the late 1990s.

The Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in San Benito inducted Eloy Bernal posthumously in 2009.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on and Thanks for donating today.