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Rudy Padilla Stays Loyal to his Conjunto Roots

Rudy Padilla joined Conjunto Padilla 56 years ago, he never quit and now it’s his.

The fact that his father, Eluterio Padilla, plus two of his uncles played guitar and were known as Trio Padilla, is the reason Rudy chose to learn the same instrument.

“They were my introduction and first influence,” Padilla said during an interview at Padilla’s Ice House, his own outlet and venue for conjunto music.

“My father bought me my first guitar because it was something I liked and wanted. Then he taught me all the chords and most important, how to tune the strings and the importance of playing in tune.”

Padilla was 16 and had already mastered the bajo sexto when he joined his father, his brother Raymond Padilla, guitar; and Henry Moreno on bass. There was no drummer.

“Later, when the use of a drummer caught on, everyone wanted to play drums and we went on to have an endless list of drummers. My father also formed the original Conjunto Padilla to keep us brothers united. He also bought us microphones, amplifiers and speakers – our first sound system,” the 72-year-old singer, songwriter, musician recalled.

Back then, in 1955, the venues that catered to conjunto music were the Westside and Southside cantinas, bars, terrazas, ice houses, Casino Park, Comanche Park and private parties.

In less than a year, they were performing live at KUKA and KEXX, where they, along with other teenagers, Flaco Jiménez and Toby Torres, participated in a polka music contest.

“Conjunto had strength due to its popularity, because groups charged less, because the music was más alegre, more joyful and the cozy, simple intimate setting of its venues.”

By 1963, Raymond was now playing accordion and Joe Padilla had learned to play bajo sexto when they recorded their first single, “Yo Tenia Dos Corazones” with “Mala Movida” on the flipside and featuring Rudy on lead vocals.

As was and remains the case with many local musicians, most of them cannot making a living off their number one love and Rudy became a full-time Special Deputy with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, a job he excelled at from 1964 to 1980. Then he formed Control Security Patrol, his own security agency. Stressed out with numerous problems and headaches, Rudy left that line of work.

“In 1990, I opened this ice house to relax,” Padilla said with a smile. And why not, it opens at 3 p.m. so that enables him to sleep late. It closes at 10:30 p.m. and that’s ideal for his customers so they can go home relaxed, get a good night’s sleep, and be ready for work the next morning. In addition, it affords Padilla an outlet for his conjunto as the Saturday night house band.

Eliminating all his woes and troubles also resulted in the release of Padilla’s creativity as a songwriter and to date, he has recorded four of his own compositions, two in each compact disc – “Pancho Boy,” “El Piscador de San Anton,” “El Westside de San Antonio, Texas en Los 1940s” and “Las Muchachas de Hoy.”

“I was inspired to start writing songs because I love the music of my youth and the stories of San Antonio,” Padilla revealed. “It’s important to document our history through music. That’s why I wrote a tune about what it was like in the 1940s.”

Asked to describe his style, Padilla said, “Conjunto Padilla’s music is laid back al estilo San Antonio, más suavecito and my recording are mixed for a cleaner voice so listeners can understand the words to my easy-going songs.”

Incidentally, Padilla also plays bass, accordion and drums and each Saturday, conjunto musicians gather to jam at Padilla’s Ice House from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Then Conjunto Padilla takes the stage until 11 p.m.

The ice house is located at 8510 New Laredo Highway, so come check them out. For bookings, call Rudy at (210) 927-6444.