Wally González is Conjunto Music’s Iconic Stand-up Comic
He is important because he influenced Nick Villarreal and other novelty singer/songwriters to follow the same music vein. However, the 71-year-old living legend’s roots were in hard core música de acordeon.
González, who was four, when he used to spend all his nickels on the jukebox, says his father played harmonica and that, accompanied by Arturo Garza on guitar, he started playing accordion at school assemblies at twelve.
“I loved music so much, I dropped out of the seventh grade to work with Mario Sáenz of Los Gavilanes,” González said.
The then Weslaco-based group recorded two singles with Ideal – “Tus Recuerdos Estoy Viviendo” and “No Te Vayas Deteniendo” – and the latter was recorded by Los Dinos (Bernal BE-2013) in the mid-sixties.
“This was followed by five to six long-play vinyl 33 1/3 albums at a rate of about one per year and this, plus hits such as ‘La Apasionada,’ ‘Frijolitos Pintos’ and “La Del Moño Colorado,’ which made Billboard’s charts, created a great demand for us to tour all over California at a time when label-mates Los Alegres de Teran were also very hot,” González said.
When not on tour, González worked in the Falcón Records warehouse taking, filling and shipping out orders. Along the way, he fell in love and married the former Rosa Poncio. This union produced Leslie, Abelardo, Beatriz Salinas and Yolanda Ocha.
After Sáenz and he split up in 1966, González formed his own conjunto and started writing novelty tunes that struck a chord with people from the West Coast to Kansas and Florida.
“Vicente Fernández share the same birthday, February 17, 1940, but while his songs make people cry, my tunes make people laugh,” González said with a laugh.
“In the process I named myself ‘Wally’ because what I composed was bilingual and I started writing self-effacing songs such as ‘El Kojak del Valle’ by poking fun of my own lack of hair. I also took popular hits, such as Julio Iglesias’ ‘El Rebelde’ and converted it into a parody tune.”
That’s why many refer to him as the Weird Al Yankovic of conjunto/Tejano music. “Ella Trae Los Pantalones” is his take-off on a Gilbert Pérez based on his own imagination.
“It’s more than comedic lyrics because every line in my songs rhyme. In addition, I also write about real life occurrences and issues, like ‘El Chupacabra’ and ‘La Leyenda del Pajaro Grande,’ a big bird that many people in Eagle Pass and Mexico claim to have seen. What I did for this song is to go to The Monitor, bought all the newspapers containing articles on this mythical bird, read them and turned the news story into a song.
“My thing was to put a smile on people’s faces. People would listen to my songs, laugh out loud and that motivated me to continue write these types of tunes. And many were songs, as ‘Tire Mi Suegra Al Rio,’ they could relate to. I never had a mother-in-law, but if I had, I would have loved her a lot.
Other hits were “Las Crisis,” “El Taco Kid En CB,” “El Cobarde del Condado,” “Las Mujeres y Las Novelas,” “Mi Lowrider” and “Que Me Entierren En Wal Mart” to name a few. No one, no fad, no soap operas, national craze, situation or national chain store was off-limits.
To inject the right tone or feeling in to his tunes, González alternates between six accordions, set to six different tones to sound like organs — including a one-line, nine button old Hohner squeezebox plus a modified tiny toy accordion.
The result is that in 1983, Texas Monthly Magazine did an article on González and this led to David Letterman’s talent coordinator calling to request a promo kit, but that was the extent of it. During his noteworthy career, the conjunto cult hero achieved fame, however fortune eluded him.
“I never had a manager and I can’t say I suffered a few slumps during which I worked as a gas station attendant and I had just enough to live on. Nonetheless, I feel proud of all I have done to make people happy. It’s my therapy and that’s my pay,” González said with a satisfied smile as his hazel-looking brown eyes twinkled with pride.
On a sad note, it is frustrating to know that this music icon – whose heart and soul is into making people happy for half a century — has yet to be inducted into any Tejano or conjunto music hall of fame. Enough said.