Today in 1922 the great conjunto accordionist Juan Lopez was born in Jackson County, Texas. He was known as "El Rey de la Redova". And it was true, he could play redovas like few others. Fast, articulate, and powerful, he has always been one of my favorite accordionists. He played very traditional style, very fast, and in forms that have fallen out of common nowadays.

Through a weird quirk of fate, I came across Juan Lopez's recordings almost exactly 20 years ago and it was his early work with Ideal Records that first introduced me to conjunto music. I was lucky enough to hear the best stuff first! Since conjunto has become a central focus of my listening, music making, and scholarly research, I feel a great debt to El Rey.

Interesting fact: Juan Lopez had 16 children and 49 grandchildren when he died in 2008.

When I was in San Antonio just recently I was fortunate to meet Felipe Perez, who played bajo with Juan Lopez while growing up and learned his specific style, and who is now a true master accordionist himself.  Perez has a a video of him playing with Juan Lopez that I am supposed to get sometime, and I am very interested in seeing some live footage, which is extremely rare.

There is quite a bit of Felipe Perez on youtube, fortunately.  Here is Felipe Perez playing accordion on a redova himself, a very similar style to Juan Lopez, and here a truly fantastic quick polka. He is an incredible player himself, every bit the musician as Juan Lopez.  I am looking forward to hearing him play more when I return to San Antonio.  Perez is so good that a few years ago when Santiago Jimenez, Jr . heard him play live on KEDA, the conjunto station in San Antonio, he called the station to find out who was playing the accordion. The two soon thereafter recorded a cd with Felipe on accordion and Santiago on bajo. It is great, as you'd expect.

When I was in I was arriving at Santiago's recently, I walked up to the studio door to hear some fine accordion playing. Opening the door I find Felipe and Santiago playing together. A truly magical moment, not least because it was so unexpected.


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