by Chris Conde
I’ll admit, when I was younger, I didn’t really like or appreciate Conjunto and Tejano music. It was like “why do have to listen to this old people music?” My cousins and I (like most kids our age) were getting into artists like Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony and TLC.
But summers spent in San Benito growing up yielded plenty of opportunities for the accordion-forward genre to score any number of occasions. From every get-together after mass at our grandparent's house, or even just picking up pan dulce from the local panaderia, conjunto and tejano music just sort of comes with the territory if you grew up in South Texas.
It wasn’t 'til I was maybe in my twenties and moved back to Texas did I start to “get” the music that reminded me of the Valley and helped me rediscover my roots. Today I appreciate the musicianship, and the narratives from folks that share our common Tex-Mex heritage.
On Sunday, July 30 tejano and conjunto legend Nick “El Nicky Snick” Villarreal passed away after being hospitalized the day before for cardiac arrest. The 66-year-old had been diagnosed with diabetes and was undergoing dialysis in the past couple years.
This singer and accordion player was known for his “unmistakable, easy-going goofy cumbias,” and wrote songs about everything from Saddam Hussein (“El Saddam Huessein”) to Kool-Aid (“Koolaid Con Hielo”) and even to former pro-golfer Tiger Woods (“El Tiger Woods”).
Villarreal learned how to play the accordion at 5-years-old through his grandfather James Zimmerle and eventually started his own conjunto with brothers Roger, David and cousin, David Zimmerle.
A public viewing and service will be held on Thursday, August 3, with a funeral on Friday August 4. Details below.