Earlier this month, when Dutch homebuilder and proud parent William Verheyden filled out a survey for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, he answered the question, “How did you hear about the Tejano Conjunto Festival?” by simply writing, “Friend of Flaco Jimenez.”
While this is a true statement, it leaves out an important component in his son’s band’s cinematic journey from the Netherlands to Texas, where Dwayne and the TexMeXplosion played the 29th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival earlier this month.
Back in 2008, while working as Flaco Jimenez’s manager, Amie Victoria Castillo made an exciting discovery: a 16-year-old boy had somehow mastered a handful of Jimenez’s classics and was playing them in the village of Montfort, Limburg. “I introduced him to Flaco in 2008. We were touring Europe — you know Flaco is an idol over there — and I encouraged him to go hear Dwayne, and eventually to record with him. … I knew Dwayne would be a star,” recalled Castillo. “I worked with him day and night. … I brought the band here to play two shows the following year (at the Cadillac Bar and Ruben’s Place). … And I recommended him to the Tejano Conjunto Festival as well as the International Accordion Festival.”
As one might imagine, being removed entirely from the equation after spending weeks — working pro bono — in the Netherlands teaching the band Spanish, song lyrics, and ways to market their music in the U.S. and Mexico — including the basics of social networking — hurts a lot. “I’m not happy with the way things turned out,” Castillo said. “But I wish Dwayne the best — and he really is good. I believed in him, and that’s why I spent all those hours making overseas phone calls, helping the family learn better English, and trying to protect everyone’s interests by changing studios when they went to record an album. … But no one listened to me. So (two years later), the first album (which includes one song recorded with Flaco Jimenez in the Netherlands) was never released.”
After recording their second album at SA’s Bluecat Studios — a still-untitled release produced by Max Baca of the Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs, that, according to William Verheyden, will only be available in the Netherlands — Dwayne and the TexMeXplosion were in top form and easily won over the somewhat skeptical-looking crowd assembled in Rosedale Park May 15 by belting out charming renditions of classic Flaco tunes in adorably broken Spanish. These youngsters, backed by a significantly older drummer named Jacque Schoonens, positively beamed with wonky, innocent smiles that looked as foreign as Dwayne’s accent sounded as he introduced each song. Repeating what he’d told me the previous night, when he was at Saluté to hear Esteban Jordan, Dwayne told the crowd: “People keep telling us that they’re honored that we play Tejano music, but it’s us who feel honored to be able to play it.”
I caught up with William Verheyden, who also acts as manager for the band, while the band posed for photos with a brand-new crop of fans — ones who had recently gone from looking slightly confused to cheering and dancing.
“When my wife got pregnant with Dwayne, she agreed to let me join a shooting club in our village. One of the friends I made in this club introduced me to Flaco’s music, and it completely changed my life. So, Dwayne grew up listening to Flaco,” William explained.
Listening to it seems to be somewhat of an understatement — Dwayne has even used the word “infected” to describe his relationship to Jimenez’s music. Rolling a cigarette, William watched his son autographing programs and continued, “When we enrolled Dwayne in drum camp, they asked him, ‘Which instrument would you like to learn? The drums, or the flute?’ When Dwayne answered, ‘The accordion,’ they said it wouldn’t be possible — they just didn’t have one.”
Evidently they found one. Dwayne started playing a piano accordion at age 7, later moving on to a button accordion, and then a flashy Hohner Corona. After Dwayne was “discovered” by Castillo, Jimenez went so far as to adjust the inner workings of Dwayne’s accordion so he could further emulate his sound. What could possibly follow such a dream come true? Dwayne is now sponsored by Hohner and plays a Corona II Flaco Jimenez Signature Model.
When I asked Schoonens if he could get the band together for a quick photo op (which ended up being invaded by dozens of ruthless paparazzi-in-the-making), he replied, “Leave it to the old guy to assemble the gang.” I tried several times to get Dwayne alone to ask him a few questions, but fans kept arriving. “Let me just put my accordions away,” he offered. “And then we can talk.”
I waited, chatting with his father on a park bench and listening to Honorio Imamura, who traveled from Japan to play the festival. Forty minutes later, I spotted Dwayne near the park entrance. Still carrying accordions (and still flanked by fans), he said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll be right with you.” Realizing that this kid was having the time of his life, I responded, “That’s OK, your Dad answered most of my questions. But when are you guys coming back to San Antonio?” With a big smile, he looked up from the program he was signing and said, “Very soon I hope.” •
Dwayne and the TexMeXplosion’s new album will be available for purchase through Holland’s T2 Entertainment (t2entertainment.nl) later this year. Stay tuned to dwayne-verheyden.nl for a release date and news about upcoming appearances.