Santiago “Jimmy” Jimenez Jr. hails from a long lineage of groundbreaking musicians. His legendary father, Santiago Jimenez, Sr. is credited as the “Father of Modern Conjunto Music” and his brother, two-time GRAMMY award-winning Flaco Jimenez, has taken the traditional accordion Conjunto Music making it contemporary by adding in saxophone and guitar for artists like Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones.
Santiago, Jr. has recorded for dozens of legendary Texas record labels over the years — storied labels such as Disco Grande, Lira, Corona, D.L.B., and, most recently, Shotgun House. Jimmy’s first recording session dates back to around 1960 with Disco Grande. In fact, the label owner and producer, Mel Moran was the first to market him as “Santiago Jimenez Jr.”
“People said I played like my father, that I had his style,” he recalls. “That’s why they started calling me Santiago Jimenez Jr.”
After 60 years of writing and recording thousands of songs in San Antonio, a 2015 National Medal of Arts Award presented to him by President Barack Obama, and two Grammy nominations, it is hard to fathom which roads, or “calles,” Santiago Jr. has yet to travel down. For his new album, “Still Kicking,” El Chief (as he is also known) selected a few songs dating back to the early days of his career. One that he recorded at the age of 16 during his first recording session with Moran at the TNT studio, “Que Chulos Ojos,” is by legendary songwriter Juan Gaytan.
The debut single, “Al Mirar Tu Cara,” is a song popularized by his father, Don Santiago Jimenez, the original El Flaco. Although Don Santiago never recorded the song, it was in his repertoire during his live performances.
“My dad would play it at his dances, it was a great song I remember him singing, it’s a song about seeing a pretty face that you cannot forget,” he recalls.
It wasn’t until 1978 that Jimmy decided to put the song on wax as his first recording session for Salomé Gutierrez. It was released under a tiny demo label named Akron.
The song “Como Una Granada” dates back to a highly sought-after recording by Santiago and his brother Flaco as teenagers, an LP titled El Rey y El Principe De La Musica Norteña (produced by Jose Morante). In fact, this new album includes a handful of tracks from the early years of Santiago’s career and even a few that Flaco recorded back in his youth as well. Also included are familiar conjunto classics such as “Brincando Cercas” and “El Chisme,” which were on heavy rotation back in the ‘70s, heard on jukeboxes and radio stations played down old Highway 90.
Now, 42 years later, at the age of 78, he’s decided to pull this great cancion off the dusty shelf and record it again. Captured on this album is the hard-driving conjunto music that was at its peak in the early 1960s. The vision with “Still Kicking” was to record the conjunto sound that was filling dancefloors on El Westside of San Antone years ago. Grammy Award-winning Max Baca on bajo sexto and Noel Hernandez on tololoche (upright bass), both from the band Los Texmaniacs, helped bring together a sound that is as authentic to San Antonio as enjoying a plate of enchiladas and drinking a Pearl down on the Riverwalk while wearing a freshly pressed shirt from Penners. (Yes, it is that legit).
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