Tejano pioneer Roberto “El Primo” Pulido leads this interview with his euphoric energy and is thankful for the opportunity to tell some of the memorable moments of his life story with Tejano Nation.
Pulido feels blessed and grateful to God and his parents for the life they gave him and what they taught him. He proudly states that he is a migrant whose roots lay in Palmitas, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, where his grandparents had a large goat ranch. Pulido emphasizes the importance of our culture and educates us by saying that even though we are from different countries “Somos de la misma mata“. Pulido reinforces that he doesn’t want any of us to forget our roots and wants us to know how important it is to educate our younger generation about our music and heritage.
As Pulido grew up he faced obstacles that at a young age he did not even know he had. He found out after a horrific accident, where he was run over by a vehicle. He obtained severe nerve damage that affected his legs and his hearing, according to his doctor. Learning English for him was almost impossible without a full hearing. Once able to hear, there was not a challenge that could hold him back from his destined future as a pioneer of Tejano music and as a leader and teacher of the newly instilled Bilingual Education program during the 1970s.
In 1973, Pulido graduated from college and also started his own band. He took the less paying job as a teacher instead of a high school band director because it would not allow him to perform with his band due to the marching season schedule conflicting with his performances. During this time, the Bilingual Education Program was also initiated for the first time on his campus. Pulido took the reigns of the Bilingual Education program and due to his attributed success, he trained and educated other teachers that would be running this program in their schools as well. Later he became ill and due to a doctor’s orders, he had to make a heart-wrenching decision. Pulido had to choose between teaching and performing with his band. As we know, he continued his career in music. Pulido did not make a profit from the first two albums. Amazingly so, his third album was a hit and his music career would take him on the ride of his life.
Pulido exclaims, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be meeting with icons. I went from working in the fields picking watermelon and cantaloupes while blasting my favorite music to actually meeting and engaging with music legends that paved the road for us like Tony De La Rosa, Ruben Vela, Steve Jordan, and Ruben Naranjo. Then to coexist and share the stage with icons like Los Alegres De Tiran, Ruben Ramos, Alfonso Ramos, Little Joe, and Ramon Ayala was unbelievable to me.
He mentions that in Edinburg, there is a Walk Of Fame in front of city hall where Stars are dedicated to those who have been a major influence in our culture’s music industry like Freddie Fender, Selena, Laura Canales, The Latin Breed, Little Joe and many more. Pulido states that music has a big impact on society and feels honored to have those experiences that lay true to his heart and he will never forget them as they are a part of who he is.
Roberto Pulido goes on to say that in the late 60s and early 70s accordion music was categorized as “cantina” music. He wanted to elevate accordion music by combining an orchestra style with a conjunto style to make a unique sound of music. At this time, he pioneered the alto saxophone and the tenor saxophone in his band. He originally played the saxophone but because of the difficulty of playing the instrument and singing he took on the twelve-string guitar, “la guitarra doble” he said. He was one of the few playing the instrument in Tejano music at that time. One of the first and most popular songs was “Contigo,” which originated as a ballad. Then there was “Nunca Jamas” and many more that were hits and became popular in both Mexico and in the U.S. He mentions, “We planted something back then and it’s still here”.
This memory brings us to a proud accomplishment for him. The Roberto Pulido Music Scholarship Endowment. Pulido gives back to the community with assistance to young aspiring musicians that are attending the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley (Edinburg and Brownsville). It is necessary to apply and audition for the Roberto Pulido Scholarship Endowment. Pulido simply wants to give back to the young community with this scholarship, especially to those experiencing financial hardship, and most important to help keep our music and culture alive. You may follow the link here.
Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos celebrate 49 years in the music industry in 2022, though he has been performing for a longer period of time back since 1965 at the early age of fifteen. His personal music career spans over 57 years. Roberto Pulido is very proud of his music career as well as his family and heritage.
There is no dream too big for Roberto Pulido, once he sets his mind on something he wants to do, he pursues it. In 2007, Pulido was cast in a film titled Mexican American also starring Damian Chapa (Blood In, Blood Out), and Rachel Hunter (The Benchwarmers). Pulido stated he was intrigued by how films worked and wanted to know and experience it more in detail. He soon learned it took immense dedication as he was called on set for long hours and at any time of the day or night. He is grateful for the experience and feels privileged.
Pulido goes on to share that during the most trifling times of the pandemic, he was out of work for a year and a half. He remembers being called to perform and chose to turn down performances due to the unbelievable and sad death rates due to COVID-19 at that time. Pulido stated, “I’d rather be a live chicken than a dead rooster.”
Even though Pulido has a rich sense of humor, his voice and tone tell a serious story of sadness and fear that most of us can relate to. During this time, he worked on original carved wood pieces. Each is a unique piece and handmade by the legend himself, Roberto “El Primo” Pulido. He is not currently making any new pieces since the dust that rises while making these crafts is damaging to his eyes and he had eye surgery not too long ago. He has made letter openers, back scratchers, and even fishing lures out of deer horns. These pieces are priceless and if you are interested, Pulido does have some pieces available for sale. You may comment below your interest for information on how to purchase.
For the future, Pulido has envisioned writing and arranging an educational culturist music piece that encompasses multiple genres. Pulido plans for this future piece to have a section dedicated to a variety of styles like a symphony, Tejano, Conjunto, Norteño, Mariachi, Boleros, Cumbia, and Country. He aspires to complete this piece so that future generations can study and know where their roots came from. All profits after the cost of production would go to the Roberto Pulido Music Scholarship Endowment to give back to the community and assure our culture and traditions are passed down.
In closing, Roberto ‘El Primo’ Pulido has a message to all and that is to be proud of your roots whatever they are, educate the young generation about our heritage and music, and states that everyone has a special gift and we should use it and share it with others. Some have a gift for music and others have it for different professions and if you are not happy with your career it’s time to make a change. He leaves this saying with us that his father taught him, “Son it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice”. Pulido shares that it’s important to help each other out because no one individual is more important than the other. He ends by saying how grateful he is to all his fans whom he considers family.
To hear Roberto “El Primo Pulido’s story in his own captivating words please listen to the interview below.
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The song is the lead single from highly-anticipated new album from the legendary group due out May 2023.
The song’s theme was the idea of the Tejano Music Awards winner’s past experiences.