Legendary accordionist Paulino Bernal died on Saturday (Sept. 10) at age 83, according to multiple sources. Bernal was best known as a member of the trailblazing group Conjunto Bernal and a Christian evangelist. He left a lasting legacy and major influence on Conjunto and Tejano music.
Rio Grande Valley radio station Super Tejano 102.1 FM announced the news of Bernal’s passing via social media. “It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of an amazing trailblazing accordionist Paulino Bernal, from the well-known Conjunto Bernal,” said the statement. “He had a long musical career and a long list of hits with Conjunto Bernal. Eventually, he became a very well-known and loved Christian Evangelist. Paulino passed at 7:22pm surrounded by the family singing How Great Thou Art. May he Rest in Heavenly Peace.”
MyRGV.com reports Bernal died of lung cancer, which was diagnosed at a late stage, causing him to deteriorate within a few months of its discovery, according to his daughter.
Born June 22, 1939, in Raymondville, Texas, he began his musical career as an accordionist and singer alongside his brother, bajo sexto player, and vocalist, Eloy.
They recorded numerous cassettes and CDs, with hits such as “Mi Único Camino” and “Sentimento Y Rencor.” While the group included a variety of musicians during their 25-year career, it was Paulino and Eloy’s iconic sound that defined them and ultimately solidified Conjunto Bernal as one of the most influential groups in Conjunto’s history I am the Tejana Music.
Aside from his innovative musical style in Conjunto Bernal, his independent record label Bego Records launched the careers of other legends like Los Relámpagos Del Norte’s Ramon Ayala and Cornelio Reyna, Beatriz Llamas, Los Fabulosos Cuatro, Carlos Guzmán, and many, many more, according to non-profit organization Rancho Alegre.
He eventually left secular music in the 1970s and devoted the rest of his life to Christian ministry. In the late ’60s, the Bernal brothers became born-again Christians and made the transition to Gospel music. At the time Paulino founded Bernal Records. His brother Eloy, unfortunately, passed away in a car accident outside Corpus Christi in 1998.
While musicians like Oscar Hernandez continued the Bernal brothers’ legacy of excellence, Paulino devoted himself to Bernal Christian Records and produced a regional television musical program. Now, driven by his newfound faith, Paulino once again resumed his career as an accordionist, only now at the service of Christianity.
Since then, Bernal Christian Records has grown with a whole ministry, radio station, and record label promoting Christian talent and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 2008, Paulino Bernal released what would become his final album, a polkas CD produced by Grammy-winning producer Armando Lichtenberger Jr., The Accordion Master And His Polkas on Urbana Records and received its first Grammy nomination for Best Polka Album at the 51st annual Grammy Awards.
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