Michael Guerra: Accordionist At Home In Texas' Musical Menudo
The Tex-Mex Experience, featuring Michael Guerra (left)
Photos by Cheryl Sahm/ myspace.com/michaelguerramusic
At 29, San Antonio accordionista Michael Guerra has built quite a resume, playing with Texmaniacs, the Tex-Mex Experience, Texas Tornados, the Krayolas and Rick Trevino. Not bad for an Angeleno who came to San Antonio for an accordion festival and ended up deep in South Texas' musical menudo.
Guerra's latest gig is as accordion/bajo sexto player for former Maverick Raul Malo, whose tour stops at House of Blues' Bronze Peacock Room Saturday. And Guerra couldn't be happier.
"I'm learning so much working with Raul because his musical knowledge and taste is so wide," he says. "He's teaching me a lot."
Malo recalls his compadre, country singer Rick Trevino, telling him about Guerra. After seeing Guerra in Trevino's band, Malo invited Guerra to sit in at his solo gig at Casbeer's in San Antonio.
"He just said to come on out, bring my accordion," recalls Guerra. "No rehearsal or anything, we just sat down and did it. And it turned out to be one of the most magical nights I can remember."
The gig went so well that Malo invited Guerra to accompany him on some dates on his solo tour because, says the former Mavericks singer, "I was getting kinda bored playing by myself and because that Casbeer's show went so great."
Malo also brought the young musical whiz to Austin to add accordion to his new album, Sinners & Saints, which contains a wide mix of country, Tex-Mex rock and Latino music. On Sir Douglas Quintet homage "San Antonio Baby," Malo clearly calls out "ah, Michael" as Guerra charges through the accordion solo.
"That's one of my favorite tracks," says Guerra. "It's so San Antonio, so south Texas." Malo is currently working with Guerra on his own record.
"I went up to Nashville for rehearsals and we recorded a few tracks at Raul's home studio," says Guerra, whose father was a noted conjunto band leader in Los Angeles, having played with greats like Flaco Jimenez and Valerio Longoria in the '60s.
"Those guys would come into L.A. and call my father," recalls Guerra. "And my dad would say, 'oh, no, we're not really good enough,' and Flaco would say 'just come and jam with me.' It was just a weekend thing with my dad, playing parties and little clubs. But he passed on his love of music to me."
Guerra, whose father was originally from Brownsville, began playing drums in his father's band when he was 12 years old. At 14, his dad bought him an accordion and Guerra became obsessed with the instrument.
"I practiced all the time," he laughs. "I'm completely self-taught, so it took a couple of months before I started to make sense out of it. After about a year I was good enough to play with people."
After a visit to San Antonio for the annual Conjunto Festival landed him a brief gig with legendary Ruben Ramos, Guerra got so many invitations to play that he immediately moved to San Antonio after his high school graduation.
"I don't regret it at all," Guerra beams enthusiastically. "The tradition is rich, and there are great bands and players all over south Texas. I feel like I'm just getting started."
8 p.m. Saturday, October 2, House of Blues (Bronze Peacock Room), 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.
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