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ALONZO, FRANCISCO [FRANK]

Frank Alonzo with Alonzo y Sus Rancheros
Frank Alonzo (far right) performs with his wife Ventura (with the accordion) in Alonzo y Sus Rancheros. Ventura Alonzo Collection. Texas Music Museum.

ALONZO, FRANCISCO [FRANK] (1908-1997). Francisco (Frank) Alonzo, co-founder with Ventura Alonzo, of Alonzo y Sus Rancheros, was born in San Antonio on January 28, 1908. The family owned a small ranch that he helped maintain outside the city.

Alonzo, who taught himself to play the guitar, left his hometown for Houston in 1927 and settled in the Magnolia Park neighborhood, where the city’s “mexicano culture emerged.” In the late 1920s he met Tejana accordionist and pianist Ventura Martínez, who reportedly taught him to play the bajo sexto. They married in 1931 and began to play music together in 1935. Eventually they organized Alonzo y Sus Rancheros which began performing in 1938. The group evolved in the 1940s first into a five-piece outfit and eventually into a ten-member band known as Alonzo y su Orquesta. The re-invented group blended its ranchera music origins with an Afro-Hispanic style and added boleros, cumbias, and mambo to its repertoire. During that decade, the band recorded with Falcón Records in McAllen. In the 1950s it recorded with Rio Records in San Antonio and Alameda Records in Houston and went on to work with AC Records in the 1960s.

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With this popular orquesta, Alonzo performed at weddings, receptions, and weekend dances. The band appeared in Houston at the American Legion, Union Hall, El Tropical, Salon Juarez, and Blossom Heath, where its audience included Anglo patrons. The orquesta also entertained in Austin, Fort Worth, Kingsville, and in dozens of other locations across the state. With Ventura, Alonzo opened La Terraza Ballroom on 1515 McCarty Drive in Houston in 1956. There, Alonzo y su Orquesta served as the “house band” and opened shows for Flaco Jiménez, Valerio Longoría, and other Tejano musicians. His two sons, Frank Jr. and Alonzo, also became accomplished musicians and performed with the orquesta.

As a young man in the 1930s, Alonzo helped establish the “vibrant atmosphere” that marked the world of music in Houston. Moreover, throughout his thirty-year career, he contributed to the popularity of Tejano music in the city and elsewhere across the state of Texas.

Even after his retirement from playing professionally in 1969, he continued to entertain senior citizens at Centro Alegre in Houston’s Denver Harbor community. Frank Alonzo died on September 1, 1997, in Houston.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Frank and Ventura Alonzo Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Natalie Garza, “Desde Conjunto to Chingo Bling: Mexican American Music and Musicians in Houston,” Houston History 11 (No. 1). Deborah Vargas, Dissonant Divas: The Limits of La Onda (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Teresa Palomo Acosta

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Teresa Palomo Acosta, "Alonzo, Francisco [Frank]," accessed November 19, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal94.

Uploaded on January 28, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.