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PÉREZ, ELOY NUÑEZ

PÉREZ, ELOY NUÑEZ (1923–1996). Born into a large musical family, Eloy Pérez developed into one of the leading Mexican-American bandleaders out of Houston in the post-World War II period. He enjoyed an active career into the 1990s.

Eloy Nuñez Pérez was born on December 2, 1923, in Bastrop, Texas, to Tranquilino Pérez and Caroline Nuñez. By his early teens he was proficient on the banjo, guitar, trombone, and saxophone and joined one of his brothers in a band in their hometown. The brothers’ musical activities continued when the family relocated to Rosenberg, Texas, in 1937 and then in 1944 to Houston, where Eloy joined a country and western band.

The band Eloy Pérez and the Latinaires, established in 1949 and renamed Eloy Pérez y Sus Latinos in the 1960s, was at the forefront of a dynamic Mexican-American orchestra/big band scene in Houston during this era. His older brothers—Felipe, Sisto, and Locaido—were mainstays in the band, which routinely toured regionally in Texas, setting it apart from most other Mexican-American big bands in Houston of the period.

Beginning in 1954, Pérez and his groups made more than 100 studio recordings, including a regional hit in 1955, “El Cha Cha Cha de Eloy,” which helped solidify the band’s popularity. He is credited with composing more than 200 songs, including 1960s “Cuidadito Cuidadito,” which was later covered by Little Joe y La Familia.

Eloy Pérez’s principal instrument was the saxophone, which he played in a smooth, soft style described by his fellow musicians as saxophone romantico. Known locally as the “Glenn Miller of Latin American hipsters,” Pérez and his brothers exerted influence on young musicians coming up in the 1960s, and Eloy’s charts were used in the renowned band program of that era at Jeff Davis High School in Houston’s near north side.

Eloy Pérez’s groups performed extensively at quinceañeras, weddings, important holiday and social events, and community benefits. In later years, many former wedding clients rehired the band for important anniversaries. The Jeff Davis Latino Alumni Dance in August 1995 was his last performance.

His marriage to Virginia Garza on May 1, 1942, produced one daughter, Gloria Pérez Fernández, of Houston. Pérez, a Catholic, died in Houston on March 19, 1996, and his widow died on April 29, 2008; both are buried at Houston’s Brookside Memorial Park. He was inducted into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame (Alice, Texas) in 2007.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dorothy F. Caram, Anthony G. Dworkin, Nestor Rodriguez, eds., Hispanics in Houston and Harris County, 1519-1986: A Sesquicentennial Celebration (Houston: Houston Hispanic Forum, 1989). Houston Chronicle, March 21, 1996. Eloy Pérez Family Collection, Mexican American Collections, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Manuel Peña, The Mexican American Orquesta: Music, Culture, and the Dialectic of Conflict (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999).

Steve Sucher

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Handbook of Texas Online, Steve Sucher, "PÉrez, Eloy NuÑez ," accessed December 11, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpe94.

Uploaded on June 3, 2015. Modified on August 17, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.