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A look back at Tejano frontman Simon Reyes

As a young child living in Weslaco, it was obvious what Simon Reyes intended to do with his life. The son of Simon Sr. and Juanita Reyes, he would grow up having a passion for music. He was influenced by his grandfather, a full time musician, early in his young childhood. While he was still in elementary school in the mid-1950’s, he made his television debut on KRGV’s “The Moulton ‘Ty’ Cobb Show”. This afternoon television program was produced at KRGV studios in Weslaco and aired all across the Rio Grande Valley on the Channel 5 station.

"He would paint fake sideburns and pretend to play a guitar without strings while he sang ‘Hound Dog’," recalls Rudy Reyes, younger brother of Simon. "He would also dance like Elvis and would perform this way on that TV show."

Like various other talented musicians, he never completed school and would eventually drop out in his sophomore year. Music was what he was most interested in.

"He never really had a job, music was [Simon’s] life," Rudy said. "Once he dropped out, he tried to organize himself around musicians."

His first band was named Simon Reyes and The Vikings. That name was eventually changed to being Simon Reyes and The Outlerlimits, which led to his two most well known recordings.

"He cut his first [45] record ‘My Baby Hurts Me’ and ‘Mistake Number Three’ and it gave him a bit of popularity."

Those two songs, original compositions by Simon Reyes, were recorded at McAllen’s Pharaoh Records in the mid 1960’s at a time when they were recording a lot of local popular music from other Valley bands such as Christopher and The Souls, The Playboys of Edinburg, The Headstones and The Cavaliers. The notoriety he gained from those two songs helped him get many opportunities to perform all across the Valley.

He would go on to make another television appearance, this time on KRGV’s “El Valle Alegre Show”. This show was also shot in Weslaco and would showcase local bands from various different genres.

"Just about everyone knew about him back then because they would hear his songs on the radio. Above everything else, his music and his singing was admired by a lot of people here in the Valley, especially in Weslaco, his hometown. Another thing that had to do with his popularity was his charisma."

Simon would eventually head towards Galveston, Houston and New Orleans to continue his unique musical journey. He started up a new band called The Gypsies and that’s where he got some help from an old musician friend of his from San Benito.

"He became very good friends with Freddy Fender when he was just getting going here in the Valley," reflects Rudy Reyes. "When [Simon] was in New Orleans, Freddy Fender would offer him some spots where he used to play but couldn’t play that night and gave [those gigs] to Simon. So him and Simon became really good friends."

His final band was called Simon Reyes and the Bourbon Street Bums. With this group he recorded another one of his most well known compositions, “Mama, Mama” (both English and Spanish versions), for Teardrop Records.

Along with being the frontman and leader to those bands, he also went on the road to play for the band of a South Texas conjunto legend. He toured California and the Southwest with accordionist Ruben Vela, a grand musician who was affectionately known as the “King of the Dance Hall Sound.”

Unfortunately on November of 1973, Simon Reyes was found dead a few blocks near his home in Weslaco due to heroin overdose. We are almost thirty years removed from when he passed away, but he still has a large number of family, friends and fans that fondly remember his musical talents, his charisma and his personality.

"Broken Promise", a local independent feature length film by Eddie Howell, has a character that is based and named after Simon Reyes. This film about a struggling South Texas musician showcases well known musicians Carlos Guzman, Augustin Ramirez, and Sunny Ozuna in their line up of stars. The actor who portrayed "Simon Reyes" in the film was Michael Silva, son of Balde Silva from the 1970’s Rio Grande Valley band Toby Beau. Also, the soundtrack of the film features the Simon Reyes classic "Mistake Number Three".

The opening screening of this film in October of 2010 lead the City of Weslaco to show their enthusiasm for Simon Reyes. On October 3rd, 2010, the City of Weslaco declared that day “Simon Reyes Day” and awarded his family the key to the city and a plaque that reads, “Simon Reyes. Rio Grande Valley Rock and Roll Legend.”

Since that day, Rudy has made it an annual tradition to celebrate that life and career of his brother every October. He has family, friends, and musicians over at his place as they pay tribute to Simon Reyes. Rudy is always welcoming new people to join him for this special tradition.

"Dynamic, complex, talented, and a one of a kind person," Rudy says about his older brother. "His life was so interesting."

(Source: themonitor.com)

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