This footage captures scenes of the equipment and studio of Ideal Records at Rio Grande Music Company in San Benito, Texas. In this segment, former employee Abelardo Garcia, 73 at the time of this taping, demonstrates how the record press operated and the various types of vinyl records it could produce. This excerpt is from a taping of a full tour of the Rio Grande Music Company.
The Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum, founded in 2001, is part of the Museums of San Benito, the birthplace of conjunto music. The museum works to promote, preserve, archive, document, and display the history of regional conjunto music by honoring those who create it. Detailed information on the instruments used in conjunto music, their cultural origins, and stories of San Benito's legendary music institutions such as "La Villita" dance hall and the Rio Grande Music Company, home of Ideal Records, are among the featured exhibits. One exhibit is dedicated to accordionist Narciso Martínez and bajo sexto player Santiago Almeida, considered the "Fathers" of regional conjunto music. Ethnomusicologists credit them with fusing European accordion rhythms with Mexican roots musica ranchera (ranch music). As representatives of what has been called "working man's music", our premier conjunto personalities, and their spirits, live on in the Rio Grande Valley of deep South Texas at the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame & Museum. (from the museum website)
IDEAL Records is an iconic music label for Mexican-American music that operated from 1946 until 1960. IDEAL was owned by Armando Marroquín and Paco Betancourt in Alice, Texas. Marroquín made all the recordings in the studio, and Betancourt manufactured and distributed the records throughout the U.S. and Mexico. Ethnic and regional musicians had largely been dropped from record labels during the war years when supplies to press vinyl were under restriction. Frustrated with the lack of regional music available, Marroquín began recording local artists, and the record industry boomed as workers returned home from war and America entered its lucrative Golden Age. IDEAL launched the careers of many key conjunto and Tejano artists, including Narciso Martinez, Beto Villa, Tony de la Rosa, Valerio Longoria, El Conjunto Bernal, and later, Freddy Fender. The albums produced on IDEAL helped shape the sound of conjunto by making the accordion standard instrumentation and integrating polka instrumentals with ranchera lyrics. The conjunto sound we know today is largely owed to IDEAL, which remained the largest and most influential Mexican-American recording label in the Southwest until the 1960s. In 1960, Marroquín founded a new record company, Nopal Records, and Betancourt continued to press and distribute IDEAL recordings in his new studio at Rio Grand Music Company in San Benito, Texas. Arhoolie Records owner Chris Strachwitz now owns the IDEAL masters and has preserved the historical recordings for future generations.