The Birth of Balde Gonzalez

This Week in Texas Music History we meet one of the swankiest bandleaders to ever hail from Beeville, Texas.

Written by Jason Mellard, Avery Armstrong and Alan Schaefer

Balde Gomez is Born

Jason Mellard

On May 30, 1928, orquesta bandleader Baldemar “Balde” González was born in Beeville, fifty miles north of Corpus Christi. Gonzalez was sightless since birth and attended the Texas School for the Blind in Austin from the age of eight. The curriculum at the state’s blind schools encouraged a classical education in music, counting among their alumni gospel pianist Arizona Dranes, honky-tonk songsmith Leon Payne, and Austin’s “King of the Whistlers” Fred Lowery.

It was there that Gonzalez learned piano, saxophone, clarinet, and violin. He then returned to Beeville where he formed his first professional orquesta and began recording for the Melco and Ideal record labels in nearby Corpus and Alice. 

Balde Gonzalez (Center) among bandmates

Balde’s orquesta performed foxtrots, ballads, and boleros, with nods to smooth jazz and ballroom standards. He sang with a buttery baritone croon. Tejano music scholar Manuel Peña described Gonzalez’s music as jaitón, a “sophisticated, urban repertoire and orchestration” that gained popularity with an upwardly mobile, bilingual South Texas middle class. 

Balde González’s contributions to música tejana slowed in the 1960s, as the popularity of his jaitón style gave way to the funk countercultures of la onda chicana with Little Joe and Sunny Ozuna. But, he remained active as a solo pianist at hotels and bars in greater Houston until his passing in 1974. Balde González is remembered today as an innovative bandleader and recording artist in South Texas who emerged from the rich musical community of the Texas Schools for the Blind and Visually Impaired. 


Michael Corcoran, Ghost Notes: Pioneering Spirits of Texas Music. Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2020.

Erica Gish and Laurie E. Jasinski in Laurie E. Jasinski, Gary Hartman, Casey Monahan, and Ann T. Smith, eds. The Handbook of Texas Music. Second Edition. Denton, TX: Texas State Historical Association, 2012.

James W. Markham and Paulette Delahoussaye, “Texas School For the Blind and Visually Impaired,” Handbook of Texas Online,

Manuel Peña, Musica Tejana: The Cultural Economy of Artistic Transformation. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1999.

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