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This Week in Texas Music History: Camilo Cantú

Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember an influential accordion player who never recorded a note.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Camilo Cantú was born on March 4, 1907, in Nuevo León, Mexico. He moved to Texas as a boy and began performing accordion in the Austin area around 1930. Originally, he played with friends simply as a way to relax after a long day of working in the cotton fields. However, by the 1940s, Cantú was the premier conjunto accordionist in Austin nightclubs. As a contemporary of conjunto pioneers Narciso Martínez and Santiago Jiménez, Sr., Cantú earned the nickname “El Azote de Austin,” or “the Scourge of Austin.” Although he never recorded, Cantú influenced several Tejano musicians, most notably Johnny Degollado.

Camilo Cantú retired from playing clubs in the 1960s and operated an accordion repair shop in his home. He was inducted into the Conjunto Hall of Fame in 1987 and died in Austin in 1998.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a trumpet player whose career included some real twists and turns.