Gilbert Esparza

Damian Gilbert Esparza, Jr. was born in 1951 and grew up in Lamesa, Texas. He taught himself to play the button-type accordion at a very young age. He was so determine to learn as much as possible from this new found “toy”, that he would dash home from elementary school to practice on his used accordion. He played the same simple tunes over and over, mimicking the bands on the radio. This annoyed everyone around his house; so, he often practiced outside in the yard, on a concrete bench in front of the corner grocery store or on his grandmother's porch.
As time went by, fortunately for his family, his playing improved and he began playing with older, seasoned musicians at weekend parties held in farmhouses around the Lamesa.
Gilbert eventually joined the band, "El Conjunto Revival" which performed at these same type weekend farmhouse parties. The band broke up after one of the band members suffered severe burns to his hands in an accident and another moved away.
When Gilbert was only 17 and still attending Lamesa High School, he was also performing with David Barraza, Mario Bustos and Ramon Aguilar in the band, "El Conjunto Laurel." The group recorded an album with Elena Records of Odessa, Texas and gained notoriety that eventually took them to dance halls in New Mexico and Arizona.
The album also generated a growing fan base, which led to the band performing live on television in Lubbock and Big Spring, Texas, and on local radio with Mr. Ray Gonzales on KPET in Lamesa. El Conjunto Laurel was honored as the first band to ever perform at the legendary Fronterizo ballroom, in Lubbock, formerly known as Las Palmas Ballroom.
After El Conjunto Laurel broke up, Gilbert and other young Lamesa musicians formed an orchestra. called "La Guerra," led by Pete Gonzales “The Rock.” La Guerra recorded several 45’s on their own La Guerra Records at Lubbock’s Caldwell Studios. After enjoying some years of local popularity, La Guerra also broke up.
Gilbert then began playing with La Fuerza, which recorded a single with San Antonio label Teardrop. After a brief stint, La Fuerza dissolved, but some of its members, including Gilbert, form "Mi Tequila," in the late 70s.Their album "Mi Tequila 80," on ZAZ/Joey Records, catapulted them into local popularity. A year later, Mi Tequila recorded their second album, "Deja Estrecharte En Mis Brazos," with Freddie records based in Corpus Christi Texas. The third album, "Mi Tequila," with Joey Records a few years later, helped Mi Tequila step into the spotlight, getting invitations to open for some of the top Chicano groups of that era.
Mi Tequila lasted more than eight years together, until the mid-eighties when Gilbert decided to stop playing and heal after suffering injuries in an industrial accident.
Gilbert is now a deejay and program director for KEJS-FM in Lubbock.
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