Pick any genre – rap, rock, pop, folk, country, whatever you like. Can you think of an artist from that genre that was inducted into its hall of fame without any recordings released? And if one were to exist, what would that say about the artist’s impact, influence and importance? Is this scenario even possible? Born 1929 in San Antonio, TX, Martin Huron Solis, Jr. and his family came to Michigan in 1942as migrant farmworkers and soon settled in the Detroit area. The Solis family was part of a wave of migration during the 1940s that brought thousands of Texas-born Mexican-Americans, along with their culture, north.
Though he played guitar from an early age, Solis eventually fell in love with conjunto music, a South Texas style defined by the combination of accordion and bajo sexto, a Mexican twelve-string bass guitar. He taught himself to play the bajo sexto and joined up with accordionist Manuel Rivera, playing for tips in bars around Southwest Detroit, the heart of Detroit’s Mexican-American community. In the late-1950s, he and his cousin Willy Huron, a saxophonist, formed Conjunto Los Primos (“The Cousins”), at the time one of only a handful of conjuntos in the Midwest. Solis became a favorite in Detroit based on a vast repertoire of songs he compiled by following the latest hits coming up from Texas.
Their musical style was more complex than the conjunto label suggests. The inclusion of Solis’s cousin Willy on saxophone blurs the line between working class conjunto music and the more middle class orquesta tejana, which includes more sophisticated string or horn sections.
Likewise, they played a couple of polcas, the primary song form of the conjunto tradition, but also lean more toward styles like boleros and rancheras, song forms with roots in Cuba and Mexico. Solis’s vocal
performance, too, showcases a fuller sound more in line with ranchera singers like Vicente Fernandez and Jorge Negrete than the thinner vocal tradition of conjunto style.
Fast forward to modern day—Solis is now part of this seldom seen echelon of artists who released no records in their lifetime and still was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame. The power of his live performances and trailblazing creativity in blending styles with educated nuance gave him significant credit among peers and critics alike. This power, coupled with the intrigue of Tejano music thriving so far north of the Rio Grande, has made his 2018 induction into the Tejano ROOTS Hall of Fame—previous inductees of which include pioneers such as Narciso Martinez, El Conjunto Bernal, Beto Villa and Tejano superstars like Selena — that much more special and rare and puts Mr. Solis soundly in a class of his own.
Mr. Solis sadly passed the year after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, but it was during this time that Solis’s son Frank discovered a grocery bag containing forgotten reel-to-reel tapes of his father’s home-recorded music while helping declutter his attic. Frank took the tapes to his childhood friend (and production manager at Third Man Pressing) Eddie Gillis. Gillis, who was impressed with the recordings and quality of the preserved tapes, shared them with the team at Third Man. It became quickly apparent that this document of music was an historic artifact that needed to be heard. Amazingly, while still with us, Solis was able to finally hear and hold the legacy of his music on vinyl, as his test pressings were delivered for final review.
As a natural fit with Third Man’s broad interest in the preservation of music history, Third Man Records is humbled to release the first ever recordings of Tejano pioneer Martin Solis.