- Cathy Ragland
(b Raymondville, TX, June 22, 1939). American accordionist, songwriter, and producer. Texas-Mexican musician Paulino Bernal led the highly influential and innovative El Conjunto Bernal, formed in 1952 with his older brother Eloy on bajo sexto. The Kingsville-based group became one of the top conjuntos in South Texas. By 1955, they were making records for Ideal Records, accompanying many of its artists. Bernal was influenced by early recordings of accordion pioneers such as Narciso Martínez and Tony de la Rosa; however, he was also interested in Latin dance genres like the bolero, son, and cha cha cha played by orquestas and Mexican trios. Bernal had his conjunto perform in suits, rather than the typical western attire, and they began to set regional rancheras and corridos to these pan-Latin rhythms, showcasing rich, three-part harmonies and a versatile chromatic accordion. “Mi único camino” (My Only Path) was one of the most popular songs in this style. The new sound attracted upwardly-mobile Mexican Americans who had shunned traditional accordion-based conjuntos. In the 1960s, Bernal (with Víctor González) formed Bego Records and became a skilled producer. He added a second accordionist to the group, Oscar Hernandez, which allowed for more complex arrangements and expanded compositional possibilities. Bernal abandoned the label and his group in the 1970s and became an evangelical preacher, recording and performing only Christian music. In ...