Grammy winning Tejano accordion player Sunny Sauceda doesn’t need to wear gloves to keep his hands warm while playing flea markets, as he did as a kid, but he’s not about to stop.
Progressing from cheap cotton gloves that he could cut the thumb and forefinger out of to play the bajo sexto, a bass guitar, he found himself looking at athletic gloves in a Walmart, and for more than warmth.
“They’ll remember the guy with the glove, I thought,” the San Antonio native recalled in a phone interview from his New Braunfels home. “I was marketing before marketing was cool.”
It didn’t hurt, either, that he was a fan of rock band Mötley Crüe, whose lead singer Nikki Sixx wore gloves. Rock was cool, too, and far from off-limits when it came to his musical influences.
“I’m a rocker trapped in an accordion-playing body,” he laughed.
Gloves might be part of his look, but it’s Sauceda’s nimble fingers on the accordion and his love for entertaining fans young and old that have led to two 2005 Grammy Awards and his star status in the Tejano world.
He and his seven-piece band Todo Eso bring all that Saturday night when they headline “Tejano on the Avenue” at the Waco Hippodrome with Dallas Tejano band Conjunto Prestigio and DJs Suavesito and Celly Cel, hosts of “Mas Tejano” on Waco radio station KBHT-HD4 (La Mejor, 106.1).
Expect a lively, wide-ranging show played to an audience with broad musical tastes. “It’s meat-and-potatoes Tejano, some country, rock, R&B,” Sauceda said. “It’s going to be fun . . . We’re a show band and there aren’t many of those in our genre these days.”
Getting started early
Playing to an audience came early to Sauceda, whose father led a conjunto group in San Antonio. He remembers childhood nights where he would curl up with a blanket and pillow behind the bass amplifier onstage and sleep; by age 5, he was singing with the band, then later picked up the guitar, the bajo sexto and, midway in his teens, the accordion.
“It was like a machine to me. ‘How do you make it go?’ ” he said. Sauceda tinkered enough to learn how to play on his own, all the while absorbing the mix of rock ’n’ roll, country and Mexican-American conjunto music — the building blocks of Tejano — around him. “It was rock during the week with my friends and conjunto on weekends with my dad,” he said.
He was 17 when he got his break on accordion. Auditioning for the bajo sexto spot in Eddie Gonzales’ band, Sauceda arrived early for his audition spot and got a chance to audition on accordion when the accordion player didn’t show up on time. The self-taught player won the spot, the start to a career that has made him, gloves or no gloves, one of the top accordion players in Tejano music, progressing from the lead of the band Grupo Vida to his solo career.
“As I tell people, if you’re on time, you’re late,” he said.