FEBRUARY 21, 2022 — While Detroit has its Motown and New Orleans its Dixieland, San Antonio can claim its own unique style of music, known as the West Side Sound. An enduring fusion of jazz, R&B and Tejano music, the West Side Sound exploded onto the scene in the early 1950s, growing out of the community for which it’s named: San Antonio’s West Side.
Now, two professors from the UTSA Department of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality Studies are studying and preserving this heritage as a record of the past and an inspiration for future generations. Assistant professor Sylvia Mendoza and co-director of the Mexican American Studies Teacher’s Academy Gloria Vásquez Gonzáles have been awarded $5,000 through UTSA’s Westside Community Partnerships Initiative for their project titled “The West Side Sound Oral History Project.”
Both women have a deep personal connection to the history of the West Side Sound. From the beginning, Gonzáles was immersed in the music and the culture.
“When everybody was listening to the Beatles and everything else, I was still listening to Tejano. For me, that’s always been my music,” she said. “That’s how I got my Chicano history at the very beginning, through the music.” She would later work in music publishing and managing, careers that inspired her to pursue her Ph.D. and document the experiences of the women who worked behind the scenes in the music industry.
Mendoza, whose father was a musician, grew up listening to her mother describe the music.
“They didn’t know it as the West Side Sound then as they were living it,” she said. “She just knew it was the dudes from the neighborhood, musicians from the area who were getting together and playing Motown songs.”
From the 1950s to the 1970s, San Antonio was the place to be for new and exciting music. Highway 90 served as a corridor to New Orleans, bringing jazz, swamp pop and zydeco sounds from Louisiana. At the same time, San Antonio’s military tradition meant that servicemembers, especially African Americans from places like Detroit, Chicago, and New York, mingled with San Antonio’s Latino population.
And mingle they did, as Mendoza notes. “The Keyhole Club is noted as one of the first desegregated clubs in San Antonio,” she said, “and so there was a confluence of Black folks, Latinos, and white folks that would show up to the club.”
Such clubs served as both cultural hubs and musical melting pots, allowing diversity — musical or otherwise — rarely matched elsewhere in the south. And though the West Side Sound never enjoyed the widespread popularity of genres like Motown, its legacy still lives on with modern groups exploring and emulating the older styles, and younger fans collecting and holding on to this part of their history.
“My interpretation of that,” Mendoza said, “is folks wanting to know better their history, have an understanding of their identity and an appreciation of the fact that they come from folks that have really contributed musically.”
This is where “The West Side Sound Oral History Project” comes into play. Part interviews and oral history collection, part archive of photos and recordings, and part curated exhibit, the project aims to document and display the community history involved.
“It’s not only to document it,” Gonzáles explained, “[it’s] having it somewhere where people can go and have access to it, especially young people … so they can go and learn and see themselves and also see that research is not only something that you get out of books, but it’s in our community.”
To this end, Mendoza and Gonzáles are partnering with community members Jaime Macias and Norberto “Geremy” Landin. Macias is the owner of Jaime’s Place, a bar located in the heart of the West Side that aims “to serve as a gathering place for the Barrio and Beyond.” Jaime’s Place provides a space for education, community and advocacy, serving as a community hub, music venue and recording space for local musicians. Jaime’s Place will also host the project’s culminating event and multimedia exhibits.
The researchers are also partnering with Landin, who is involved with local politics and passionate about San Antonio history.
He’s very much invested in documenting the history of our community, listening to our community through his work as the Director of Equity & Social Advocacy with Bexar County, but then also finding ways to explore the musical contributions of San Antonio,” Mendoza said.
While Mendoza and Gonzáles are excited to have community partners on board, they also recognize the university’s place in a project like this.
“One of the reasons we have UTSA, [is] to serve the Latino community,” Gonzáles said. “So who better to do this, and document this, and put it in the archives for these students to access? It’s only fitting, and I’m proud to be a part of it. This is very important, and we need to do this, and I’m glad UTSA is giving us the support, making these grants available for this type of research.”
Mendoza also believes she and Gonzáles can bring a unique perspective and focus to the research.
“An observation I have of West Side Sound — and of research in general — is there is a tendency to privilege men within the process of collecting and preserving history,” she said.
The two will work to include the women within the history with Gonzáles herself being interviewed for her experiences in the music industry.
The project is expected to finish in May. In the meantime, the researchers plan to invite community members to share their photos and memories of the West Side Sound via social media. Those interested in more information can contact Mendoza or Gonzáles.
UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to email@example.com. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.
San Antonio’s treasured Asian Festival returns on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Downtown Campus. In observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month the one-day performance, entertainment, and food event will celebrate the diverse Asian diaspora represented in South Texas and San Antonio. Come and enjoy one of San Antonio’s premier family-friendly events, with hands-on activities and opportunities to learn through experience.UTSA Downtown Campus
The Texas Coalition for Heritage Spanish (TeCHS) seeks to provide a cooperative platform to support the success of Spanish heritage language speakers and their communities in Texas, assisting and promoting bicultural and bilingual development in the state.River Walk Room (DBB 1.124,) Durango Building, Downtown Campus
Dr. Michael Doyle has had an immense impact on the field of catalysis and organic chemistry. Join in a one-day symposium. In order to honor Dr. Doyle’s colossal career accomplishments with his upcoming retirement, we are holding a one day symposium eventRiklin Auditorium (FS 1.406,) Frio Street Building, Downtown Campus
The NHERI Summer Institute is a free event for early-career faculty, NHERI Graduate Student Council, K-12 educators from the San Antonio area, engineers, and researchers to learn more about the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) community.La Villita Room (DBB 1.116,) Durango Building, Main Campus
Building the Dual Language Leader Symposium will provide a safe space for current and aspiring leaders to learn best practices, theories, policies, and systems that support a dual language bilingual education.UTSA Southwest Campus, 300 Augusta St.
Streaming of Spray the Word that will conclude with a discussion with San Antonio's Poet Laureate, Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson.Aula Canaria (BVB 1.328,) Buena Vista Street Building, Downtown Campus
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at our very own street fair - Calle UTSA. We will have activities, performances, food, music, and pinatas to break open! All free to UTSA students, faculty, and staff.Student Union Paseo, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.