The Houston region has a long musical tradition with diverse styles ranging from country to zydeco to blues to rock and roll to gospel–and everything in between. Our current issue captures many parts of this musical heritage, with the important exception of classical music. Indeed, it barely mentions Hank Williams and has nothing to say about George Jones, one of the most famous of our region’s country singers.
Feet start tapping and people are drawn to the dance floor by the upbeat polka sound of the accordion and the bajo sexto keeping rhythm. Men wearing tailored suits lead women in strappy sandals or black heels as the mid-calf hemlines of their dresses flow with every spin.
My newlywed parents came to Houston at the end of World War II with $150 to open a record shop. A former railroad employee, my dad, Frank Zerjav, hailed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had served as a master sergeant in the Air Force; my mother, Irene Freeman, created department store ads before going to work for a colonel at Goodfellow Field in San Angelo. They fell in love driving around the base listening to their song, Bob Will’s “New San Antonio Rose,” and other Texas swing hits.
Pe-Te Johnson was born in Grand Taso, near Eunice, Louisiana. His ancestors are direct descendants of the Acadians expelled from Nova Scotia in the mid-eighteenth century. His last name, Johnson, is the Anglo version of his Acadian sir name, Jeansonne. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed in Chateauroux, France for two and a half years, having served as an interpreter when the military opened a new base there in 1953.
When most people think of opera, a blonde woman—traditionally overweight—wearing a helmet adorned with horns comes to mind. While the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) is familiar with Richard Wagner’s works and producing a long term project of the Ring Cycle in which this stereotypical woman appears, the young opera company offers its city a much more modern taste of the fine arts.
“For the Love of Live Music: A Sampling of Houston Music Venues, 1930s to 1970s” by Lindsay Scovil Dove will have you saying, “Oh, yeah, I remember going there!” Cutting across a broad swath of Houston music and entertainers, she recalls the Eldorado Ballroom, the Emerald Room at the Shamrock Hotel, the Pan-America Ballroom, the Catacombs, Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine, and Liberty Hall.
Omar Afra, the co-founder of Free Press Summer Festival, was born in Beirut, Lebanon, but has lived in Houston since the age of two. He attended Askew Elementary, Paul Revere Middle School, and Lee High School.
“I was nine years old . . . I prayed and I asked the Lord, ‘Please show me, direct me in a way to be able to help my mom and dad.’” Most kids that age today worry about what features the next iPhone will have, but not Jewel Brown.