Esteban Jordan

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Esteban "Steve" Jordan (* 23. February 1939 in Elsa , Texas ; † 13. August 2010 in San Antonio ) was an American blues - Tejano - and Latin jazz - accordionist . He became known through dozens of albums, television appearances and David Byrne's documentary True Stories as "Jimi Hendrix of the Accordion" and " Chicano Music Superstar". Not only in the music style called conjunto he was style-defining and a pioneer in the further development of the accordion.


He came from Mexico as the youngest son of a family of 17 farm workers. He received almost no schooling. He began playing the guitar at the age of seven and the accordion when he was ten. As a 20-year-old, he claimed to have mastered around 20 instruments. During the 1960s, he toured the Spanish-speaking clubs of the West Coast states with a band that included some of his brothers. As a member of the touring band of the Latin jazz percussionist Willie Bobo in 1969/70, he was also known in the states of the east coast .

In his almost 50-year musical career from the 1960s to 2010, he recorded over a hundred singles and dozen of albums, most of which were released by South Texas record companies on labels such as Falcon, Freddie and Hacienda. In 1976 he had a regional hit with La Camelia . Other single successes were El Corrido de Johnny el Pachuco and La Polka Loca (The Crazy Polka) . In 1985 he received a recording contract with the major label RCA Records . His 1986 album Turn Me Loose was nominated for a Grammy . Roland Garcia from Hacienda Records trusted him to land a million-seller on the mainstream pop market. TV presenter Johnny Canales also thought he was one of the Hispanics who could make it into mainstream pop.

This was countered by the unpredictability of his time management ("famously mercurial"), which made him take breaks of a month, for example to go fishing . If you wanted to book him for a club concert, you sometimes had to find him with a detective's instinct. But when he was on stage, for example for the “Channel 4 TV” series or Hank Wangford's “A to Z of C&W”, he was impressed. The jazz magazine Downbeat described it as "one of America's unique musical experiences". By David Byrne's film True Stories , he became known worldwide as a distinctive Americana musicians from Texas. His appearance at the "Club Islas" in Austin at the television band competition against the North Texas "Brave Combo" was a highlight of the series.

As a particularly versatile musician, Jordan was able to play in numerous styles between rock, pop, country and the Zydeco from Louisiana. His musical development went from the traditional polkas and corridos of the early years to Latin jazz and beyond to a highly experimental, improvisational style of playing. Using electronic aids, he created a kind of “Chicano- psychedelic ” sound, which gave him the respectful nickname “Jimi Hendrix of the accordion”. In 1992, the New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff called it the "invisible genius of Texas accordion music".

His black "pirate" eye patch over his blind right eye, which was necessary because of a medical malpractice at his birth, was his external characteristic. That earned him the nickname "El Parche" (The Eye Patch). A knife stab attack in 1973 in a parking lot nearly cost him his life again. After that, he largely changed his previously very hard-drinking and party-loving private life. Both of his marriages ended in divorce. When he died of complications from liver cancer in his apartment in the Westside neighborhood of San Antonio on Friday August 13th , he left behind two sons and three daughters.


One of his proudest moments was the trip to the German Hohner accordion works, which invited him in 1988, when he was performing at the JazzFest Berlin , to have an instrument built according to his own wishes and to pick it up personally. The buttons were laid out particularly flat according to his specifications. That allowed for an even faster game. He gave the production workers a brief show of honor showing what the instruments they assembled were good for. "I showed 'em what they were making" is how he described his experience to Michael Corcoran in 2001.

For several years now, Hohnerwerke has been offering a “Steve Jordan Tex-Mex Rockordion” built according to Jordan's specifications in their range.

Discographic Notes

  • Turn Me Loose (album) RCA Records 1986, Grammy nominated 1987
  • The Return of El Parche (LP, Comp) Rounder Records 1988
included on
  • Texican Badman (album) Appaloosa 1981
  • Sounds from True Stories (album) EMI 1986
  • Planet Squeeze Box (3 CDs) Ellipsis Arts 1995
  • 15 Tex-Mex Conjunto Classics (CD) Arhoolie Records 1996


  • Michael Corcoran: All Over the Map: True Heroes of Texas Music . University of Texas Press, Austin 2005
  • Michael Corcoran: The Invisible Genius Steve Jordan in: The Journal of Texas Music History Volume 3 (Spring 2003) Number 1

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b National Public Radio of June 2, 2009: The Corrido Of Esteban 'Steve' Jordan, World's Best Accordionist
  2. Washington Post, August 14, 2010: Influential Tejano accordionist Esteban 'Steve' Jordan dies at 71
  3. a b c d e f The Guardian, September 21, 2010: Obituary
  4. a b c d Michael Corcoran from the American Statesmann on August 14, 2010: Steve 'Esteban' Jordan gave the accordion a new sound
  5. ^ Accordion legend Esteban Jordan dies , accessed October 19, 2010
  6. National Public Radio, August 24, 2010: Remembering Esteban 'Steve' Jordan, Genius Of The Accordion
  7. Hohner : Hohner accordion model table - Hohner Musikinstrument GmbH , accessed on October 19, 2010