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Chapter 11: Ely Carrales(December 7, 1931-March 28, 2000)


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A Tragic Turn

The Loss of My Grandfather
Ely Carrales
(March 28, 2000)

In our lives we all have moments that we use as mileposts. These moments can be happy or sad. This milepost for me is a tragic one. I will always be aware of my Grandfather's memory every time I walk into a church and hear a guitar. Every choir that ever sings will always have a part of him.


Elifalet ďElyĒ Carrales will always be remembered by those who knew him by his music. His booming voice and guitar could be heard in the mid to late 20th century in cantinas, at dances and even in church. These notes and those songs still echo in the hearts of the people who were touched by his music.

Anyone who remembers Ely Carrales is always drawn back to the songs he loved to play. His style not unique, it was a common style in the 40ís and 50ís. A singer with a guitar. Lead was played by the guitar, or by a requinto (a small Spanish guitar designed to produce a high, crisp sound.

As time when on, however his style became an island of the past in a sea of so-called modern music. His style of music was looked down upon by the mariachi musicians of the 80ís and 90ís as ďcantinaĒ music. This is ironic because, as the new century dawned, many big named mariachi groups began to record these very same songs.

Ely Carrales was an aficionado of corridos, rancheras, boleros and huapangos. He knew many more songs than could be listed in a day. His theme song was Jesuscita en Chihuahua. He collected several volumes of Mexican and Spanish songbooks called cancioneros. From these books, he would lean the words to the various songs and read that guitar chords that were marked above the words. Ely learned how to play music by ear, like thousands before him. It wasnít until his later years that he began to read music.

He was born to Eloy and Reyna Carrales in Mexico in the 1930ís. He attended the Premont School system in the 1940ís and 1950ís. While there, he learned to play the Tuba in the Premont High School band. He did not graduate from that institution and was forced to drop out in 1953 in favor of work. Eloy Carrales, his father, taught him to play the violin and guitar. Eloy was the leader of a dance orchestra that played music at dances. It is said that when ever Ely would play a passage incorrectly, his father would hit him over the head with the bow from his violin.

Ely and his friends would gather on Sundays to barbecue, drink and play music. These gatherings allowed the various musicians to adapt to each other and share songs. This continued for many years.

In 1972 he was disabled in a one car accident and would never again walk normally. The accident left him permanently disabled, yet he never liked to just sit around and got a job with the city at the city dump.

At the dump, he was often visited by friends that would play music with him to pass the time. While there, he would also fix up old tape players that he found and would recycle old tapes to record his music. Many of these tapes survive today and are being transferred to C-D to preserve his music to future generations.

An accomplished master of the guitar, requinto and violin, Ely Carrales also was a member of the St. Teresaís Spanish Choir and pursued his music ministry in the late 1980ís and early-1990ís.

In the mid-1990ís, Ely Carrales joined up with his grandson, Joe Ely Carrales, III, and his friends to form a mariachi group called Mariachi Del Rancho. From 1993 to 1994, they played various in engagements in almost every town in South Texas. The group consisted of Ely Carrales, Ralph Mata, Joe Ely Carrales, Frank Vera, Jimmy C. Salazar, Michael Garza and Sonia Mata.

My beloved Grandfather, the man who taught me to play the violin, passed away on the 28th day of March the year 2000. Grandpa Ely left this Earth surrounded by the ones he loved, as well as the ones who loved him. He passed away in his home, his brothers, children and grandchildren helping him "to the door." As we stood there, eyes filled with tears, we knew that my Grandfather had touched the world and us with his humor, personality and, most of all, his music.

Grandpa Ely was only the second person really close to me to have die. Back in 1996, my Grandmother Estella Saenz died of cancer. My Grandfather's Brother; Horacio Saenz, known as "Lacho", passed away in May 2000. Slowly, it seems, all the wonderful things of my past were slipping away. Long ago images of Sunday parties at the ranch, distant Easters and countless holidays going further and further away into the past.

I am glad that I was so lucky. To have know these people when they were in there prime and be blessed with so many memories of them is what drives me everyday to better myself and make our family as great as it should be.

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