GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Longtime guitarist Johnny Joe Leal said he was deeply touched to have been added to the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago.
The awards are selected and handed out by a nonprofit of the same name – selecting multiple musicians over several categories for the honor.
R.O.O.T.S in the hall of fame title stands for ‘Remembering our own Tejano stars’ according to the organization’s listing on the Texas State Historical Society website.
Leal said his own musical roots started when he was 15 years old. He was growing up in Houston and was sweeping the kitchen floors for his mother when he was moved by music playing in the house.
“The music was playing and she saw me, and I was using it like a guitar. So my birthday is in December, and she bought me my first electric guitar. A Fender,” said Leal.
Once he mastered the guitar, Leal said he and a friend that took up bass guitar started to play with other musicians.
Eventually, Leal was scouted to play for other bands – playing everything from Tejano to soul and R&B.
The guitarist said his skills took him across the U.S., where he occasionally shared the stage with several well-known names.
“Al Green, The Chi-Lites, Freda Payne. I can go on and on,” Leal said.
Preserving the genre of Tejano music is a goal of the awards organization.
While not related, the Tejano Music Alliance of Texas has a similar goal of furthering the legacy of Tejano music.
President Tomas Medina said honoring the contributions made by musicians like Leal is important for the future of Tejano culture.
“It’s our culture and we need to preserve it for future generations. So that they know where they came from,” Medina said.