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BACAS OF FAYETTEVILLE

The John Baca Band
The John Baca Band, ca. 1929. The Baca bands of Fayetteville carried on a long tradition of celebrating their Czech musical heritage. John Baca was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Polka Music Association in 1991. Courtesy John Rivard—The Texas Polka News.

BACAS OF FAYETTEVILLE. The first Baca Family Band—a Czech musical group—was formed in 1892 in Fayetteville, Texas, by Frank J. Baca. Baca was the son of Joseph Baca, who had emigrated from Czechoslovakia to Galveston in 1860. Frank displayed an amazing musical talent as a child and taught himself to play clarinet, alto sax, and slide trombone before formally studying music. He married Marie Kovar in 1881, and they settled at Fayetteville, Texas. They had thirteen children. Frank was a member of the Fayetteville city band and a member of an informal family band before he officially formed the first Baca Band. These groups performed traditional Czech polka and waltz music. In addition to attracting the talents of all thirteen of Frank Baca's children, the Baca Family Band drew participants from around Central Texas. Upon Frank's death in 1907, his son Joe, who had won local and national cornet competitions, assumed leadership of the band. Demand for the group throughout the area as entertainment for festivals and special events increased. Among the most noteworthy of their appearances was the band's participation in an enormous celebration at the Fayetteville SPJST (Slavonic Benevolent Order of the State of Texas) at the end of World War I.

In 1920 Joe Baca died, and his brother John assumed leadership of the band. Under John, the Baca Band played on Houston radio station KPRC in 1926 and 1927 and made phonograph recordings on the OKeh, Columbia, and Brunswick labels during the 1930s. The John Baca Band continued until John's death in 1952. Around 1932 John's brother Ray started his own band—thus resulting in the existence of two Baca family bands carrying on the legacy of Frank Baca.

Although the original Baca Band had already made plans for a national tour in 1906 (canceled by the death of Frank Baca), the band did not make its first out-of-state appearance until 1967, when Gil Baca, son of Ray, performed with his band at the Smithsonian Institution's American Folklife Festival. The Gil Baca Band toured Czechoslovakia in 1972 and also performed at the United States Bicentennial Celebration in Washington, D.C., in 1976. The Texas Polka Music Association bestowed Lifetime Achievement Awards on John Baca in 1991 and Ray Baca in 1997. John Baca's son and drummer, Clarence, who had joined his father's band in 1933, formed his own band in 1962 and continued to play until 1998. Ray Baca's son Gil continued to perform until his death in 2008. The Bacas of Fayetteville remain the state's best-known family Czech folk band in Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

W. Phil Hewitt, The Czech Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1983). Clinton Machann and James W. Mendl, Krasna Amerika: A Study of the Texas Czechs, 1851–1939 (Austin: Eakin Press, 1983). John Rivard, "The Baca Bands in Texas," The Texas Polka News, November 2008. John Rivard, "Clarence Baca and Family Tradition," The Texas Polka News, July 2002. John Rivard, "Gil Baca & The Baca Bands," The Texas Polka News, November 2008. Texas Polka Bands (http://www.angelfire.com/folk/polka/bands.html), accessed January 23, 2008.

Brandy Schnautz and Laurie E. Jasinski

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Brandy Schnautz and Laurie E. Jasinski, "BACAS OF FAYETTEVILLE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xgb02), accessed August 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on May 19, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.