Daniel Garzes, singer, guitarist, and songwriter, made major contributions to conjunto music from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. He was born on September 23, 1920, in Meyersville, DeWitt County, Texas, to Beatris Zuñiga. Beatris had immigrated to Texas in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution. On March 13, 1925, she married Florencio Garzes, and the 1930 United States census listed Florencio as a farmer living in Karnes County. The household included his wife Beatris, three children, and three stepchildren (including Daniel). Daniel worked in the fields with his family and received a grammar school education. He learned to play the guitar when he was twelve years old from Florencio, who also played violin. When Daniel Garzes was about fifteen years old, he started playing with several friends in the small South Texas towns around Victoria and wrote his own songs.
On September 12, 1942, Garzes began service as a private in the United States Army. He served through the end of World War II and, while stationed in Europe, reportedly performed music at military functions. On May 28, 1947, Garzes married Rita Vasquez (in Bad Axe, Michigan). He returned to Texas and made San Antonio his home. By the early 1950s Garzes had formed a conjunto with Ambrosio “Bocho” Rodríguez and Raul Moreno. Around the time of their first recording, the group was playing at a club called the “Three Kings,” and they took the name “Los Tres Reyes de Daniel Garzes.” The conjunto first recorded on the Rio label, followed by Corona, Ideal, Falcon, and others. Los Tres Reyes toured extensively around the United States and was one of the earliest conjuntos to tour outside of Texas. Garzes, who wrote more than 500 songs during his lifetime, broadened the conjunto music style by writing and playing boleros, cumbias, and corridos, which some people believed could not be played on the accordion. Garzes emphasized the importance of corridos that tell a story, and his contribution as a songwriter made him well known in the United States, Mexico, and Spain. His most famous song, “Los Pizcadores” (“The Cottonpickers”), was inspired by his early experiences as a field worker. This song recreates the experience of working in the cotton fields and is played in a vibrant, lively style. Other compositions of his include “Te Busqué,” “Ya llego la Primavera.” “Mujer Paseada,” and “Espero tu Regreso.”
Beginning in 1961 Garzes quit touring and sold insurance for his living, but he returned to music after his retirement in the 1980s. For his contributions to conjunto music he was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Conjunto Hall of Fame in 1987. Daniel Garzes died in San Antonio on April 13, 2004, and was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. His wife Rita had preceded him in death. He was survived by two daughters and one son. On August 27, 2005, the inaugural program of a new series, “Legends at the Alameda,” at the Alameda Theater in San Antonio featured a tribute to Garzes. He was inducted into the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 2011.