BACA, GIL (1925–2008). Gil Baca, renowned polka musician and pianist, was born on April 1, 1925, in Fayetteville, Texas. He was the son of Raymond and Antonia Baca. As a family member and third generation of the acclaimed Bacas of Fayetteville, Baca was exposed to a musical atmosphere at an early age. He began his career in music at the age of nine when he served as a substitute piano player for the family band. His father taught him a few fundamentals on the instrument, and by 1935 young Gil was a regular in the band. He also learned to play trumpet and drums. During World War II, he served in the United States Navy.
Throughout his life, Baca was a mainstay as pianist for the Bacas and was lauded for a unique piano style that became known as the “Baca Beat.” In the early 1960s he formed the Gil Baca Band, which included his father Ray as one of the members. Gil Baca and his band performed at the Festival of American Folklife at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., in 1967 and 1968. They also played at the inauguration of President Richard Nixon. In 1972 the band toured Czechoslovakia, and in 1976 they were invited back to Washington, D.C., to participate in the national Bicentennial Celebration.
Baca married Flo Monroe in 1977. In addition to his performances, in the 1990s Baca and his wife operated the old Baca confectionary, located on the Fayetteville town square. His “Confectionary & Saloon” was the site of numerous jam sessions, and The Texas Polka News described the popular spot as “short on confectionary and long on saloon.” The venue was featured on the Eyes of Texas television program in 1998.
Throughout the years, Gil Baca and his band recorded four albums. Their many performances included shows at the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio. In an interview in 2006 he admitted that he had never received any formal music lessons. He stated that he could, however, read music but, he exclaimed, “not enough to hurt me.” Baca performed in Fayetteville on September 6, 2008, at a concert that was professionally filmed and recorded. It was his last public performance. He died on October 15, 2008, in a Houston hospital. Baca, a Catholic, was buried in the Fayetteville City Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and three stepchildren. Gil Baca was the last member of the Baca family to play in the band.
Fayette County Record, October 17, 2008. John Rivard, “Gil Baca & The Baca Bands,” The Texas Polka News, November 2008.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Laurie E. Jasinski, "Baca, Gil," accessed January 22, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbafk.
Uploaded on May 9, 2014. Modified on April 4, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.