BETANCOURT, PACO (1903–1971). Paco Betancourt, Tejano recording industry businessman, was born on January 15, 1903, in Mexico. He was the son of a government official who worked in the administration of Mexican President Porfirio Díaz. With the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910, young Paco fled with his family across the border into South Texas. He came of age in the 1920s and as a young man used his entrepreneurial acumen to start a number of businesses.
Over time he opened the Rio Grande Music Company in San Benito, Texas, and the Queen Theatre in Brownsville, which is considered the first theater in the Rio Grande Valley to show talking movies. He eventually sold the theater and entered the fledgling Tejano record business. In 1946 Betancourt was sought out by Armando Marroquín, a Tejano record producer, to form a partnership that resulted in Ideal Records. While Marroquín obtained new recording equipment, a studio, produced all the recordings, and obtained all the records he needed for his jukebox business, Betancourt oversaw the manufacturing and distribution of the company’s records in both the United States and Mexico.
Paco Betancourt worked with Marroquín throughout the 1950s, producing the records of the duet of Carmen y Laura, Beto Villa y su Orquesta, and the accordionist Narciso Martínez. Betancourt proved to be an astute businessman in the industry. He was initially hesitant to record Beto Villa, who combined the Tejano conjunto sound with a new orchestral one. However Betancourt became an eager promoter of Villa after record customers began to clamor for more copies of Villa’s first 78 rpm, which included “Las delicias,” a polka, and “Porqué te ríes,” a waltz. Villa eventually became known as the “Father of the Orquesta Tejana.”
Betancourt’s ability to sell records and his knowledge of the broadcasting industry helped Ideal gain a lasting place in the Tejano music world. By 1950 the Ideal label was the uncontested leader in the Tejano recording industry. For the remaining nine years of Betancourt’s association with Ideal, he ushered in and promoted more Tejano musical stars, including Valerio Longoria, Tony de la Rosa, and Paulino Bernal.
The growth in the Tejano music recording industry brought competition to Ideal’s standing. In 1959 Betancourt’s business partnership with Armando Marroquín, which had led to the great success of Ideal, came to an end, though his Rio Grande Music Company continued the distribution of Ideal Records. Afterwards, Betancourt joined with John Phillips, Sr., a family member, to make new records in a studio in San Benito, Texas. He also took an interest in public service, ran for office, and served as the city’s mayor. Paco Betancourt died on September 5, 1971.
In 2000 he was a member of the first class of Tejano recording industry musicians, producers, and artists inducted into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame. The first class also included Armando Marroquín, his business partner, and two of the Tejano musical giants they had promoted, Narciso Martínez and Beto Villa. In 2005 he was inducted into the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in San Benito.
Chris Strachwitz, “The Roots of Tejano and Conjunto Music,” 1991 (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/benson/border/arhoolie2/raices.html), accessed August 23, 2006. Manuel H. Peña, Música Tejana: The Cultural Economy of Artistic Transformation (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Teresa Palomo Acosta, "BETANCOURT, PACO ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbeca), accessed November 24, 2015. Uploaded on June 3, 2014. Modified on August 29, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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