EXPIRED: 08/13/10 – Esteban “Steve” Jordan, 71, was just one of 15 kids born to a family of migrant workers in rural Texas in the 1920’s. He was partially blinded just after he was born in an accident involving a midwife who rinsed his eyes with a contaminated liquid. He would wear a black eye patch for the rest of his life, acquiring the nickname “El Parche,” or “The Patch.”
But eventually many came to call him “the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion,” and for good reason.
Because of Jordan’s limited eyesight, he couldn’t work in the fields. He stayed back at the labor camps with the elderly, singing songs and helping with the chores. One of his elder companions introduced the young Jordan to the musician Valerio Longoria, who followed the migrant farm workers and played for them in the labor camps. He was just 7 years old at the time. He started playing the guitar immediately and picked up the accordion a year later.
The two hit it off and soon Longoria was teaching Jordan how to perfect his playing the accordion. Mastering the instrument quickly, Jordan eventually added add rock, jazz, country, western, mambo, salsa, and zydeco to his conjunto roots music.
He moved to New York and then to Los Angeles to play sessions for other musicians, but eventually started releasing his own material. In 1985 the California-based roots music label Arhoolie acquired the rights to some of the music Jordan had recorded for smaller labels and began putting out collections of his music.
That publicity got him more label attention and he soon released The Return of El Parche in 1986 and El Huracán a year later.
The following year Jordan was nominated for a Grammy Award for Turn Me Loose. Though he lost the award to fellow tejano musician Flaco Jimenez, Jordan gained further exposure, and made a highly successful appearance in Europe at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1988. Cheech Marin, of Cheech and Chong, requested that Jordan provide music for (and appear in) his hit movie Born In East L.A. He also appeared in True Stories, directed by David Byrne.
Then, seemingly on the verge of mass success, Jordan more or less dropped out of sight.
Some speculated that he could afford to cut back on his activities because he was reaping profits from the Tex-Mex Rockordeon he had designed for the German musical instrument firm Hohner, a top-rated accordion manufacturer (he did discourage people from taking pictures at gigs, could that have been in his Hohner contract?). Others say it was lingering depression over the Grammy loss. Who knows?
To find out, dig into Carta Espiritual, the CD Jordan released in March of this year. Supposedly it’s the first of 9 CDs of lost music from as far back as 199o. Too bad he won’t be around to finally see a wider audience discover and appreciate his gifts.