David Lee Garza

Though nearby San Antonio has always loomed large in my imagination, I’ve never left Poteet, the small town that made me the man—and the musician—I am.
David Lee Garza
Garza (left), age twenty, in San Antonio in 1977 with his band, Richard Garza, Adam Garza, Robert Barrera, Tony Garza, and Oscar Montemayor.

I’ve lived in Poteet all 53 years of my life. People from San Antonio, which is about thirty miles north, would call it “out in the country.” My grandparents were farmers from nearby Pleasanton, and at some point they moved the family to Poteet. I grew up in a two-bedroom house with my parents and three siblings. Now I think back and wonder, “How did we all live in one little house?” My parents sold it a long time ago, but I still remember my dad’s four-man conjunto band rehearsing in the living room on the weekends. His uncle taught him how to play the guitar, and then he picked up the accordion and the bajo sexto. Later, he taught me and my two younger brothers, Adam and Richard.

One day my dad pulled out a three-row accordion and said, “I’m going to teach you one song and then you’re on your own.” I was seven. After school he would make my brothers and me practice, even though we wanted to stay outside and play with the neighborhood kids; I guess he saw that something could come out of it. After we got the hang of it, we were making him practice.

Back then, everybody in Poteet went to the Crystal Club. It was a small dance hall, but as a kid it seemed humongous to me. I would go to see all these big-time musicians who’d come to play in our little town: Los Unicos, big-band orchestras like Sunny Ozuna and the Sunliner Band, and Carlos Guzman y Los Fabulosos Cuatro, a band from the Valley. I said to my mom, “Maybe someday we can be on that same bandstand.” We played there in 1968, when I was eleven; it was our first gig as David Lee Garza y Su Conjunto.

Since then we’ve been to every part of Texas—San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Laredo, Midland—and we’ve played across the country and down in Mexico. But I’ve always kept my roots in Poteet—the first house I purchased was right next to the big water tower that’s painted to look like a strawberry. We play the Poteet Strawberry Festival just about every spring, which is a treat. Sometimes people will stare at me when I’m in San Antonio, but here in Poteet I’m just one of the regulars.

I’ve wondered what it would have been like to grow up in San Antonio instead of Poteet, but I wouldn’t trade being raised in this slow little town for anything. I remember a lot of barbecues at my grandparents’ house with all my relatives. Whatever the occasion—birthdays, weddings, holidays—we’d be cooking up ribs and chicken and sausage. And I loved hanging out with my friends at the Triangle Drive-In, this hamburger place where we’d play foosball and pool. I actually just had a get-together with about 20 of my schoolmates. There were 75 of us in the graduating class of 1975, but most of my classmates have moved on to other cities, other states. Even though I’ve had many opportunities to move to a larger city, I’ve never thought about it. I’ve always stayed country because this is home. 

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