In February of this year, the Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the Michigan State University Museum announced the winners of the annual Michigan Heritage Awards, which honor exceptional bearers of family or community folk traditions. One of three awardees this year is Martin Huron Solis, Jr., a vocalist and bajo sexto player in the Texas-Mexican conjunto style, who was profiled in the article, “MI Música: An Introduction to Música Tejana in Michigan,” featured in the Fall 2018 issue of NEXO. Born in San Antonio, TX in 1929, Solis moved with his family to Michigan in 1942 as part of the stream of migrant farmworkers that brought large numbers of Texas-Mexicans, along with their cultural traditions to Michigan.
After performing as guitarist and lead vocalist of Trio Los Primos, modeled after the internationally renowned Trio Los Panchos, in the 1950s Solis took an interest in conjunto music and taught himself to play bajo sexto, a Mexican twelve-string bass guitar, which combined with the accordion defined the conjunto sound. Solis’s conjunto in the 1950s and early 1960s, Conjunto Los Primos, was one of the first established conjuntos in the Detroit area. With a large repertoire built on the latest songs coming up from Texas, the heart of the conjunto industry, Solis remained a popular performer in Southeast Michigan for many years.
Though no longer performing, over the past year Solis has found greater recognition for his decades-long musical career, starting with his induction in January of 2018 into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame in Alice, TX, the first ever induction of a Michigan-based musician. In recognition of this, Mayor Stacy L. Bazman declared January 17th, 2018 “Martin Huron Solis, Jr. Day” in Melvindale, MI, where Solis has resided for many years. A number of reel-to-reel recordings of Solis were also recently discovered, and those tapes are now being compiled onto an album to be released by Third Man Records.