Del Bravo Record Shop, called “one of the coolest music stores in the United States” by National Public Radio, is also in fact, the oldest music shop in Texas. I recently visited it and found it is so much more than a record shop – it is a national treasure and music history museum founded in 1966 by Salomé Gutierréz, the award-winning music composer and producer. Listed in the Texas Composers Hall of Fame in 1978, the Tejano Hall of Fame in 1983, and the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 2012 for his manifold contributions to music as a songwriter, producer, and engineer. A native of D’Hanis, Texas, Salomé composed over 1000 songs and had over 600 recorded. He began writing and selling his songs as a child prodigy of thirteen. Even today, his songs can be heard on the radio performed by notable artists, including “Dile a tu Esposo” by Joe Zimmerle, “Mi Negra Suerte” by Joe Rivera and “El Gato Negro” by Ruben Ramos. He also founded the largest independent Latin and Tex-Mex music publishing company, San Antonio Music Publishers. Search YouTube for “Chulas Fronteras Salomé Gutierréz” – the cult documentary about music from the Texas-Mexico border to see Salomé in 1976, describing his love for music, and working with Flaco Jimenez recording his album “El Rey de Texas” at Del Bravo Record Studios. By that time, Salomé had met and married Diamantina Trevino, the love of his life he was married to for 65 years. Together, the couple had eight children – Irma, Diane, Alma, Mary, Rudy, Arturo, Robert and Javier, whom they shared their love of music with.
When visiting Del Bravo, Irma gives me an intricate tour of the colorful shop, located at 554 Enrique M. Barrera Parkway. It is hard to miss – a pair of bright buildings – one vivid yellow, the other a lively red, both trimmed in pastel turquoise. There are rectangular soft pink and red signs that read “Del Bravo Record Shop Since 1966 – Tejano, Cojunto, Oldies but Goodies, Guitar Strings, Turntable Needles.” The building is traced by large potted plants, banana trees, cactus, and other varieties of greenery. Inside, there is the faint scent of strawberry incense, more plants, orange and yellow accented walls, two murals of Latin musical legends and a bright pastel halogen trimmed clear countertop where items for sale are displayed. The shop boasts a broad selection of collectibles and novelties – turntable slips, jewelry, bags, candles, incense, bags, hats, t-shirts, guitar strings, even accordions. There is a Lydia Mendoza dress exhibited there which Irma tells me has been borrowed by the Smithsonian Museum. There are also vintage music books for sale among the collectible items, including a gramophone from the 1920s that you must crank to play, bongo drums from 1945 signed by musician, songwriter Óscar “El Gallo Copeton” Martínez and multiple collectible accordions. Nearly the entire trim of ceiling is traced with framed, signed photos of bands past to present, honoring the music of the Latino culture.
You can buy records, CDs and cassette caps of any genre. My search yielded a diverse group – think Juan Gabriel, Engelbert Humperdinck, Neil Diamond, the Carpenters and the Fifth Dimension, to today’s hit makers. This is clearly the best music store I’ve ever been to in my life.
But there’s more – Irma gives me a VIP tour of her Dad’s office, full of family photos, music awards and other memorabilia and of what I describe as the Library of Congress of Records in San Antonio –
the wall-to-wall hallway leading to the top-to-bottom room of records that is carefully categorized by the Gutierréz family for posterity. It’s no wonder that Salomé, who sadly passed away in 2016, was also known as a music historian. A pair of his shoes remain in the library as a sweet reminder of her father whom she tells me she can still feel in the record shop. Irma says that she and her siblings continue the shop because of the love of music their father Salomé and mother Diamantina imparted on them. It is clear from the success of Del Bravo Record Shop that the family work in complete harmony together.
I thank Irma for her time, noticing a bench on my way out and remark that it and the store’s general accessibility (no unnecessary stairs, the smooth, accessible floors), are greatly appreciated, and she confirmed it was specifically intended for older visitors whom she tells me she treats like her own family. She mentions that many customers visit from outside San Antonio and consider Del Bravo a destination stop. They tell about times they or loved ones performed with Salomé and other musicians. Irma asks that they bring photos, which she offers to frame and put on the wall, in remembrance of not just her father, but of everyone brought together by music. As everyone who visits Del Bravo Record Shop can witness, the walls are overwhelming lined with these photos, in monument to the community as well as to the legends that have passed through this historical music shop.
554 Enrique M. Barrera Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78237
Monday-Saturday – 10 am – 6 pm (210) 432-8351