Big Country native shares family tradition, plays accordion alongside Tejano musicians

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A Big Country native is sharing the sounds of a family tradition.

Phillip Mendez has been playing the accordion for 40 years and says even before he learned how to play, he was immersed in the music.

“My grandpa and my uncles played it,” said Mendez. “I guess it was just a part of my life.”

Mendez says playing started out as a hobby, but soon turned into a part-time career when he met accordionist Flaco Jimenez.

“Right there it just kind of expanded,” said Mendez.

At the age of 15, Mendez found himself playing back up for Jimenez, who would later join the famous Tejano band The Texas Tornados.

“I got stage fright, I got paralyzed, I didn’t know what to do. ‘Play something, play something,’ and once I got past the first one, I liked it,” said Mendez. “I played with Flaco, Freddy Fender, Doug Salm, Auggie Myers.”

Ever since that first performance, Mendez hasn’t seemed to shake the sounds of this family instrument.

“The first time I quit, my wife bought me an accordion, she said it just wasn’t me without one, and so I started again,” said Mendez.

He’s no longer center stage, but you might be able to catch him in Downtown Abilene or on a bench at a park with his accordion in his hand and his foot tapping alongside him.

“Ever since I started, there’s just no way, no way to get away from it,” said Mendez.

Mendez will be playing at Abilene’s upcoming Art Walk and at the Business Mercado on Oct. 10.

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