A national honor recognizes Tejano music legend and pioneer Little Joe

231003 Tejano Singer Little Joe Hernandez 2019 ac 904p cdabd9

By the time he was 15, Tejano music pioneer Joe “Little Joe” DeLeón Hernández had taken a stance to pick the guitar instead of cotton.

He was amazed to make $5 on his first paying gig — he would have had to pick 500 pounds of cotton to earn that — and he never looked back. 

More than 62 years later, “the King of Brown sound” on Friday received the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment of the Arts, the highest national award that honors the artistic genius of traditional artists “at the intersection of past, present and future and at the intersection of preservation and innovation,” according to NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson. 

It’s a fitting tribute to the Mexican American music legend, who has recorded more than 70 albums and won four Grammys and a Latin Grammy (from a combined 11 nominations) and who was named the Texas State Artist of the Year in 2019.