Originally from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, Pete Castorena came to Mississippi in 2002 where he currently owns a company that sells and installs satellite dish services. But these days, Castorena may be better known throughout the state as “The Tejano Cowboy,” for the distinctive style of country music that he performs.
Castorena, the son of a minister, sang in the choir at his father’s church in Texas as a child and performed his first solo act at a church revival. However, he was not interested in pursuing music professionally until soon after his father passed away in 1999. “When my father died, I found myself singing a lot because it rekindled a feeling that I had shared with my father when we sang in the revivals at our church in South Texas,” says the musician. Also, around that time, he taught himself to play the guitar. “Singing has always been my passion,” says Castorena. “But I finally learned how to play the guitar just so I could practice my singing.”
Exactly seven miles from Castorena’s childhood home sat the childhood home of Tejano, country, and rock and roll musician Freddy Fender. Castorena adored Fender’s musical style. “Freddy Fender was a Mexican singing country music. Until he came along, country music was pure white people’s music,” says the singer. “But he put some Mexican verse into country music and people loved it.” Castorena hopes to bring back into popularity the country style for which Fender was known, but he likes to add to it a dose of Latin rhythm and more Spanish verse. In addition to Fender, his other musical heroes include Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and most reverently George Strait.
“Hispanics in Jackson are starting to embrace the Tejano music tradition,” says Castorena. “Some Hispanics really like country music and they would like it even more if it had Spanish verse in it.” Thus, Castorena has set out to bring a bilingual version of the classic country music tradition to the Latino community in Mississippi. Crowd favorites, Castorena says, include his covers of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues,” Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and Fender’s classic “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.”
In the past, Castorena has performed at bars in the Jackson area, but today he prefers performing at house parties and events in support of the Republican Party. In the summers of 2005 and 2006, he was invited to sing for the armed forces in training at Camp Shelby, near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. “Performing at Camp Shelby each year is my chance to give something back to the troops who have done so much for American citizens,” says Castorena.