By Freddy Jimenez
Special to the NEWS
“I’m from San Benito, Texas,” is the opening line to Charley Crockett’s song titled “The Valley,” written by the San Benito-born and Los Fresnos-raised man who has made a career out of writing and performing music while remaining “transient.”
Crockett, 35, was born at the now closed Dolly Vinsant Memorial Hospital in San Benito and was raised in a small trailer with his mom and grandmother in between Los Fresnos and Bayview until the age of 10, when he moved to Dallas.
Then, upon his 17th birthday, Crockett was gifted a Hohner acoustic guitar from his mother, becoming influenced, oddly, by hip-hop at first before exploring the sounds of blues and jazz – both of which hip-hop derives from.
“I picked up the guitar and started messing with chord positions, often feeling more comfortable with what I later came to know were jazz chords,” he said. “I learned it all independently.”
Once Crockett entered his early 20s, he set off like a vagabond, sleeping on sidewalks and farms across the country, playing music wherever and however he could.
“I started traveling and staying with people – anyone who’d offer a couch. I didn’t want to deal with a normal 9 to 5 job; I just wanted to play music,” Crockett said.
Among his influences are Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, and even San Benito’s very own musical legend Freddy Fender. “ I don’t think people give Freddy Fender enough credit,” said Crockett. “He was really originating something unique, he had the synthesizers and the Tejano with the drops of rock and roll – it was something different.”
“[Fender] overcame addiction, he was thrown in jail, then he grew up into his own heritage, much like I did,” said Crockett. “I was playing a trail I didn’t realize I was on – just like Freddy. The story’s different, but the parallels are there. That’s just life.”
On the song “The Valley,” as well as the overall album, Crockett returns to his native roots – the trailer on that desolate, rural road, which he feels proud of to this day, describing his genesis and the path that ensued after.
“I’m real moved to be from there. It’s made me who I am today,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know what it’s like down there, and you really won’t until you live there yourself.”
Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Nov. 1-7, 2019 issue of the NEWS.