Nash Hernandez (1922 – 1994)
The Nash Hernandez Orchestra was founded in the spring of 1949, by trumpeter, Nash Hernandez. Affectionately known by friends and fans as "Mr. Nash," he began his career playing trumpet with German polka bands in Fredericksburg TX, where he grew up. As a young teenager, Nash loved to whistle, so his father, Abraham, gave him his first trumpet to make better use of that habit.
While serving his country in the Army Air Corp during WWII, he rubbed shoulders with many other big band musicians also serving in the war and he developed his love of big bands during this time. Nash was also influenced by the bands of Perez Prado, Xavier Cugat, and Tito Puenete, and in later years by Sonara Soantanera from Mexico.
After settling in Austin after the war, with his wife, Minnie, he began working with Matt Velasquez and the Latineers. He also began teaching lessons to children in the neighborhood. Eventually, he had enough students that he decided to form his own band and in 1949 the Nash Hernandez Orchestra was established. Initially, the band was comprised of all Hispanic musicians, but over the years, the band had a diverse set of musicians. Many of these musicians went on to form their own bands later, such as Tim Torres, Dave and Abel Gutierrez, and Ruben Sanchez.
Other musicians became staples of the current jazz scene in Austin and have worked both locally and nationally. Mike Mordecai, John Mills, Tomas Ramirez, Martin Banks, Mitch Watkins, Larry Williams, Paul Ostermayer and many others too numerous to mention, spent time honing their craft with the Nash Hernandez Orchestra. It was this diversity of cultures and musicianship that has made the Nash Hernandez Orchestra a mainstay in the Austin music scene. Nash was also breaking the color barriers when other groups might not have. Former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos mentioned in an article about Nash that the band was the first Mexican-American band to play the senior prom at Bastrop High School back in the 1950's. "Nash Hernandez had it all. He could play Glenn Miller, country, and good old Chicano polkas," he stated. That mix of music continues today in the current version of the band, now led by his son, drummer Ruben Hernandez.
Due to the diversity of his band and especially of his fan base, Nash was very popular with the local politicians who loved the wide variety of people the band attracted. Nash was always ready to lend his support to politicians he felt would be good for Austin and Texas in general. The band played fundraisers for Gonzalo Barrientos, Judge Joe Hart, Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Governor Dolph Briscoe (for whom he played at the 1972 inaugural ball), J J "Jake" Pickle and many others. In addition to fundraisers for politicos, and perhaps more importantly, Nash was always willing to help local charities and art organizations throughout Austin, such as the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, St. David's Rehab, and others. Due to his charitable work, Nash was recognized numerous times by the local and state governments and in 1994, even received a letter or recognition from then Vice-President Al Gore. He was also named Ambassador of Goodwill for Texas in 1975 by then Governor Doplh Briscoe.
He was inducted, posthumously, into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 1999. On June 26, 2006, the Austin City Council, along with the help of the Austin Latino Music Association, and former council member Raul Alvarez, renamed Festival Beach Road to Nash Hernandez Sr. Road. This road is just a few short blocks from where Nash and his family lived in east Austin and the house is still occupied by one of his other sons, Dave Hernandez. In 2008, Nash Hernandez, was one of the first inductees in the Austin Long Center Walk of Honor, with a plaque dedicated in his honor. In 2009, another special honor was bestowed on Nash Hernandez with the unveiling of a statue dedicated in his memory, on the north bank of Lady Bird Lake, just south of Nash Hernandez Sr. Road and east of I-35, near Nash's home. This was an extremely proud occasion for the entire Hernandez family and the many fans of the orchestra. All of these honors have meant so much to the Hernandez family and will be something that generations of Nash's family can be proud of and the legion of fans of the Nash Hernandez Orchestra can enjoy.
It was a sad day for the Austin music scene when Nash passed away on June 26, 1994, but his legacy continues. Before his death, he made a request of his son, Ruben, to keep the orchestra working and with the help of his brother, Dave, and the rest of the family, Ruben has done just that. Ruben began playing drums with the band at the age of eleven and always knew he would lead the band one day. It's a privilege and honor that Ruben proudly carries.
Today, the orchestra continues as strong as ever and due to the resurgence in popularity of swing music over the last few years, has picked up many new fans as well. The band continues to play a wide mix of music and is always in demand for corporate events, fundraisers, such as the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens "Garden Party" fundraiser, private parties, and of course, weddings. The band has performed for generations of wedding receptions and is always in demand because of that touch of class the orchestra lends to that special day. It's not many bands who can say they have played both for the parent's wedding and their children's wedding as well. Additionally, not too many couples are able to have the same band who played for their wedding also play for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. As the longest running big band in Austin, celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2014, this is a regular occurrence for the band.
Click below to listen to a Nash Hernandez Orchestra recording: