The ‘Carlos Santana of Harmonica’: Tim Gonzalez returns to the Island for two shows

By Angie Gamez

Special to the Press

Tim Gonzalez with his harmonica collection on South Padre Island. Photo by Angie Gamez.

Brownsville native and harmonica artist, Tim Gonzalez, from Nashville, Tennessee, will be performing at LongBoard Bar and Grill on South Padre Island Thursday, October 10, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, October 12, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  

His performances will cover original songs from his album ‘Straight from the Heart,’ and second album in progress, ‘Harp Gumbo,’ as well as some cover songs. Tim has performed and recorded with top country, blues, and Latin artists –an inspiration for his own original work. 

Gonzalez has been in Nashville for 27 years and has performed and recorded with country artists Toby Keith, Ronnie Milsap, Doug Stone, Pam Tillis, Lee Roy Parnell, and blues artists B.B. King, Carl Weathersby, Burton Gaar, Mark Selby, Larry McRae, Chubby Carrier, and Anthony Gomes. This experience with the best country and blues musicians was the inspiration for his 2004 album ‘Straight From The Heart,’ a tribute to his brother. He has made the Top 25 in National Living Blues Charts.

Gonzalez was born in Brownsville, Texas, in 1956. His music career started in Port Isabel, when he was thirteen years old. Legendary fishing guide, Captain Gilbert Vela, gave Gonzalez a harmonica to inspire him to do better, because he loved to fish but didn’t like cleaning the fish. 

The harmonica was intended to be a hobby but Gonzalez said, “Vela’s gift turned out to be a God given gift.” Vela’s kind gesture inspired Gonzalez to give back to the community by visiting schools and sharing his experiences and love for music and the harmonica with students. 

Gonzalez’s sponsor, Hohner Music, provides Hohner harmonicas to each student in the schools he visits. His motivational speeches are meant to inspire whatever dream or goal the student has

“I was here in Brownsville as a youth with a dream to someday go to Nashville and I did it,” Gonzalez said. “I may be handing out a harmonica to the next Stevie Wonder of the world.” 

Gonzalez continued, “Inspiring kids is something much needed in the educational system. I remind them, respect is success. Respect what you do and love what you do. The kids get it.” Gonzalez always makes time to visit the classroom, and with 10-12 classroom visits scheduled for the coming year.

In 1974, Gonzalez graduated from Brownsville High School. At 18, he started his professional music career by playing with many South Texas bands in the Rio Grande Valley before heading out to Nashville in 1992. Some of these bands included The Connectors, The Coconuts, and The South Texas Wailers. 

A career break happened in 1986 when the South Texas Wailers went to Nashville and performed at the Grand Ole Opry, which won State of Texas finals and made eleventh place. This milestone accomplishment was Gonzalez’s motivation to go to Nashville and record music.

“There is no harmonica in Latin music,” Gonzalez said. “I want to introduce the harmonica to the urban movement (movimiento urbano). I want to be the innovator and pioneer to bring this instrument to this beautiful Latin music.” 

Gonzalez’s peers call him the ‘Carlos Santana of Harmonica.’  

In addition to singing and playing the harmonica, producing and recording, and visiting classrooms, Gonzalez just completed harmonica work throughout the upcoming Louisiana-themed movie ‘Christmas Cars.’ This movie, by John Schneider (Bo Duke in ‘Dukes of Hazzard’), will be released after Black Friday this year.

Gonzalez returns to the RGV because he “loves the valley and his fans.” 

“I am a loyal supporter of music in the valley and love to inspire local musicians,” Gonzalez said. “If you have a vision and dreams, only you can make it possible, only you can stop you.” 

Visits to South Padre Island and Brownsville allow him to connect with friends, write new music and enjoy the great seafood and serene beach. 

CD’s and t-shirts will be available during his performances. Go to for more information about Tim Gonzalez.

LongBoard Bar and Grill is located at 205 Palm Street, South Padre Island, TX.

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