SAN ANTONIO — A Friday night at Gruene Hall filled up quickly when Grammy award winning band, Los Texmaniacs hit the stage. With a mix of rock and jazz, lead singer, Max Baca, stays true to his roots through conjunto music.
That would not be possible without one specific instrument: a bajo sexto.
Baca remembers being 7-years-old and watching Flaco Jiménez and his band performing in Lubbock, Texas. He was mesmerized with the bajo sexto player and the unique sound the 12 string guitar made.
"It’s been part of all my life, that’s all I’ve ever done," said Baca. "I’m 54 now and I started when I played music at five, bajo sexto at about seven."
Baca now tours with Jiménez , and for every show he plays, he always has a hand crafted Macias bajo sexto in hand.
"It’s just the sound of a Macias', it’s just like no other," he said. "They were the first, they’re the original."
Macias' Bajos Sextos was established in San Antonio in the late 1920's, when Martin Macias opened his shop. Then his son Alberto Macias took over, but he passed away in 2009.
Today, you'll find Alberto's children George and Martha Macias keeping the family legacy alive.
Macias family keeps family tradition of hand crafted bajos sextos alive
"To do what I do here...you really have to love it, it's like coming out of your heart,
The end product is a result of the intricate, patient work required to make each bajo sexto. The Macias' start their work day at 9 A.M. and typically lock up around 10 P.M Monday - Friday. On Saturday's their work days end closer to noon.
"At the end of the day, you look at your work and you’re like god dang man, I can’t believe I just finished this," said Macias.
The family is currently booked up with new orders and restorations for the next two years.
The most time consuming is the precision required to cut from panels of wood. The age of the wood is the secret to the high quality products, said Macias.
"That wood I have in the back, over 500 years old," he said. "As long as I keep using the quality wood, that sound is always gonna be there."
"It's amazing what comes out of a piece of wood," said Martha Macias. She remembers being fascinated with father's work as a little girl, hoping she could one day do the same.
"My dad used to shave the wood and I would just pick them up and play with these little shavings, now I’m making them myself," she said. "It's pretty neat."
Baca received his first Macias in 1972. It was a gift from his father. That bajo sexto is now on display at the Smithsonian. The musician, known to many as king of the bajo sexto, has three more - one from each generation of craftsmen.
Show after show, Baca always shares the stage with a Macias bajo sexto.
"It’s like the grizzly bear of all the guitars," said Baca. "They have the secret touch."