'Little Joe' Hernández named NEA 2023 National Heritage Fellow

Little Joe Hernandez
Posted at 9:53 PM, Mar 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-02 08:33:40-05

WASHINGTON — For more than 60 years, Little Joe y La Familia have performed and pioneered Tejano music

“It’s been an incredible journey for me. It’s been one big blessing,” said Joe “Little Joe”DeLeon Hernandez.

It’s a journey that started right here in Temple, after his younger brother Jesse encouraged Little Joe to perform with their family.

“We were playing the weekend and working the weekdays. One day he says ‘Joe’ Im not doing this I want to be a full time musician,” said Joe.

Joe decided to quit his job too.

“I started booking the band anywhere and everywhere. Wherever we can get paid,” said Joe.

Unfortunately his younger brother died at the age of 20.

“During the funeral I just made a promise because he had his vision of me being a star,” said Joe.

70 albums and five Grammys later, Little Joe’s is renown as a legend who help pave the way for Tejano Music. Now the Temple native is one of the few artists announced as one of the 2023 NEA National Heritage Fellows, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

“I didn’t know I was doing art. That’s how country I am,” said Joe.

Little Joe’s says he’s thankful for the recognition, and support of his fans and his family, especially his brother Jesse. A family vision that still lives on today.

“He would say ‘didn’t I tell you, I told you.’ I’d have to say ‘you were right,” said Joe.

The fellowship also includes a $25,000 reward. 477 people have been honored as National Heritage fellow since 1982 in over 200 different Art forms. The Temple native joins eight other recipients named as this year's National Heritage Fellows presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Heritage Fellowships are America's highest honor for folk and traditional arts, according to the NEA.

Little Joe will be performing at a benefit concert to raise money for the Temple education foundation.
The event is next Friday March 10th at Temple High School Auditorium. Doors open at 6 PM in the concert starts at 7 PM. Tickets are $15 and can be bought at the Temple administration building and