“The Johnny Canales Show” originally aired in the 1980s and became a hit in many Latino households. Based in Corpus Chrisi, the show was soon broadcast across the U.S. and parts of Mexico. But before Canales shined a spotlight on other Latinos and rocked a cowboy hat on national TV, he was raised in Robstown, about 20 miles west of Corpus. He picked cotton, shined shoes and played in music in bars as a child.
“My dad used to play the violin. I played the guitar, and we used to go to places and we would play for people to give us you know, a quarter to two cents, whatever for a song,” Canales said.
Canales served in the Army in the early 1960s, and when he returned home in 1969, he reunited with music. Canales DJ’d at a Spanish-language radio station and led his own group, Johnny Canales y su Orquesta, for eight years.
Then, a local television station asked Canales to host a music program. By 1983, “The Johnny Canales Show” became well-known.
“It took the Tejano culture and went beyond the borders of Texas,” said Bob Alaniz, a Corpus Christi native who moved to West Coast. “It took the culture to people like me who were missing Texas, who moved out, had never left our roots, who are now living in a totally different environment. I had friends in New York who were watching the program. I had friends in D.C. who were watching the program. I think it kind of really shaped who we are.”
The show was bilingual and featured well-established artists and groups like The Texas Tornados, Little Joe y La Familia and La Mafia. It also featured up-and-coming artists like Selena Quintanilla, and other Latino figures like Cheech Marin.