Johnny Canales, Tejano performer and starmaker, is gravely ill

He was in radio and television in the 1980s and 1990s, during the time that Tejano music stars, including Selena, rose into popular culture.

By Jack Morgan, Texas Public RadioMay 21, 2024 11:47 am, , ,

From Texas Public Radio:

Johnny Canales, the TV and radio star whose programs helped make stars out of Selena and many others, is seriously ill, according to recent news reports.

Adrian Arredondo knows him well: “I would describe Johnny Canales as one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met, and one of the most genuine human beings.”

The Miami-based filmmaker is working on a documentary on Canales. Arredondo said Canales embodies the American Dream.

“He exemplifies the Latino journey in America, and he really is a North Star when it comes to achieving the dreams, especially from a Latin migrant point of view,” he explained. “He’s somebody that was born in this country through Mexican parents, but they raised him as a migrant worker and instilled values in him that made him look beyond his means. And he, in turn, has shared that with everybody — I would say [shared with] the world — through his show in English and in Spanish, and doing it with such laughter and such joy that it’s so genuine.”

Johnny Canales [at center] y su Orchestra.
Courtesy photo / Nora Canales

Canales was in radio and television in the 1980s and 1990s, during the time that Tejano music rose into popular culture, Arredondo added, and he was there to help make it happen.

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“Johnny Canales was instrumental in developing Selena from when she was 13, because he gave her the first opportunity on television, and he was instrumental in developing her career through for the next 15 years after that,” he said. “Up until her untimely passing in 1994, between ages 13 and between when Selena passed away, she was on the “Johnny Canales [Show],” a show debuting singles performances.”

Arredondo said Canales also discovered accordionist and performer Michael Salgado.

Johnny Canales.
Courtesy photo / Adrian Arredondo

“Michael Salgado also has won Grammys for both Chicano music and Norteño music, and he started on the “Johnny Canales Show” when he was 15,” Arredondo said.

He said that from an early age Canales’ parents taught him the value of hard work, but they also taught him the value of using his people’s culture to entertain.

“When he was a young man being raised by his father who played music in orchestras, in the cotton-picking circuit,” Arredondo said. “When he was a teenager, he saw the joy that music was giving people, regardless of their circumstances or their position in life. He was seeing his father perform in cantinas along cotton fields, and he was seeing these people having the time of their lives right there, sharing their music.”

Canales’ timing was uncanny because just as Tejano was exploding, so too was music video, and he rode that wave.

“What he created was the MTV of Latin music of the 80s in the 90s. So he was putting on his TV show artists who people in the United States had one no idea existed, who had no idea that the genres existed,” Arredondo said.

Canales and his wife, Nora, live in Robstown.

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