If you are a Texan of Mexican descent, you are considered a Tejano. However, Tejano is more than just genes. It is a popular genre of music that combines folk, country, jazz, and rock with a large dosing of Mexican influences.
Tejano music had its start during the early 20th century, but it started gaining popularity during the 1970s and with the rise of singers like Selena and Emilio Navaira in the ’90s. But these two aren’t the only ones to influence the genre.
In this post, we’ll take a look at 11 of the greatest and most famous Tejano singers who introduced the Tex-Mex sound to the world. Let’s get started!
Dubbed Queen of Tejano music, the magnetic Selena Quintanilla Pérez brought mainstream appeal to the genre. Despite her short career, her impact to the industry made her one of the most influential Mexican artists of the late 20th century.
Tejano music is well-known to be a male-dominated music genre. However, Selena’s unforgettable songs—like “Baila Esta Cumbia,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” and “Como la Flor”—and memorable fashion sense helped open the way for more female Latin singers to become stars.
Selena’s career ended tragically when the leader of her fan club shot and murdered her in 1995. Her legacy lives on in the infusion of Latin music in contemporary pop today.
2. Bobby Pulido
Jose Roberto Pulido Jr. is the singer best known as Bobby Pulido. At his start in 1995, the Texan became a teen idol and is credited for introducing Tejano music to youngsters at the time.
His debut album Desvelado climbed to #3 on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican Albums chart and #9 on the Latin chart. By the time the 2000s came along, Pulido had won several Tejano Music Awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year.
Pulido went on a decade-long break but returned with fervor in 2010 with the album Dias de Ayer. Not only this, the singer was now an actor, having landed roles in Spanish telenovelas.
3. A. B. Quintanilla
The brother of the earlier listed Selena, A. B. Quintanilla, has maintained the iconic singer’s legacy while also establishing his own impressive résumé.
Quintanilla began his career with the group Los Dinos in the early 1980s. He also wrote some of Selena’s most memorable songs, like her signature “Como la Flor.”
After his sister’s passing, Quintanilla developed the bands Kumbia Kings and Kumbia All Starz. The Kumbia All Starz achieved considerable success in Bolivia and throughout South America in the mid-2010s, with the songs “Speedy Gonzales” and “Chiquilla” among fan favorites.
He and the group have won a number of awards for their works, including Latin Grammy Awards and Billboard Music Awards for their albums Fuego and Kumbia Kings Live.
4. Elida Reyna
Born in San Antonia, Texas, Elida Reyna grew up to the songs of Tejano legends Roberto Pulido, Laura Canales, and many more. This influence led her to sing, starting with performing at weddings and quinceañeras.
Breakthrough came in 1992 after she created the group Elida Y Avante. Their debut album, Atrevete, contained their first hit single, “Luna Llena.” The band soon won a Most Promising Band of the Year award, and Reyna herself won Female Vocalist of the Year.
After Elida Y Avante, the Tejano singer formed Las 3 Divas, whose works were critically acclaimed. With them and as a solo artist, Reyna continued winning awards for her works.
5. Emilio Navaira
Called the Garth Brooks of Tejano, Emilio Navaira was one of the first Tejano artists to achieve mainstream success on the American music charts, along with Selena. His career began in 1983, performing in various bands, and was known only as Emilio.
Emilio’s highest-charting single on the American country charts was his 1995 song “It’s Not the End of the World.” His music was included in commercials for prominent brands like Wrangler Jeans and Coca-Cola. Other memorable songs include “Por Siempre Unidos” and “Even If I Tried.”
His albums Acuérdate and De Nuevo won a Grammy and a Latin Grammy in 2002 and 2007, respectively. Sadly, soon after his Nuevo León, Mexico, concert in May 2016, Emilio passed away from a massive heart attack.
6. Oscar De La Rosa
Our next singer is best known as the frontman of the Grammy Award-winning group La Mafia. He had been with the band since its inception in 1980.
After touring extensively throughout Latin America and Mexico, de la Rosa, and La Mafia gained an even greater following. Their venture led them to become one of the first musical groups to perform on a large scale in Mexico.
From the start to the present, de la Rosa and La Mafia have dropped over 35 albums and have won Grammys, Latin Grammys, and Billboard awards, among many other accolades.
7. Lydia Mendoza
Called the First Lady of Tejano Music, Lydia Mendoza blazed a legendary trail in the genre during the early 20th century. Born in Houston, Texas, Mendoza was a Mexican-American guitarist and singer known for her memorable song “Mal Hombre.”
Mendoza was beloved by the public and received many affectionate nicknames and impressive accolades. Her legacy includes being called “La Cancionera de los Pobres” (Songstress of the Poor) and “La Gloria de Texas” (Glory of Texas).
The Tejano singer’s career in live performances lasted six decades. Her extensive work earned her a number of honors: an induction into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame and Texas Women’s Hall of Fame, and was even featured on a stamp released by the United States Postal Service.
8. Jennifer Peña
Tejano and Latin pop singer Jennifer Peña hails from San Antonio, Texas. After performing in a tribute concert for Selena, she started to gain attention for her talent. She was only 11 years old.
Tejano music was just starting to get traction when Peña began her musical journey in 1995. Despite criticism for her similarities to Selena, she continued releasing hit singles, like “Tengo Miedo” and “Si Tú Te Vas,” that were critically acclaimed both in the Latin market and in the US.
Peña’s contributions to the music industry earned her a number of Grammy and Billboard nominations. From 1997 to 2003, she won five Female Entertainer of the Year and three Female Vocalist of the Year from Tejano Music Awards.
9. Ruben Ramos
Probably one of the original figures of Tejano music is Ruben Ramos. The Sugar Land, Texas-born singer began performing his distinct style of Mexican folk music before the term “Tejano” was even invented.
With the new label of Tejano music, Ramos changed the name of his band to the Mexican Revolution. The band consisted of several members and were well-known for including lush instrumentation like an accordion, keyboard, trumpet, and saxophone in their works.
His best-known song is “El Gato Negro,” which became a nickname for Ramos during his career. Viva La Revolucion, his album with the Mexican Revolution, won a Grammy for Best Tejano Album.
10. Michael Salgado
Texas-born Michael Salgado began to climb the Tejano charts in the mid-1990s. An accordion player as well as a vocalist, he became famous with songs like “En Concierto,” “Sin Ella,” and “Cruz de Madera.” Salgado was only 19 years old when he first achieved fame.
Salgado’s major influence was Ramon Ayala, who taught him the authentic Northern Mexico sounds. After releasing his music, Salgado was credited with introducing this traditional cultural style of music to the new generation.
Since his start in 1997, Salgado has consistently released music. He boasts 13 Spanish-language albums. Today, he actively tours and puts on live events.
11. Freddy Fender
Texas-born Freddy Fender initially had success with his self-written song “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” in 1959. However, before he could ride the waves of that fame, legal issues prevented him from continuing.
In 1974, however, he came back with an iconic single. “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” became a #1 hit both on the Pop and Country charts, selling more than a million copies.
In his later years, Fender’s sound transitioned to a more Tex-Mex flavor when he joined the Tejano musical groups Texas Tornados and Los Super 7, both Grammy-winning bands.
Sadly, lung cancer took away this influential singer in 2006. In his honor, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Freddy Fender Museum was opened in San Benito, Texas.
Summing Up Our List Of The Best Tejano Singers
That concludes our list of Tejano singers, dear readers. These 11 iconic figures have changed the face of music with their fusion of Texas country and Mexican sounds.
Even though some of these singers have been long gone, the influence of each one of these has continued to this day, giving more recent Tejano artists a foothold in the industry.
However, these are just a few singers mentioned. Who have we missed that should be on here? Let us know, and we’ll add them for you!