Who’s Listening to Tejano Music?

That would be me! Growing up Mexican American in Texas, I’ve heard Tejano music all my life. Tejano is a must at every family party or event. We all have that one tio that ends up belting different Tejano songs at the end of the night. It was often the music we heard early Saturday mornings, alerting everyone that it’s time to clean the house. It’s only now that I am older that I have come to appreciate Tejano music, especially the history. 

Here's your guide to Tejano Music. 

What is Tejano Music?  

Tejano music is Tex-Mex music. Like Texas herself, Tejano music is a blend of many cultures. Musical styles from Northern Mexico and the polka and waltzes introduced by German and Czech settlers heavily influenced Tejano music. The addition of European musical instruments such as the button accordion, the violin, and brass instruments with Spanish lyrics created a sound unique to Central and South Texas. Tejano music continued to evolve and incorporate more musical styles such as jazz, country, cumbia, blues, rock, hip-hop, pop, and more. Giving all those sounds a Tejano twist.  

Learn more about Tejano music from the Mi Musica: Mexican American Music of Today (1994) segment hosted by Selena from the Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

Who are some Tejano Legends? 

Lydia Mendoza (1916-2007) is considered the "Mother of Tejano Music". Born in Houston, Texas in 1916, she had a career that spanned seventy years, from her first hit "Mal Hombre" in 1934. She had a “soulful, yearning voice” and was known as “La Alondra de la Frontera” (“The Lark of the Border”), “La Cancionera de los Pobres” (“The Songstress of the Poor”), and later as “La Gloria de Texas” (“The Glory of Texas”). She sang at President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration festivities in 1977, was inducted to the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985, and in 1999 President Bill Clinton presented her with the National Medal of Arts. Visit the Handbook of Texas History to read more about Lydia Mendoza, opens a new window.  

Freddy Fender (1937 –2007) born Baldemar Huerta in San Benito, Texas to migrant farm workers. Fender is a Tejano icon known for his rock-and-roll and country style. Fender was best known for his 1974 hit “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” which was the first bilingual song to hit #1 on Billboard’s country chart. Visit the Handbook of Texas History to read more about Freddy Fender, opens a new window.  

Every Texan should know Selena Quintanilla Perez (1971-1995) the “Queen of Tejano Music”. Selena was born in Lake Jackson, Texas and grew up in Corpus Christi. For many, Selena's music may be their first introduction to Tejano music. Her music is still played at every function and continues to inspire new generations. Visit the Handbook of Texas History to read more about Selena, opens a new window and check out my previous blog, opens a new window about Selena for song and book recommendations.  

Other notable Tejano musicians include the “King of Cumbia” Fito Olivares, opens a new window (1943 -2023). His use of the saxophone produced Tejano classics such as “Juana La Cubana”, “Cumbia de la Cobra”, and “El Colesterol” - a song about high cholesterol that’s great to dance to. Emilio Navaria, opens a new window (1962 – 2016) born in San Antonio, Texas was known as the “King of Tejano” and the “Garth Brooks of Tejano”. He’s best known for hits “Come Le Haré”, “Bailando Contigo”, and “It’s Not the End of the World”.  

Where can I listen to Tejano music? 

On Freegal, the library's music streaming service free to use with your HCPL library card! I created a Tejano Legends, opens a new window playlist on Freegal. You can stream two hours of nearly* the very best of Tejano music. Why nearly? Well, because unfortunately Freegal does not have Selena (I am as outraged as you are), but this does give you an opportunity to become more familiar with other Tejano artists. 

Want to explore about Tejano music? Check out these books:

Tejano Proud

Texas Tornado

Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music

The Accordion in the Americas

Lydia Mendoza's Life in Music