The Johnny Canales Show
Johnny Canales alongside Selena Quintanilla in one of her many appearances on his show throughout the years. Photo: The Johnny Canales Show

The Mexican-American who helped make Selena a star

Selena's new series on Netflix shifts the focus to the important Texas TV host that first had a 13-year-old Selena on his show to perform.


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Netflix's new series on Selena Quintanilla, the iconic Mexican-American pop singer and undisputed queen of Tejano music, is full of glamour, empowerment and roots. While it has seen some criticism for its lack of focus on the singer, it has brought other figures key to her success to the forefront.

In particular, during the third episode, a young Selena appears on "The Johnny Canales Show," which is a recreation of an actual historical moment on American television in 1986, as it was the first time an American production was recorded in Mexico in front of a live audience.

Not only did Johnny Canales allow Selena and many other artists to take off from his rough stage, he was also the first to coin the nickname of 'Corpus Christi Queen' for the Tejano icon in a later appearance in 1994 — the year she was murdered. 

Canales was born in General Treviño, Mexico, in 1947 and after serving in the army, began to collaborate with a music radio station until he got his own TV show in 1983. It aired without many of the TV prejudices of the time against artists like La Mafia, La Sombra de Chicago, La Sonora Dinamita, and Los Tigres del Norte. 

The show was a success in Mexico and the United States during the 80s and lasted until 1996.  

The relationship between Canales and Quintanilla remained good throughout the years and she was invited several times to the program until 1994, when at 23, the superstar was murdered by her biggest fan, Yolanda Saldivar, president of her fan club. The murder, following a fight over Yolanda's embezzlement of funds, caused a major commotion in the U.S. and Mexican community over the death of the icon. 

But her intercontinental reach and dream was helped along the way by figures like Canales, who put her in contact with an audience that had long been demanding an artist of her kind. Above all, he also provided a stage to keep the Mexican-American dream alive back then and ever since.


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