Laura Canales: The Legend Who Paved The Way For Tejano Music

Laura Canales

Laura Canales, who was known as “La Reina De La Onda Tejana” or “The Queen of The Tejano Wave”, is a legendary American singer who played a pioneering role in popularizing Tejano music in America and in the process, paved the way for future superstars like Selena Quintanilla, Emilio Navaira, Jennifer Pena and Elida Reyna. Laura Canales was especially instrumental in the rise of Selena Quintanilla and she was even featured in the Netflix series, Selena. Let’s find out more about the Tejano legend.

Laura Canales: All You Need To Know

When was Laura Canales born?

The legendary singer who appears in Selena: the series, Laura Canales, was born on August 19, 1954 in Kingsville Texas. She grew up in a small town but was renowned for her incredible vocal chops from a very young age. She demonstrated her taste for music and her talent for singing, which is why in the 70s she was part of groups like Conjunto and Conjunto Bernal. In the mid-1970s she joined the Snowball & Company band that was also known as Felicidad. After being in this group, Laura Canales and her husband, who was also part of Felicidad, created the group Laura Canales y Encanto. 

Why has Laura Canales suddenly become popular again?

Many are remembering and learning about the legacy that Selena Quintanilla left after her sudden death in 1994. As we see in the Netflix production, Selena made her way in the tex-mex genre as one of the best artists, but before her, there was the singer Laura Canales. In Selena: the series we saw that when Selena y los Dinos began to consolidate their careers, they got several nominations at the Tejano Music Awards, an event that rewards the best of music of this genre. 

In one of the categories, Selena Quintanilla competed as Best Vocalist of the Year against other singers, including Laura Canales, who was beaten by the queen of Tex-Mex. 

How successful was Laura Canales?

Her success was so great that Texas Governor Mark White presented her with the Yellow Rose of Award Texas, the state’s highest honour for celebrities. Thanks to the fact that each of her songs began to be placed in the public’s taste and in the first places of popularity, she was nominated at the Tejano Music Awards from 1983 to 1986 as Best Vocalist of The Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year. She dominated the awards and won them every year till Selena Quintanilla arrived on the scene. In the ‘90s, Laura Canales left the Encanto group and began her career as a soloist with the album “Sensually”, a year later she released the album “No Regrets” and in 1992, her third production “Tell your wife”. It featured a song written by Juan Gabriel, “Don’t hurt anymore.” 

Who broke Laura Canales’s streak of continuous TMA wins?

Laura Canales had absolutely dominated the Tejano Music Awards for many years, winning the Best Female Vocalist and Best Entertainer awards for three straight years, until Selena Quintanilla emerged and bagged both those awards in 1986.

Many people believe that it was the first time that these two incredibly talented women met face to face. A lot of people also claim that their first encounter was in the bathroom. The truth is that nobody knows. In the Tejano Music Awards in San Antonio, 1986 indeed, both Canales and Selena were nominated for Best Female Vocalist of the Year. 

Selena won the award, breaking the winning streak of Laura Canales who had won both best female vocalist and best entertainer since 1983, according to Billboard.

So although the two definitely had a friendship relationship, it is not likely, but not impossible, that their first meeting was in the bathrooms during that first award ceremony.

What was the relationship between Selena Quintanilla and Laura Canales?

Laura Canales (left) with Selena Quintanilla (right)

As the Netflix series shows, Laura Canales was a huge inspiration to Selena and something of a mentor during Selena and the Dinos’ first successful years.

In fact, during the second half of the eighties, both singers performed together on several occasions. 

Did Laura Canales go to Selena’s funeral?

Selena lost her life on March 31, 1995, at the age of 23. She was shot by her former manager and passed away because of blood loss caused by the gunshot wound. After her tragic death, a group of Texan singers contacted Q Productions, Selena’s production company, run by her father, Abraham Quintanilla, to express their condolences and ask about the funeral.

Among them were Laura Canales, Bobby Pulido, David Lee Garza, Emilio Navaira, Elsa García, La Mafia, Ram Herrera, Imagen Latina and Pete Astudillo, according to the local Corpus Christi newspaper.

Why did Laura Canales quit music?

After releasing one more album, Laura Canales decided in 1995 to resume her studies and enrolled at the Texas A&M University Kingsville where she graduated in psychology, after which she began a postgraduate degree in Communication Disorders and Sciences. Finally, in 1998, she released her last album “Three wishes”. On April 16, 2005, Laura Canales died as a result of several complications from a bladder operation, including pneumonia.  Although Selena Quintanilla is considered an icon in Tex-Mex, the truth is that Laura managed to make way for her and many other women in a gender that was initially dominated by men. 

What did Laura Canales say about quitting music?

In the 1990s, when Selena was at the height of her fame, Laura Canales left the music industry and returned to Texas A&M University to graduate as a psychologist in 1997

This was in order to set a good example for the high school students who looked up to her.

“Going to school is making sure you have options. Music can be very good, but also very bad because when you stop making money, you have no more options,” said Texas Monthly.

How did Laura Canales die?

“The Queen of The Tejano Wave” passed away on April 16th, 2005 from a series of complications from gallbladder surgery, according to the Texas Historical Association. She underwent a routine gallbladder surgery but ended developing complications which led to severe pneumonia and her eventual demise. She was only 50 years old.

By this time, the legendary singer was preparing to obtain her master’s degree in Psychology.

What is Laura Canales’s contribution to Tejano music?

Although Selena Quintanilla is known as the queen of Tex-Mex and Tejano music, the one who paved the way for women in this musical genre was the great Laura Canales.

Canales, who came to be known as “the Barbra Streisand of the Texan genre” managed to make a name for herself in a genre hitherto dominated only by men.

In fact, in the third episode of Selena’s series, when she meets Laura Canales before the award ceremony, she thanks her for having made “the road easier for women.”

To which Laura responds: “easier yes, but never easy” and gives the following advice:

“It’s a rejection and disappointment business most of the time, so take some time to get accepted. Everyone in this business will tell you who you should be every step of the way. 

From what I’ve seen of you, you will always have to do your best to be who you are.”

For her contribution to Tejano music, Laura Canales was inducted into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame.

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