Many Tejano artists from South Texas have written, performed or recorded a country song or two, but there is a small number who exclusively performed country music. Tejanos grew up listening to and liking country music because they heard something very familiar in its sound. Contrary to some popular representations of the music’s history, Country and Western was not rooted in a White “singing cowboy” tradition (this was a marketing strategy) but drew from early hillbilly recordings, European ballads, blues and jazz; and from Mexican and Mexican American music like the mariachi, trios and corridos.
A very small number of Tejano artists achieved success in the Country music industry; some of them played in a style indistinguishable from White artists, while others added their own flavors. Johnny Herrera, who recorded the country standard Jealous Heart in 1949, was the first Tejano to make it in Country music. Other artists later hit the charts, including Johnny Rodriguez, who had two Number One hits in 1973. Freddy Fender, who was known as a rhythm and blues musician in the ‘50s and ‘60s, recorded a country version of “When the Next Teardrop Falls” in 1974 that incorporated the accordion and Spanish lyrics. By the ‘80s, there were a small number of Tejano country groups, including Country Roland Band, Cactus Country Band, and Patsy Torres.