Johnny Rodriguez

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Johnny Rodriguez
Birth nameJuan Raoul Davis Rodriguez
Born (1951-12-10) December 10, 1951 (age 69)
OriginSabinal, Texas, United States
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1972–present
Associated acts

Juan Raoul Davis "Johnny" Rodriguez (born December 10, 1951) is an American country music singer. He is a Tejano and Texas country music singer, infusing his music with Latin sounds, and even singing verses of songs in Spanish.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he was one of country music's most successful male artists, recording a string of hit songs, such as "You Always Come Back to Hurting Me," "Desperado," "Down on the Rio Grande" and "Foolin'." He has recorded six No. 1 country hits in his career.

Early life and rise to fame[edit]

Rodriguez was born in Sabinal, Texas,[1] a small town situated 90 miles from Mexico. He was the second youngest in a family of 10 children living in a four-room house.

Growing up in Sabinal, Rodriguez was a good student in school and an altar boy for his church. He was also the captain of his junior high school football team. When Rodriguez was 16 years old, his father died of cancer, and his older brother, Andres, died in an automobile accident the following year. The two incidents had an effect on Rodriguez and he became a troubled teen.[2] In 1969, at age 18, Rodriguez ended up in jail. He sang frequently in his cell and was overheard by Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, who was very impressed and told promoter "Happy" Shahan about him. (The common story told is that he was arrested after he and some friends were caught stealing and barbecuing a goat, although Jackson would later state that Rodriguez was in jail simply for an unpaid fine.)[2][3]

Shahan then hired Johnny to perform at his local tourist attraction called the Alamo Village. During one of his sets in 1971, he came to the attention of country singers Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who encouraged the young singer to go to Nashville, Tennessee.[1]

The 21-year-old singer arrived in Nashville with only a guitar in his hand and $14 in his pocket. Hall soon found work for Rodriguez fronting his band, as well as writing songs.

Less than one year later, Hall personally took Rodriguez to the heads of Mercury Records' Nashville division to land him an audition with the record label. After performing the songs "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "If I Left It Up to You," he was offered a contract with Mercury. He signed and began recording in their Nashville studio.

Career in the 1970s[edit]

After signing with Mercury, Rodriguez was soon on the way to becoming famous. His first single to be released for Mercury was 1972's "Pass Me By." This recording was a big success, going to No. 9 on the Hot Country Songs list that year, and making him a country star overnight. Rodriguez became the first well-known American of Mexican descent as a country singer.[4] (Freddy Fender achieved fame a few years later, in 1975.)

In 1972 Rodriguez was voted the Most Promising Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music. The next year, he achieved his first No. 1 hit song, "You Always Come Back to Hurting Me." Another song that year, "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico," was also a No. 1 hit. Both his No. 1 hits charted on the Pop charts, but only moderately. Rodriguez wrote some of his own material such as the song "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico." In 1973, his debut album was released, which rose to No. 1 on the "Top Country Albums" chart. He was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year by the CMA Awards. In addition to his success in country music, he also had a role on the television show Adam-12 and also made a guest appearance on The Dating Game in 1974. He also began to appear on talk shows.

The year 1975 was probably his biggest year, in terms of chart success. That year all three singles he released soared to No. 1 on the country charts: "I Just Can't Get Her Out of My Mind" "Just Get Up and Close the Door," and "Love Put a Song in My Heart."

Rodriguez's success on the country charts continued throughout much of the 1970s. He recorded songs not only written by himself around this time, but also covers of songs such as George Harrison's "Something," Linda Hargrove's "Just Get Up and Close the Door," Mickey Newbury's "Poison Red Berries," and Billy Joe Shaver's "Texas Up Here Tennessee." By 1975, Rodriguez was considered a member of the outlaw country market in country music, like fellow musicians Bobby Bare and Tom T. Hall.

Career in the 1980s and '90s and murder charge[edit]

Despite the outlaw movement fading from view in the late 1970s, Rodriguez was determined to stay on top of his game. In 1979, he switched to Epic Records. Under Epic, he worked with the legendary producer Billy Sherrill, who produced some of the biggest names in the business at the time. His first hit from Epic came that year with the No. 6 country hit, "Down on the Rio Grande." His debut album from the record company was entitled Rodriguez. All the songs from the album were cover versions.

Although Rodriguez did not make the Top 10 continuously as in the past, he managed to stay in the Top 20, with hits like "Fools For Each Other" and "What'll I Tell Virginia." At the same time, Rodriguez continued to be a popular concert attraction. However, Rodriguez was also having personal problems. In 1982, he did a duet with Zella Lehr on the song "Most Beautiful Girl (La Chica Mas Linda)." The single was released by Columbia Records. In 1983, he went into the Top 5 with the hit song "Foolin'," followed by the Top 10 hit "How Could I Love Her So Much." However, by the mid-80s, he was becoming less successful. In 1986, he left Epic Records.

In 1987, he signed with Capitol Records for a brief period of time. He had his last major hit in 1988 with "I Didn't (Every Chance I Had)," which reached No. 12 on the country charts. By 1989, he left Capitol Records.

In August 1998, Rodriguez shot and killed a 28-year-old acquaintance in his Texas home, believing the man to be a burglar.[5] In October 1999, he was acquitted of murder by a jury.[6]

Overall in the course of his career, Rodriguez released 26 albums and 45 charted singles. He has also had seven No. 1 hits on the country charts.

In 1993, he recorded an album for Intersound Records called Run For the Border. In the mid-1990s, the indie label High-Tone released his album You Can Say That Again. He continued to tour around the country during this time. In 1996, he turned to another label, Paula Records, which issued a single called "One Bar At a Time", but it was unsuccessful. By this time his musical presence was fading from the public view, as more neo-traditional country singers were making hits on the country charts, like Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, and Dwight Yoakam.

Album CD reissues[edit]

Several labels have re-issued the music of Johnny Rodriguez. The UK-based Hux Records re-issued digitally remastered versions of his first two albums "Introducing" and "All I Ever Meant To Do Was Sing." Hux Records plans to release more of Johnny's classic material in the near future. The label is owned and operated by an English businessman named Brian O'Reilly, who is an outspoken fan of Johnny Rodriguez.

Life after 1998 to present[edit]

Since 1998, Rodriguez has toured the United States and world, performing in countries including Switzerland, Poland, England, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico. He has performed concerts at the famed Ryman Auditorium and Carnegie Hall.

Rodriguez continues to tour and record new material, performing dates in the United States and Canada, where his music remains popular. In 2012, he released the first official live concert album entitled Johnny Rodriguez: Live from Texas. The album includes most of his biggest hits in addition to fan favorites and new songs from recent releases.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Rodriguez has been honored by three U.S. presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. He played at George H.W. Bush's inaugural ball.

On August 18, 2007, Rodriguez was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, located in Carthage, Texas.

On October 23, 2010, Johnny Rodriguez received the Institute of Hispanic Culture Pioneer Award, in recognition of his accomplishment as the first major Hispanic singer in country music.

Personal life[edit]

Johnny Rodriguez was first married to Linda Diann Patterson, a Southern Airways flight attendant from Conyers, Georgia. Johnny Rodriguez then married a second time in 1995 to Lana Nelson daughter of country singer/songwriter Willie Nelson. His marriage to Lana lasted only 7 months (Smolowe, Jill People Magazine Nov. 1, 1999 Vol. 52 No. 17). Johnny's last marriage was to Debbie McNeely, a hair salon owner from San Marcos, Texas, in 1998 with whom he had a daughter, Aubry Rae Rodriguez born April 1998 (Smolowe, Jill People Magazine, Nov. 1, 1999 Vol. 52)



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country US
1973 Introducing 1 156 Mercury
All I Ever Meant to Do Was Sing 2 174
1974 My Third Album 5
Songs About Ladies and Love 7
Country Classics
1975 Just Get up and Close the Door 5
1976 Love Put a Song in My Heart 3
Greatest Hits 2
Reflecting 11
1977 Practice Makes Perfect 18
Just for You 35
1978 Love Me with All Your Heart 19
Rodriguez Was Here
1979 Sketches
Rodriguez 45 Epic
1980 Through My Eyes
1981 After the Rain
1982 Biggest Hits
1983 For Every Rose 30
1984 Foolin' with Fire 35
1986 Full Circle
1988 Gracias Capitol
1993 Run for the Border Intersound
1995 Super Hits Epic
1996 You Can Say That Again Hightone
Funny Things Happen to Fun Lovin' People Paula
1997 Hits Mercury
1998 Johnny Rodriguez K-Tel
2001 Back to Back Intercontinental
2002 Desperado: His First Twenty Hits Mercury
2004 Desperado: A Decade of Hits Compendia
Greatest Hits K-Tel
2005 Greatest Hits Intersound
2006 Country Chart-Toppers: Johnny Rodriguez Sterling
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection:
The Best of Johnny Rodriguez
Lone Star Desperado American Legends
2007 Desperado KRB
2008 20 Greatest Hits TeeVee
2012 Live from Texas RunninWide
  • AGypsy peaked at No. 18 on the RPM Country Albums chart in Canada.


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country US CAN Country
1973 "Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)" 9 7 Introducing Johnny Rodriguez
"You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)" 1 86 1
"Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico" 1 70 1 All I Ever Meant to Do Was Sing
1974 "That's the Way Love Goes" 1 2
"Something" 6 85 11 My Third Album
"Dance with Me (Just One More Time)" 2 1
"We're Over" 3 1 Songs About Ladies and Love
1975 "I Just Can't Get Her Out of My Mind" 1 3
"Just Get Up and Close the Door" 1 2 Just Get Up and Close the Door
"Love Put a Song in My Heart" 1 3 Love Put a Song In My Heart
1976 "I Couldn't Be Me Without You" 3 2
"I Wonder If I Ever Said Goodbye" 2 2 Reflecting
"Hillbilly Heart" 5 2
1977 "Desperado" 5 5
"If Practice Makes Perfect" 5 5 If Practice Makes Perfect
"Eres tú" 25 22
"Savin' This Love Song for You" 14 Just for You
1978 "We Believe in Happy Endings" 7 12
"Cuando Caliente El Sol (Love Me with All Your Heart)" 7 13 Love Me with All Your Heart
1979 "Alibis" 16 16 Rodriguez Was Here
"Down on the Rio Grande" 6 13 Rodriguez
"Fools for Each Other" 17 44
1980 "What'll I Tell Virginia" 19 33 Through My Eyes
"Love Look at Us Now" 29 54
"North of the Border" 17 16 Gypsy
1981 "I Want You Tonight" 22 49 After the Rain
"Trying Not to Love You" 30 39
"It's Not the Same Without You" 73 Biggest Hits
1982 "Born with the Blues" 66
"He's Not Entitled to Your Love" 89 N/A
1983 "Foolin'" 4 8 For Every Rose
"How Could I Love Her So Much" 6 16
"Back on Her Mind Again" 35
1984 "Too Late to Go Home" 15 32 Foolin' with Fire
"Let's Leave the Lights On Tonight" 30 29
"First Time Burned" 63
"Rose of My Heart" 60
1985 "Here I Am Again" 69 Full Circle
1986 "She Don't Cry Like She Used To" 51 50 N/A
1988 "I Didn't (Every Chance I Had)" 12 14 Gracias
"I Wanta Wake Up with You" 41 68
"You Might Want to Use Me Again" 44
1989 "No Chance to Dance" 72
"Back to Stay" 78
1993 "Run for the Border" Run for the Border
1996 "You Can Say That Again" You Can Say That Again
"One Bar at a Time" Funny Things Happen to Fun Lovin' People

Guest singles[edit]

Year Single Artist Chart Positions Album
US Country CAN Country
1979 "I Hate the Way I Love It" Charly McClain 16 65 Women Get Lonely
1990 "Tomorrow's World" Various artists 74 single only

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1990 "Tomorrow's World" (Various) Gustavo Garzon
1993 "Run for the Border" Tom Bevins
1996 "You Can Say That Again"


  1. ^ a b Biography
  2. ^ a b Texas Country Music Hall of Fame-2007 Inductees: Johnny Rodriguez Archived 2013-10-14 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Caldwell, Cary (September 23, 1998). "A Texas Killing and a Life of Triumph and Trouble". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ "Johnny Rodriguez lyrics". classic country lyrics. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
  5. ^ "Country Singer Charged With Murder In Shooting". Orlando Sentinel. 30 August 1998. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  6. ^ "UPI Focus: Rodriguez acquitted on murder charge". United Press International. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 17 December 2016. A jury Wednesday acquitted country singer Johnny Rodriguez of murder in the slaying of a man found in his mother's South Texas home in August 1988. Rodriguez, who had a dozen top 10 country hits in the late 70s, has contended that he shot Israel 'Bosco' Borrego in self-defense.
  • Country Song Roundup Magazine, 1976
  • Smolowe, Jill People Magazine Nov.1, 1999 Vol. 52 No. 17
  • Harris, Pat Music City News (nd)

External links[edit]