María Elena (song)

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"María Elena"
Single by Jimmy Dorsey
RecordedBob Eberly
LabelDecca Records
Songwriter(s)Lorenzo Barcelata
Music and Spanish lyrics
Bob Russell
English lyrics
Jimmy Dorsey singles chronology
"My Sister and I"
"María Elena"
"Maria Elena"
Single by Los Indios Tabajaras
Released1963 (1963)
Songwriter(s)Lorenzo Barcelata

"María Elena" is a 1932 popular song written by Lorenzo Barcelata (Spanish words and music). It was published by Peer International Corporation of Mexico.[1] The English lyrics are by Bob Russell.

Song background[edit]

The song was dedicated to María Elena Peralta, the wife of Mexican President Emilio Portes Gil and sister of businessman Alejo Peralta.[1][2] She is the aunt of Carlos Peralta, the son of Alejo.

An instrumental version of the song was used for the background theme of the film Bordertown, starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis, in 1935. The next year the words and music were used in the Mexican film María Elena.[1]

Cover versions[edit]

A version with an English language lyric was recorded in February 1940 by Adolph Hofner and his Texans, one of the great Western Swing bands, in Dallas.[citation needed]

Lawrence Welk introduced the tune in the United States on his radio program, then in 1941 on the Okeh Records label.[1][2]

The song was a hit for the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra with Bob Eberly doing the vocals. The recording was made on March 19, 1941 by Decca Records as catalog number 3698. The flip side was "Green Eyes." The record first reached the Billboard charts on May 16, 1941 and lasted 17 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1 on June 14, 1941.[3] Since "Green Eyes" was also a #1 hit, this was a major double-sided hit recording. In the same year the Wayne King Orchestra also had a #2 hit with "Maria Elena".

An instrumental version was recorded in 1958 and released in the United States in 1962 by Natalicio and Antenor Lima, better known as Los Indios Tabajaras. This popular revival hit No. 6 in the Billboard pop chart and No. 3 on the Billboard easy listening chart in the USA in late 1963,[4] as well as making No.5 on the UK singles chart at the same juncture. The Family Four released a Swedish version (called "Mari Helena"), crediting Henrick Lindstrom (and L. Barcelona) in the 1960s. The Shadows performed an instrumental version of this song on their 1967 album Jigsaw. Ry Cooder performed an instrumental version of this song on his 1972 album Boomer's Story.

German guitarist Dieter Geike recorded an instrumental version on his 1983 album Homeland.[5]

'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow, formerly pedal steel guitarist with the Flying Burrito Brothers, recorded an instrumental version of this song on his 1994 album 'The Legend and the Legacy'.

Dick Dale also performed an instrumental version on his 1994 album Unknown Territory. Cesária Évora released a cover of the song on her 1999 album, Café Atlantico. In 2002, Michael Bublé released his own version on the album Dream.


  1. ^ a b c d Lorenzo Barcelata. -
  2. ^ a b Garnatz, Judy (August 25, 1991). - "Don't sell an item until you have been paid". - St. Petersburg Times.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 150.
  5. ^ Album entry on