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A reliable country hitmaker for much of the '70s, Johnny Rodriguez was born in Sabinal, TX, in 1951, growing up 90 miles from the Mexican border. His older brother Andres, a big country music fan, bought him a guitar when he was seven, and he was playing and singing by his teens. Rodriguez was captain of his high school football team at 16, but when his father died of cancer, he spiraled out of control, racking up four arrests in two years. While Rodriguez was serving a jail term, Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson heard him sing and introduced him to music promoter Happy Shahan, who booked Rodriguez to work as a singing stagecoach driver at the Alamo Village Amusement Park during 1970-1971. There he was discovered by Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who brought him to Nashville to join Hall's Storytellers. Not long after, Rodriguez signed with Mercury, releasing his debut single, "Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)," in early 1973. It climbed into the Top Ten and turned out to be the first of 14 consecutive Rodriguez singles to do so. His next two, "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico" and "You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)," both hit number one.
1974 brought the Top Five hits "Dance With Me (Just One More Time)" and "We're Over," plus the number one "That's the Way Love Goes." The following year was even better, as all three of his singles -- "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" -- hit number one. More Top Five hits followed over 1976-1977 in "I Couldn't Be Me Without You," "I Wonder If I Ever Said Goodbye," and "Desperado," but he and Mercury parted ways in 1979, upon which point he signed with Epic. "Down the Rio Grande" went Top Ten that year, but Rodriguez subsequently endured a serious commercial slump. He returned to the Top Ten in 1983 with a pair of hits, "Foolin'" and "How Could I Love Her So Much," which proved to be the last of his career; his final chart single came with 1988's Top 20 hit "I Didn't (Every Chance I Had)" on Capitol. He did record a couple of honky tonk-style records during the '90s, specifically Run for the Border (Intersound, 1993) and You Can Say That Again (Hightone, 1996).
Johnny Rodriguez (born December 10, 1951 in Sabinal, Texas) is an American country music singer. He was the first famous Latin American 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 & rise to fame 
He was born Juan Raul Davis Rodriguez in Sabinal, Texas, the second youngest in a family of ten children living in a four-room house in this small town situated ninety miles from Mexico.
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 sixteen, his father died of cancer and his older brother Andres died in an automobile accident the following year. The two incidents soon had an effect on Rodriguez and he became a troubled teen. In 1969, he and some friends were caught by law enforcement officers after stealing and barbecuing a goat. This unfortunate incident and subsequent jail sentence led to his ultimate break in the music business. He often would sing in his cell and was overheard by Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, who was very impressed and told promoter "Happy" Shahan about him.
Shahan then hired Johnny to perform at his local tourist attraction called the Alamo Village. While singing at this venue, he came to the attention of country singers Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who encouraged the young singer to fly up to the country music capital Nashville, Tennessee in 1971.
The 21-year old singer arrived in Nashville with nothing more than a guitar in his hand and $14 in his pocket. Fortunately, 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 then offered a contract with Mercury. Upon signing as a Mercury artist, Rodriguez then recorded in their Nashville studio.
The height of his career in the 1970s 
After signing with Mercury, Rodriguez was soon on the way to becoming famous. His first single to be released for Mercury was 1972s "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 officially became the first Latin American country singer. (Freddy Fender came a couple years later).
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. Since then, he has often appeared on talk shows and other television shows.
The year 1975 was probably his biggest year, in terms of chart success. That year all the singles he released (3 in all) soared to No. 1 on the country charts. These songs were, "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."
Success on the country charts continued throughout much of the '70s. He recorded songs not only written by himself around this time, but also covers of others' songs such as 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." These songwriters were also country music singers themselves. By 1975, Rodriguez was considered an "outlaw," representing the Outlaw Country market in country music, like fellow musicians, Bobby Bare and Tom T. Hall.
Decline in the 1980s & into the 1990s 
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 wherever he went. However, Rodriguez was also having personal problems. 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 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 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.
Overall in the course of his career, Rodriguez released 26 albums and 45 charted singles. He has also had six 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 an album called You Can Say That Again. He also 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.
In 1998, Rodriguez was arrested at his home after shooting and killing a man named Israel "Bosco" Borrego, whom he mistook for a burglar. He was charged with murder but was acquitted by a jury a year later on grounds of self-defense, under Texas law.
Life after 1998 to present 
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. He 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.
He is now living in Texas. Johnny has achieved a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
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.
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.