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Johnny Canales, Tejano music legend, dies at 77

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Johnny Canales, the Tejano singer and starmaker who rose to fame in the 1980s and 90s, has died, his family said Thursday.

Canales, 77, was a Mexican Tejano singer best known for hosting The Johnny Canales Show, which featured one of the first live performances by Selena Quintanilla. The show, which Canales also executive produced, debuted in 1983 and aired performances by breakout musicians from around Latin America and the U.S. for more than two decades. 

2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards - Press Room
Johnny Canales poses backstage at 2005 Billboard Latin Music Awards at the Miami Arena April 28, 2005 in Miami, Fla. Getty Images

His family announced his death in a Facebook post to the official page for the show he co-hosted with his wife, El Show de Johnny y Nora Canale. They described him as a beloved husband and father as well as "a beacon of hope and joy for countless people," asking fans to "remember him not with sadness, but with the joy and passion he always brought into our lives."

"His infectious charisma and dedication to promoting Latino music and culture left a large mark on the world," the post reads. "Johnny's spirit will continue to live on through the countless lives he touched and the legacy he built." 

Canales became an icon in the Tejano music scene, establishing a solid presence in the sphere of Latin American pop culture with his weekly show usually airing live from Corpus Christi, Texas. As described by Texas Monthly, Canales "played a role akin to Dick Clark" from 1983 to 2005 as his show promoted singers and bands "across the Chicano, Mexicano, and Tejano spectrum."

Selena was just a young teenager when she first performed on the show in 1986, returning later into her stardom to perform hits such as "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" and "Baila Este Cumbia." In 2015, Canales and Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, released a DVD with live performances by the late singer from the time she was 13 to 23, according to the Corpus Christi-Caller Times. The last performance was filmed just four months before she was killed in Corpus Christi on March 31, 1995.

Canales told the Caller-Times he saw something special in Selena the moment she first performed. 

"In Spanish there's a saying that if you are a talented singer or performer, you have an angel, that your singing is like an act from God," Canales said. "She had an angel."

Since news of Canales' death broke, heartfelt tributes from fellow entertainers and fans have poured in on social media. 

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