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Public viewing for TV host Johnny Canales on Tuesday in Corpus Christi

Johnny Canales
Courtesy photo
Adrian Arredondo
Johnny Canales

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Johnny Canales, the Tejano music star-maker who was a household name for decades, died last week at the age of 81.

A public viewing for Canales was scheduled for Tuesday, June 18, at Selena Auditorium in Corpus Christi.

His wife, Nora Canales, announced his death on Thursday, June 13, on Facebook. “He was more than just a beloved husband, father, TV host, musician, and entertainer; he was a beacon of hope and joy for countless people,” she wrote.

Canales was musician and host of "The Johnny Canales Show," a program produced in Corpus Christi that introduced several Tejano stars, including Selena, Emilio Navaira, and La Sombra, to U.S. audiences.

He helped these three artists gain two Grammy awards and eight nominations over 17 years on live TV.

The show premiered in the 1980s, was broadcast throughout the U.S. and Latin America, and remained on the air until 2005. It was revived several years later. Many fans remember hearing, “You got it! Take it away!” before the stars performed.

San Antonio Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro paid tribute to Canales during a speech on the House floor on Friday.

"Johnny was a champion for civil rights, an advocate for veterans, and a musician in his own right," he said.

South Texans, including Patricia Avila, who helps run the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame & Museum, had fond memories of Canales.

“Everybody in South Texas grew up with Johnny Canales on a Sunday. He was like our Dick Clark, 'American Bandstand,' she said. “So yeah, Johnny Canales' 'take it away,’ those were words that would always ring in our ears.”

Miami-based filmmaker Adrian Arredondo, who is working on a documentary about the TV host, said Canales embodied the American Dream.

“He was putting on his TV show artists who people in the United States had one no idea existed, who had no idea that the genres existed,” Arredondo said.

Arredondo spoke to TPR in May when it was announced that Canales was gravely ill.

“I would describe Johnny Canales as one of the funniest people that I've ever met, and one of the most genuine human beings,” he said.

There was, initially, some confusion in news reports over his age. Juan Jose "Johnny" Canales was born on Aug. 23, 1942, according to Seaside Funeral Home in Corpus Christi. He died on June 12, 2024, making him 81.

Canales grew up in Robstown along the coast, served in the Army, and was a radio DJ in the '70s before he turned to television.

In her Facebook tribute, Nora Canales wrote, “Johnny's spirit will continue to live on through the countless lives he touched and the legacy he built … Remember him, not with sadness, but with the joy and passion he always brought into our lives.”

Jack Morgan contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story included his incorrect age. Canales was 81 when he died.

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Samuel is a communications senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. He serves as the station manager for the student-run organization, TAMUSA Radio, and is a staff writer for campus magazine El Espejo.

Samuel will graduate from A&M-San Antonio in the Fall 2024 semester and plans to continue on as a journalist in his hometown of San Antonio.