Laura Canales, RIP

Laura Canales, who died Monday at the age of 50, was the Queen of Tejano when Selena was just a kid. Laura Canales, La Reina de la Onda Chicana, passed away after complications from gall stone surgery. During the 1970s, the Kingsville native broke new ground in the emerging Tejano scene as a female singer in Los Unicos and in El Conjunto Bernal. She and three other members of Los Unicos including her boyfriend, Balde Munoz, last joined Snowball & Co., who in 1977 become one of Tejano's hottest, partly due to Laura's appeal, partly due to the novelty of Ramiro "Snowball" de la Cruz, the accordionist, who was a blonde albino.

Selena acknowledged Laura's influence. "She paved the way for everyone who has come after her, including myself. She had really opened up a lot of doors. I think she was the first lady to draw in crowds and bring peopel. I reallyh respect her because of that."

Laura mentored Selena and as the kids grew up, shared the stage with Los Dinos numerous times. The business of music had been very hard on her and she didn't want the same for Selena. "My dad was my only supporter," Canales told me in Kingsville three months after Selena's death. "He used to go with me, pick up a six-pack and have fun, dance with all the girls. But he died in '77. After that, I'd come home crying and Mom would say, 'Quit! Get out!' I never had anyone to talk to. In this music business you don't belong to yourself, you have no privae life; you belong to the public. They put you on this pedestal and you can't do anything wrong."

For that reason, Laura expressed admiration for Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., and how he protected his daughter.
"Shit, I wished I'd of had someone like that, a rock. Somebody that you can trust beyond reason. You can turnaround and go to sleep and know that they're going to be watching you, making sure nothing happened to you."

Canales married Balde Munoz but after the marriage failed, promoters and managers would throw that in her face to take advantage of her.

When I spoke with Laura, she had left show business and had gone back to Texas A&M Kingsville to get her degree. She was majoring in Speech Therapy, she said. "I want to teach me people how to say 'Chicken' instead of 'Shicken'."

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