FEBRUARY 22 - JUNE 25, 2017
Rosita Fernández (1918-2006), a pioneer of Tejano music, is the subject of a special exhibition at The Wittliff Collections. Guest curated by Ramón Hernández, founder/curator of Hispanic Entertainment Archives, the display highlights her music and career, and is drawn from Hernández’s extensive personal collection.
Rosita Fernández recorded many corridos and ballads in the male-dominated genre of Tejano music and was one of the first Tejana singers to record. Singing for many notable people throughout her life, she was named San Antonio’s First Lady of Song by Lady Bird Johnson in 1968 and was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
From Curator Ramón Hernández:
ROSITA FERNÁNDEZ - San Antonio’s First Lady of Song
Born April 12, 1918- actress; singer
Fernández, born in Monterrey, Mexico to Captain Julio César Fernández and his wife Petra, was one of sixteen children. Her sisters, Celia, Elisa and Bertha also sang; and Bertha appears in some of Rosita’s recordings. Other children were Amadita, Bertita, Cesar, Sotero, Olga, Anna Maria, Salvador and Marianela.
Her uncle, Pablo Fernández almost got to be President of Mexico. However, he died in a freak accident during the presidential campaign.
As teenagers, Rosita’s own children seemed to follow in her footsteps. Her daughter Diana Rosa was a popular Flamenco dancer and her son, Raul, an Elvis Presley imitator. Another little known fact is that
Raul Arturo Almaguer, her husband, did the English to Spanish translations on most of her songs.
Fernández, as can be attested to by the following data, has probably received more citations and awards than any other Tejano singer. Yet, she remains so down to earth, she seems out of place at her kitchen sink doing dishes.
“There’s two of us,” Rosita said during an 1985 interview at her home. “First there’s a Mrs. Almaguer who does the dishes. Then there’s a Rosita Fernández who sings. The separation is such that when our kids were small, they would say, ‘Come on mom, hurry up with the dishes so we can go see Rosita Fernández at the Arneson River Theater,’” she explained.
1927 At age 9, Fernández began her singing career with Trio San Miguel, also her Uncles.
1932 Her family moved to San Antonio making their home at 621 S. Pinto St. It was also during this time her sister Bertha would join Rosita on some duets. Other celebrities that lived on Pinto Street are Lalo Astor, Eva Garza, Alfonso Cantu and Raul Cortez. Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez lived around the corner on San Fernando St.
1933 Fernández started her radio career when she was selected for WOAI radio’s Gebhart’s Chili Show, one of America's first commercial radio programs. Next came the Frito Program and a career in jingles.
1934 Started recording duets as Rosita y Laura with Laura Cantu of Carmen y Laura
1935 She became the featured vocalist with the Eduardo Martinez Orchestra. Martinez was one of the originators of Fiesta Noche del Rio. Meanwhile she started working off and off with Trio Los Conquistadores.
1936 Performed at the Texas Centennial with Pancho Hernandez and Lydia Newman.
late '36 Bertha broke away from the act
1937 Fernández started performing at the Arneson River Theater as part of the original Night In Old San Antonio.
1938 Joined the “New Spanish Trail” radio program. It was also this year, she met and married her leading man, Raul Arturo Almaguer. It was her husband who suggested she keep on using her maiden name because it sounded more Mexican. “Then I decided one of us had to work to support us. So I got a regular full-time job,” he said.
l939 Made her first Mexican radio appearance on the Emilio Ascarga Show, on XET
10-06-46 Fernández appeared in the first television program ever transmitted by WOAI-TV. Other programs followed: “Just Before Tonight,” “Dance Time” and “Winter Wonderland.”
1947 Started recording and performing with the Emilio Casares Orchestra.
1949 Became a regular on The Rhumba Kings television show, also on WOAI-TV.
early ‘50s Sang with the Xavier Cugat, Sammy Kaye and Jesse Gonzalez orchestras.
1957 Night in Old San Antonio was changed to Fiesta Noche Del Rio when the Alamo Kiwanis Club took over the function. Singing with the Mariano Lozano Orchestra, Fernandez commenced a 26 year stint at the Arneson River Theater, as its main attraction. “However, even before Fiesta Noche was sponsored by the Kiwanis, we were performing there with the Raul Martinez Orchestra for the Chamber of Commerce.
Summer ’84 She did her last show at the Arneson River Theater.
2005 Rosita underwent heart surgery
2005 After recovering, she married Charles Reeves.
5-2-06 Rosita died of heart complications at the age of 88.
1960 The Alamo w/John Wayne, Richard Boone and Frankie Avalon
1967 Sancho the Homing Steer w/Bill Shurley
1976 Seguin w/Henry Darrow, A. Martinez and Pepe Serna
1981 300 Miles For Stephanie w/Tony Orlando & Edward Olmos
6-22-53 Appeared live on the “Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout TV Show” where she sang Guadalajara.
7-16-53 Appeared on “Live Like A Millionaire” where she was paid $39.70 and she had to provide her own transportation.
1955 Appeared on an Ed Sullivan television special filmed at Boysville, in San Antonio, Texas.
Gary Moore Show, Barbara Britton Show and Raul Velasco Show (3 times) to name a few. In addition, she has appeared in may Mexican national television programs.
AWARDS & CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
late '40s Sang for President Harry Truman
01-64 Sang at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Inauguration
07-64 Selected “Woman of the Week” by the San Antonio Express-News
11-65 Sang for Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos
01-66 Was made an honorary citizen and received the Key to the City of Corpus Christi, Texas
04-66 Named “San Antonio's First Lady of Song” by Lady Bird Johnson
11-66 Selected as one of the “Outstanding Women of the Americas.”
1967 Named a Buccaneer Days Honorary Pirate
12-67 Received a Tribute Recognition Award from KCOR Radio in San Antonio
early ‘68 Sang for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey
1968 Appointed Hemisphere Ambassador
11-68 Sang for President Richard M. Nixon
11-68 Appeared in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade promoting Hemisphere
06-72 Sang for Mexican President Luis Echeverria
1974 Received a plaque from the Fiesta Noche Del Rio cast
mid ‘70s Sang for President Gerald Ford.
09-74 Received the Golden Years Appreciation Award
09-75 Named Almirante del Rio San Antonio
1977 She was selected Grand Marshall for the Battle of Flowers Parade in San Antonio.
1977 She was selected Grand Marshall for the Diez y Seis Parade.
08-78 Received a Recognition Award from the Old Spanish Mission Centro de Artesania
1979 Fernández sang with the San Antonio Symphony
late '70s Sang for President Jimmy Carter
08-79 Budweiser Beer gave Fernández a Meritorious Service Award in furtherance of the Hispanic culture of the City of San Antonio.
1979 Received a 50 Year Recognition Award from the Musicians Society of San Antonio Local 23.
10-79 Named “Amiga De Jalisco” by the city of Jalisco, Mexico
1979 She was made the centerfold in a coloring book about historical places in San Antonio.
04-80 Sang for, then received a Certified Blessing Certificate from Pope John Paul II
05-80 Received a 50 Year Recognition Award from KWEX-TV in San Antonio
05-80 Named Emissary of the Muses
05-80 Received a 50 Year Recognition Award from the Mexican American Business & Professional Women’s Club.
5-30-80 Received a Hommage Award for her great artistic labor during the last 50 years.
11-80 Received a 50 Years of Outstanding Performance Award from Ladies Lulac Council 282
1981 Selected Grand Marshall for the Fiesta Flameau Night Parade
1982 Mayor Henry Cisneros and the San Antonio City Council honored Fernandez by naming the bridge at the Arneson River Theatre “Rosita's Bridge.”
12-82 Received a citation from the San Antonio Mexican Chamber of Commerce
12-82 Received a citation from The State of Texas House of Representatives
12-19-82 Received a plaque from the Mexican American Business & Professional Women’s Club of San Antonio for promoting a position image of the Mexican American woman.
1983 Received a plaque from Telethon Navideño
07-83 Selected “Woman of the Year” by the Nemo Herrea Scholarship Fund
10-83 Designated Huesped Distinguido
1983 Awarded a plaque for “56 Years of Service to the Community” from Lulac Council No. 2
09-84 Inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame
9-11-84 Kelly AFB, in San Antonio, awarded her the “Entertainment Role Model Award” for outstanding and meritorious service and demonstrated commitment to promoting and improving the status of Hispanic Americans.
10-84 Named “La Primera Doma De La Cancion Mexicana” by Los Trovadores De Mi Tierra.
01-85 Named “Sunday’s Woman”
4-22-85 “San Antonio” designated the city’s Official Song
10-85 Named “Good Neighbor” by the Good Neighbor Commission of Texas
1986 During her long career, Fernández has sang for the President of Pakistan, sang at the White House and the U.S. Senate.
She has also shared the same stage with Joan Crawford, Dean Martin, Red Buttons, George Gobel, Roger Smith, Diane McBain, Poncie Ponz, Pedro Armendariz and many others too numerous to mention.
1986 Inducted into the San Antonio Musicians Society Hall of Fame
1986 Was asked to sing with the San Antonio Symphony, again.
02-87 Sang for British Prince Charles
02-87 Inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame
04-87 Named Honorary Grand Marshall for the Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade
05-87 Rosita’s Bridge was featured on the Texas Numismatic Association 29th Convention Medal
05-87 Additionally, she has received countless of Certificates of Appreciation for her work in telethons, benefits and other charity events. Events like fund raisers for the Earthquake Victims in Mexico, Texas Rehabiliation Center, Peruvian Earthquake Orphans, Region VI Head Start and the Disabled American Veterans Helping Hands Lifeline Foundation to name a few.
09-13-87 Sang for Pope John Paul II
09-27-87 Sang for King Juan Carlos of Spain
NEWSPAPER & MAGAZINE COVERS
1953 New York’s Gotham LIFE Guide
1958 Appeared in LIFE Magazine
06-58 The Analog
1959 Appeared in LOOK Magazine
08-59 Events in San Antonio
06-64 Los Esperamos en San Antonio
10-64 Chicago Welcome
05-67 The Houston Post’s TEXAS Magazine
08-68 Appeared in LIFE Magazine with Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey
02-73 The San Antonian
12-80 NUESTRO Magazine
1984 Kelly AFBÆs Hispanic's Magazine
In addition, Fernandez has appeared on many travel brochures and the cover of the San Antonio Express-News Weekender Magazine and San Antonio Star numerous times. And of course on the cover of numerous Fiesta Noche Del Rio programs that span over one quarter of a century.
78 RPM SINGLES: also on RCA & Brunswick
1931 Fernandez recorded her first 78 rpm record, “Chaparita Pretenciosa,” with Trio San Miguel BLUE BIRD
who were her uncles, Sotero, Fernando and Santiago San Miguel.
Elevo Al Cielo / El Ranchero Afamado w/Sotero VOCALION 8954
Mis Noches Son Años / Caramelo KCOR
Era Rechula w/Sotero San Miguel no label
Capricho Español / Sevillana’s no label
Comienza En Ti / Polka San Antonio w/Emilio Caceres Orch. DECCA 10556
Vida / Nuestro Adios w/The Mike Ornelas Orchestra IDEAL 335
No Fuiste El Primero / No Faltaba Mas w/Conjunto Ideal IDEAL 467
Al Fin / Mi Fracaso w/Conjunto Ideal IDEAL 483
Tennessee Waltz / Condicion w/Laura & Beto Villa IDEAL 555
Contestacion A Cuano El Destino / Hablame Claro IDEAL 648
Por Fin / Despacioso duet w/Laura backed by Beto Villa IDEAL 696
Amor Que Malo Eres / Esperando duet w/Laura backed by Beto Villa IDEAL 704
La Traidora / Ya Viene Mi Amor duet w/Laura backed by Beto Villa IDEAL 708
Menita / Solo Por Ti IDEAL 711
Boquita De Cielo / Tu Tienes La Culpa w/Laura IDEAL 740
Como Me Has Dejado / Yo Te Espero w/Laura & Orquestra Continental IDEAL 753
Porque No Me Haces Caso / Estrellita Del Sur w/Chuy Compeon Orch. IDEAL 780
Ambicion / No Mientas duet with Laura backed by Los Conquistadores IDEAL 790
Adios Canoa / Entre Cadenas w/Laura IDEAL 807
No Se Hace Nada / Ni Que Agradecerte IDEAL 811
Pasion Atormentada / Te Das Cuenta w/Laura IDEAL 815
Es Por Demas / Gracias Mi Amor w/C. Compeon Orch. IDEAL 822
Cuatro Caracolitos / Le Pido Al Cielo w/Laura & Compeon Orch. IDEAL 825
Fui A Tu Boda / Me Perteneces A Mi w/Laura & B. Villa IDEAL 834
Volvere otra Vez / Maria Chapucera w/Laura & Los Conquistadores IDEAL 873
Agonia / Mujerzuela w/Los Conquistadores IDEAL 877
Ni Por Favor / Pretende w/Laura & B. Villa IDEAL 899
I Walk Alone / Amor WILCOX-GAY
I'll Remember April / Cancion Del Mar WILCOX-GAY
Que Puedo Esperar / No Mientas WILCOX-GAY
06-53 Arthur Godfrey live recording of “Guadalajara” ROCKHILL
07-53 Live Like A Millionair live recording of “Ama” ROCKHILL
En Las Orillas del Mar / Caiste Por Fin w/Aurelia & Conj. Pedro Rios FALCÓN 901
Mentiras Tuyas / Tu Mala Entraña w/Aurelia FALCÓN 918
Pagina En Blanco / Suplica FALCÓN 921
La Pajarera / Falsa Luna duet w/Aurelia backed by el Conjunto de Pedro Rios FALCÓN 933
Quien Sera / Mi Imposible CORONA 2107
1959 Jacaranda / Manana Me Voy FALCÓN 1502
Billed as "La Rosa de San Antonio," her song reached
No. 3 in Mexico where the song was released as PEERLESS 5940
Inquietud / Tequila Chaser w/Ramiro Cervera SOMBRERO SO-123
45 RPM SINGLES
Llorando En Las Nubes / Ya Sin Quererte w/Los Fantasticos Cucarachas SOMBRERO SO-2349
Two Names On A Wall / Love At First Sight w/Lou Finley Orch. IDEAL 45-4001
Guilty / Trapped 45-5000
1968 San Antonio Ciudad De Encantos / San Antonio inst.
w/Mariachi Chapultepec MIRADOR MR-502
Contrastes Musicales NORTEÑO NO. 821
San Antonio Rose FALCÓN FLP-126
La Pajarera w/Aurelia FALCÓN FLP-127
San Antonio Rose ECO No. 20
Vuelve Beto Villa w/Rosita Fernández DLB 2011