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NARANJO, RUBEN (1945–1998). An exponent of the traditional conjunto style, singer and accordionist Ruben Naranjo was born on February 22, 1945, in Alice, Texas. He began playing the bajo sexto at the age of fifteen but switched to the accordion in 1962 when accordionist Chano Cadena asked him to join his group as second accordionist. Ten years later Naranjo formed his group Ruben Naranjo y Los Gamblers and began touring. In the middle 1970s he began recording on Zarape Records out of Dallas. His first big success came with "La Estrella," a song that immediately became a hit and gave a boost to his career. With touring and widespread radio airplay, Naranjo earned the reputation as one of the most talented accordionists in South Texas. Many hit recordings followed including "Dulce Adorada," "Besos Callejeros," "Dos Caracoles," "Trienta Copas," and others. He released more than twenty albums, many for Freddie Records and La Hacienda Records of Corpus Christi. His popularity peaked in the 1980s.
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A humble and gentlemanly performer, Naranjo was known for his Clark Gable-like good looks and called by fans "El Hijo del Pueblo" (“The Son of the Town”). He was also affectionately known as “El Si Senor,” because he often cried out “Si, senor!” during his performances. On October 12, 1998, he died unexpectedly at the age of fifty-three soon after playing at La Villita in his hometown of Alice. A funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Joseph Catholic Church, and he was buried in New Collins Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Minerva, four children, and his mother Leonor Jacobo Naranjo. Son Ricky Naranjo carried on his father’s accordion tradition with Los Gamblers and, beginning in 1999, headlined an annual daylong festival in Alice, the Ruben Naranjo Memorial Festival. Ruben Naranjo was inducted into the Tejano R.O.O.T.S. Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 2007. He was inducted into the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in San Benito in 2010.
Austin American-Statesman, October 13, 1998. Corpus Christi Caller-Times, October 13, 1998. Special Tribute To Ruben Naranjo (http://www.ondanet.com/tejano/artists/Ruben.Naranjo/Tribute.html), accessed July 1, 2011.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Clayton T. Shorkey, "NARANJO, RUBEN ," accessed July 16, 2018, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fna26.
Uploaded on June 17, 2015. Modified on August 3, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.