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Juan Carlos Rodríguez

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REYNA CISNEROS, CORNELIO (1940–1997). Cornelio Reyna Cisneros, singer, songwriter, actor, and "godfather" of norteñoconjunto music, was born on September 16, 1940, in Natillas, Coahuila, Mexico. In Saltillo, Coahuila, at the age of sixteen, Reyna started his musical career by writing songs, singing, and playing the bajo sexto (twelve-string guitar).

He later moved to the border town of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, where he joined accordionist Juan Peña and formed Dueto Carta Blanca. While playing at the Cadillac Bar in Reynosa, Reyna met a fifteen-year-old accordion player named Ramón Ayala. In 1961 Reyna and Ayala teamed up to form the group Los Relámpagos del Norte, with Reyna as the lead singer. Two years later, while playing at a cantina in Reynosa, Los Relámpagos was discovered by Paulino Bernal, who signed the group with his newly founded Bego Records. Within a short time, Los Relámpagos became the premier conjunto attraction along both sides of the border. Reyna and Ayala were first in bridging the musical gap between the norteño and conjunto styles. They featured the accordion and bajo sexto as backing rhythms for corridos, polkas, and rancheras.

Throughout the 1960s, Los Relámpagos dominated the norteño–conjunto scene with such hits as "Te Traigo Estas Flores," "Llora," and "Un Día con Otro." In 1971 the group split up, after recording more than twenty albums for Bego Records. Ayala went on to form his own group, Los Bravos del Norte. Reyna, as a soloist, began singing with mariachis and appeared in numerous Mexican films. By this time he had gained a reputation as a prolific songwriter with such compositions as "Mil Noches," "Callejón sin Salida," "Hay Ojitos," and "Me Caí de las Nubes." He appeared in more than thirty movies, some of which were based on his more popular songs. He also directed several films and starred with Antonio Aguilar, Pedro Infante, Jr., Los Tigres del Norte, and other actors. Reyna later formed his own group, Los Reyes del Norte. In 1995 he and Ayala reunited as Los Relámpagos del Norte and produced the album Juntos para Siempre.

In 1997, while preparing to record a new album with Sony Music in Mexico City, Reyna became ill and died of complications from a bleeding ulcer on January 22. He was buried in Reynosa. He was survived by three sons and a daughter, from a series of marriages, including one to the well-known singer Mercedes Castro.

Alberto Reyna, known in the musical world as Cornelio Reyna, Jr., was the only child who followed in his father's footsteps. In 1997 he released the Sony Discos album Ayer y Hoy, which included previously unreleased songs written by his father.


Ramiro Burr, The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music (New York: Billboard, 1999). Manuel Peña, Música Tejana: The Cultural Economy of Artistic Transformation (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999). Manuel Peña, The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985).

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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, Juan Carlos Rodríguez, "REYNA CISNEROS, CORNELIO," accessed July 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fre65.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 3, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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