The first nationally famous ranchera singer, Jorge Negrete appeared in three dozen films and recorded almost 200 songs during the 1930s, '40s, and early '50s, before dying at the height of his career. Born into a military family (his father earned the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Mexican Army during the revolution), Negrete initially followed in his father's footsteps, enrolling in Heroico Colegio Militar (his country's West Point) in 1925 and joining the army three years later.
In addition to the military, Negrete was also interested in music; he studied voice with José Pierson and became a talented opera singer (at one time, New York's Metropolitan Opera House offered him a secondary position). When hired by radio station XEW in 1930, however, he struggled to make the transition from opera to the more commercial ranchera style. After four years of development and growing acclaim, Negrete made a trip to New York to perform and was promptly hired by NBC. His career exploded during his brief stay in America; he collaborated with Xavier Cugat, earned bookings at Latin clubs, met his first wife (dancer Elisa Christy), and connected with cinematographer Ramón Peon, who cast Negrete in his first film, 1937's La Madrina del Diablo. Four years later, Ay Jalisco, No Te Rajes! assured his fame as "El Charro Cantor," the singing cowboy. He made 38 films in all and recorded several huge hits, including "Paloma Querida," "El Hijo del Pueblo," "Tequila con Limón," and the patriotic anthems "Mexico Lindo y Querido" and "Yo Soy Mexicano."
During the early '50s, Negrete worked with Pedro Infante, one of his main ranchera rivals, in Dos Tipos de Cuidado, and wed another film star, María Felix, in a marriage that Mexicans dubbed "the wedding of the century" (Felix's first appearance was in a Negrete film). One year later, he was dead from cirrhosis, not caused by alcoholism but hepatitis. ~ John Bush