A reliable country hitmaker for much of the '70s, Johnny Rodriguez was born in Sabinal, TX, in 1952, growing up 90 miles from the Mexican border. His older brother Andres, a big country music fan, bought him a guitar when he was seven, and he was playing and singing by his teens. Rodriguez was captain of his high school football team at 16, but when his father died of cancer, he spiraled out of control, racking up four arrests in two years. While Rodriguez was serving a jail term, Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson heard him sing and introduced him to music promoter Happy Shahan, who booked Rodriguez to work as a singing stagecoach driver at the Alamo Village Amusement Park during 1970-1971. There he was discovered by Tom T. Hall and Bobby Bare, who brought him to Nashville to join Hall's Storytellers. Not long after, Rodriguez signed with Mercury, releasing his debut single, "Pass Me By (If You're Only Passing Through)," in early 1973. It climbed into the Top Ten and turned out to be the first of 14 consecutive Rodriguez singles to do so. His next two, "Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico" and "You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me)," both hit number one.