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Maria Elena – 1941

“María Elena” is a 1932 popular song written by Lorenzo Barcelata (Spanish words and music). It was published by Peer International Corporation of Mexico. The English lyrics are by Bob Russell.

The song was dedicated to María Elena, the wife of Mexican President Emilio Portes Gil.

An instrumental version of the song was used for the background theme of the film Bordertown, starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis, in 1935. The next year the words and music were used in the Mexican film María Elena

Lawrence Welk later introduced the tune in the United States on his radio program, then in 1941 on the Okeh Records label.

The song was a hit for the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra with Bob Eberly doing the vocals. The recording was made on March 19, 1941 by Decca Records as catalog number 3698. The flip side was “Green Eyes.” The record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on May 16, 1941 and lasted 17 weeks on the chart, peaking at #1 on June 14, 1941. Since “Green Eyes” was also a #1 hit, this was a major double-sided hit recording. In the same year the Wayne King Orchestra also had a #2 hit with “Maria Elena”.

An instrumental version was recorded in 1958 and released in the United States in 1962 by Natalicio and Antenor Lima, better known as Los Indios Tabajaras. This popular revival hit No.6 in the Billboard pop chart and No.3 on the Billboard easy listening chart in the USA in late 1963, as well as making No.5 on the UK singles chart at the same juncture. The Shadows performed an instrumental version of this song on their 1967 album Jigsaw. Ry Cooder performed an instrumental version of this song on his 1972 album Boomer’s Story.

German guitarist Dieter Geike recorded an instrumental version on his 1983 album Homeland.

Dick Dale also performed an instrumental version on his 1994 album Unknown Territory. In 2002, Michael Bublé released his own version on the album Dream.