Tejano icon Shelly Lares, who will celebrate 40 years in the Tejano music industry and recently announced she will retire at the end of her 2021-2022 LMD Legacy Tour, does not remember exactly who gave her the nickname of “Little Miss Dynamite,” but she loves it.
The title is fitting, too, as Lares, who is nearing her 50th birthday and will pursue a full-time nursing career after her retirement from music, has a seemingly endless flow of energy, along with fierce determination, and powerful positivity. These traits likely helped fuel Lares as she navigated her decades-long career that began at age 10.
“I worked so hard for people to become familiar with the name Shelly Lares,” she said. “And then, ‘Little Miss Dynamite Shelly Lares.’ And then it just goes to ‘Little Miss Dynamite Shelly.’ And now it’s just ‘LMD.’”
Lares marvels when she looks at where she started and where she’s at now, going from her name, Shelly Lares, to having an abbreviated nickname that is a brand she can merchandise.
“That’s amazing, because it’s been quite a road,” Lares said. “But I love Little Miss Dynamite.”
Lares loves her fans, too, or “Shellians,” as they are known.
“I love everyone that’s ever gone to my shows, requested my music, bought my merchandise, downloaded,” she said. “I mean every single person and it’s so many. You’re talking about thousands of people throughout 40 years.”
With a career that spans four decades, Lares has many memories to cherish, and she shared some of those moments, including her most memorable performance.
“I would have to say my very first performance for the Tejano Music Awards at age 10 will always live into my mind like yesterday,” she said. “Having Latin Breed back me up and performing for the first time. I think there were about 1,200 to 1,500 people at that time when it used to be at the (Henry B. González) Convention Center.”
As a new, young talent, Lares recalls the buzz that surrounded the event.
“I just remember my mom getting me ready and I guess I was nervous, but I wasn’t scared,” she said. “I was excited.”
In regards to awards and honors, what stands out for her is winning the Female Vocalist of the Year Award at the Tejano Music Awards in 1998 after many years of being nominated.
“Winning my first Tejano Music Award in ’98 for vocalist is something I had always, always wanted to be recognized for,” she recalls. “And you know it was always hard because I was in the shadows for so long. I was always the underdog in so many aspects.”
Lares, of course, refers to late Tejano icon, Selena, with whom she shared a close friendship, but also competed against in several of the same categories at the Tejano Music Awards. Selena won the Female Vocalist of the Year Award in 1986 and 1987, and consecutively from 1989 to 1997.
“It was hard for so long, because she was such a strong force in our industry as she deserved to be,” Lares said. “But it would bother her because she knew how hard I worked, too.”
Lares, who was nominated for the Tejano Music Awards Female Vocalist of the Year Award since 1983, knew she would have to wait for her turn at the honor.
“I always kind of knew in the back of my mind, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be a long time until we get it,’” Lares said. “And I was very patient.”
Despite the wait, she endured until she captured the coveted award, and until then, Lares did not focus on the situation.
“I didn’t base my career on it,” she said. “I never believe in basing my career off awards or charts or anything like that. They’re very important to what we do, but at the same time, there are other things that are more rewarding than that.”
Lares uses the experience as an example when she mentors rising talent in the industry.
“That’s why I tell these new artists, ‘Don’t be upset if you’re not even on a ballot,’ because guess what,” Lares said. “You’ve got to pay dues. You don’t want to have entitlement. You don’t want to start feeling a sense of entitlement just because you’re an artist that you deserve to win an award.”
Waiting all those years until she won was tough, but she knew that Selena had a strong team and sponsors, not to mention a rapidly growing fan base. Plus, Selena had entered the industry years before Lares.
“I couldn’t compare myself to her,” Lares said. “We never did, because she was already…at least five years in the game before I came along. People don’t know that for the most part unless they’re educated in Tejano music history.”
The competition of the music industry, however, did not affect the friendship between the two young artists, who were only months apart in age.
“I think she related to me on so many levels, because she was only seven months older than me,” Lares said. “We both were in the music industry yet we never talked about music. We never talked about our career. Never.”
The two artists hung out together like normal teenagers, according to Lares. They would go shopping, out to eat, or just drive around. Selena took pleasure in the simple things in life, including swimming at Lares’ pool or enjoying a barbecue. She remembers one instance where Selena, who had never barbecued, said she wanted to try it, but things didn’t go as planned.
“She wound up burning the chicken anyway,” Lares recalls. “We wound up throwing it in the back alley because she didn’t want me to tell anybody that she burned it. So, we started over, and I had to watch (the chicken) for her.”
The two would play jokes on each other, perform silly skits, and just laugh and goof around, but as both were raised in structured households, when it was time to work, they behaved and did as they were told.
“We did what we were supposed to do all the time,” Lares said. “We were very disciplined that way. We had a lot of respect for our parents, especially our fathers.”
If Lares had one wish for her childhood friend, Selena, it would be for her to live a long life.
“I would say I would wish for my friend to be here, to have a normal life, and to live until she’s old,” she said. “Because, really, what life do we live at 23?”
Lares could see Selena was just starting to become her own independent person toward the end of her life. However, that in her short time here, Selena did affect a lot of people.
“She did make quite an impact on so many people, especially those that knew her personally, like myself,” Lares said. “I will always cherish those moments; keep them close to my heart.”
Other memories and highlights from Lares’ almost 40 years in the Tejano music industry include her award from BMI for her massive hit, “Soy Tu Amor,” from her 1994 album Quiero Ser Tu Amante.
“That was a very prestigious award for me because that’s when you get a lot of airplay,” Lares said. “’Soy Tu Amor’ was the most Latin played song of 1994.”
Lares would also receive a BMI award for her hit, “Siempre Lo Esperare,” off of her 1996 self-titled album for Sony.
Lares mentioned memorable GRAMMY moments, including her 2006 GRAMMY nominations with Las Tres Divas, where she teamed up with fellow Tejano leading ladies Elida Reyna and Stefani Montiel. Her 2013 album De Mi Corazon, released on her independent label, Shellshock 3 Records, was nominated for a Latin GRAMMY.
Her induction into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame is another memory that Lares won’t forget.
“I’ve been thankful for so many awards (including) my induction into the Tejano Roots Hall of Fame on my 25th year,” Lares said. “That year, I was the youngest inductee. I was 30, but I was still the youngest. That will always be something, probably my favorite award, because it is within my genre and I am a Hall of Famer. So, it’s nice to say that.”
As for the future of Tejano music, she sees a lot of promising talent. For the females, Lares recognized the three artists with whom she recorded, “Nada De Ti,” which is from her recently-released final Tejano music album LMD82. The song includes Sonja De La Paz, Monica Saldivar and Demmi Garcia.
“That’s why I did the song, to pass the torch on to the girls, because I think they’re three of the brightest stars in Tejano music,” Lares said.
“There’s just so many,” Lares said. “It’s hard to just pick one person in particular, which is kind of nice. I would rather think of a lot than not any at all.”
As for her own longtime music career, Lares has no regrets and is leaving on her own terms.
“I have zero regrets,” she said. “Zero. And that’s how I wanted it. I wanted to bow out gracefully still loving my genre, not with a bad taste in my mouth, not being pushed out, for lack of a better word. And, in my prime.”
Lares admires artists, such as Elsa Garcia, who retired, never looked back and became successful in another profession. For Garcia, it was real estate. For Lares, she said she hopes to follow her own other passion as well, which is nursing. She wants fans to know that she appreciates all of their support. And she hopes they understand why she is retiring from music and that it’s not for any negative type of reason.
“No, I’m not broke,” Lares said. “No, I’m not mad. No, I’m not being pushed out. I want to go into nursing because that’s what God is calling me to do right now.”
Lares thanked her fans again and said she hoped her music made people happy.
“Thank you to all of the true Tejano fans, especially all of the Shelly fans who have been by my side through it all, and even the new fans that maybe haven’t been fans that long,” Lares said. “If I’ve made you smile through my music in any way, then my job is done here.”
Fans can still get their final opportunity to see Lares perform during her LMD Legacy Tour, which will run this year and into 2022. Fans who want her to visit their city for a final performance should contact their local club promoters to let them know they want a Shelly Lares concert.
Lares’ final Tejano music album LMD82 is currently available on shellylares.online, and on April 27, it will be available for digital download on all major digital music platforms. A limited edition vinyl version of the album will also be available soon.
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