Vicente Fernández Gómez, born February 17, 1940, simply known as Vicente Fernández, is a Mexican singer, producer and actor. Known as "Chente" or el "El rey de la cancion ranchera" throughout the Latin world, Vicente Fernández, who started his career singing for tips on the street, has become a Mexican cultural icon, recording more than 50 albums and contributing to many movies. He is the father of the popular singer Alejandro Fernández. Although less well known to English-speaking audiences, he has consistently filled stadiums and venues throughout his 35-plus years of performing. His repertoire is pure ranchera, a style described by Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald as representing "the Mexico of old – a way of life romanticized by rural ranches, revolution, and philandering caballeros". He has sold over 50 million copies worldwide.
Born in Huentitan el alto, Jalisco, Mexico, Fernandez spent the early years of his life on his father Ramon's ranch on the outskirts of Guadalajara. As a little boy Vicente also worked at a young age for his uncle as a waiter, dish washer, cashier, and finally the manager of his uncle's restaurant. He was known to all the people as "Chente". Here the idyllic ranchera lifestyle was instilled in him. His mother often took him to see the films of Pedro Infante. Fernandez told of the significance of these films: "When I was 6 or 7, I would go see Pedro Infante's movies, and I would tell my mother, 'When I grow up, I'll be like him.'" By age eight he had taken up the guitar and was practicing his singing in the style of the ranchera singers he heard on the radio.
As a boy he sang at a festival in Arandas, Mexico where he won the contest. Later in his life at the age of twenty-one he competed in a contest where he won thirty-one pesos. But In 1954, Fernandez won an amateur contest sponsored by a Guadalajara television station. It was his first break into performing and he began to play at local clubs and gatherings. Around this time, however, Fernandez's father lost the ranch and the family moved into the city of Tijuana. Fernandez, who had dropped out of school in the fifth grade, began working odd jobs in the city such as janitor, dishwasher, waiter – whatever he could find. All the while, he still held to his musical aspirations.
In 1960 Fernandez devoted himself to music full time. He went back to Colima, where he performed as a busker while also appearing occasionally on the television show La Calandria musical. After a couple of years Fernandez tried his luck in Mexico City, where he found a job singing in a restaurant called El Amanacer Tapatio. When he wasn't working he was auditioning for recording companies, and constantly being turned down.