Norteño music -- a lively, infectious, hot-blooded mixture of Mexican ranchera and German polka -- was created in Texas by Mexican-Americans, who were exposed to the polka beat that German immigrants had brought to the Lone Star State from Europe. But the popularity of norteño (which is also known as Tex-Mex or conjunto) certainly isn't limited to Austin, El Paso, or San Antonio; there are plenty of norteño bands in northern Mexico as well as the Pacific Northwest and the southwestern region of the United States. California, which has a large Mexican-American population, has been a norteño hotbed for a long time -- and that includes Central California as well as Southern and Northern California. Fresno, which is in Central California, is the home of Oro Norteño, a popular norteño quintet that has been around since 1996. Oro Norteño (whose name means Northern Gold in Spanish) is not a grupero or tejano outfit in the strict sense; while the slick, urbane, polished grupero and tejano styles are essentially Latin pop with Mexican overtones, Oro Norteño has tended to favor a grittier, tougher, more hardcore approach to regional Mexican music. Oro Norteño has recorded songs by romantic Latin pop singers like Joan Sebastían and Marco Antonio Solís, but at the end of the day, they're essentially a straight-ahead norteño band. Oro Norteño should not be lumped in with pop-drenched grupero stars such as Ana Bárbara, Conjunto Primavera, and los Temerarios; the Fresno residents get most of their inspiration from the gutsy sounds of hardcore norteño/Tex-Mex favorites like los Rieleros del Norte, los Tigres del Norte, los Huracanes del Norte, Flaco Jimenez, and the late Tony de la Rosa. Oro Norteño's attire -- black cowboy hats, well-polished cowboy boots -- is a way of declaring their allegiance to the norteño/Tex-Mex sound; norteño artists have often favored the vaquero (Mexican cowboy) look, which sets them apart from mariachi, banda, or ranchera artists (although ranchera is a main ingredient of norteño). Oro Norteño hadn't been together very long when, in 1996, their album Polveadas was released on the Ego label. By 1998, they were signed to the Los Angeles-based Platino Records, which is distributed by Fonovisa (Platino releases are often listed as Fonovisa releases) and is part of the vast Univision empire. At Platino, it didn't take Oro Norteño long to build a sizable catalog; there were at least 14 albums in their catalog by the summer of 2003. In 2004, Oro Norteño's lineup consisted of Ricardo Renteria on lead vocals, Rosalio "Chalio" Hidalgo on accordion, Jesus Rivera on electric bass, Miguel Angel Jiménez on guitar, and Abel Orozco (who is originally from Jalisco, Mexico) on drums. Miguel Angel Jiménez should not be confused with either producer Miguel Jiménez Flores or the late classical musician Miguel Bernal Jiménez. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi