Tomás Ortiz, a member of the música norteño duet Los Alegres de Terán, was born on June 2, 1924, on the San Rafael Ranch near General Terán, Nuevo León, Mexico. Drawn to music as a youngster, Ortiz was playing the bajo sexto and singing in the ranchera style by his teenage years. Partnering with accordionist Eugenio Abrego, Ortiz performed in General Terán. By 1947 Los Alegres de Terán performed on XET Radio in Monterrey. They also began to gain a reputation as musicians in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico.
The duet then came to the attention of Arnaldo Ramírez who had recently founded the Discos Falcon recording label in McAllen, Texas, on the Texas-Mexico border. With their 1953 hit recording of the ranchera “Carta jugada” (“Playing Letter”) for the Falcon label, Ortiz’s career as a member of Los Alegres de Terán was launched. The discovery of the duet by the talent scout Felipe Valdez led the Columbia de Mexico recording company to sign Ortiz and Abrego to a recording contract. This opportunity ultimately brought them international acclaim. With Abrego, Ortiz successfully took the norteño sound to such diverse places as Japan, Iraq, Spain, and Africa. In 1983 the duet Los Alegres de Terán was inducted into the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame.
Among the hit albums that Ortiz and Abrego recorded were Los Ojos de Pancha (Pancha’s Eyes) and Más y Más Corridos (More and More Corridos). During a long career, Ortiz issued more than one hundred albums and appeared in several movies as part of Los Alegres de Terán. Other hit songs included “Alma Enamorada” (“A Soul in Love”) and “Entre Copa y Copa” (“Between Cup and Cup”). Despite his great success as a Columbia recording artist, Ortiz continued his association with Falcon Records, writing songs and serving as its artistic director and talent scout. In 2004 Arhoolie Records released the CD Los Alegres De Terán, Grabaciones Originales: 1952–1954, thereby introducing these early superstars of norteño music to new generations of listeners.
Tomás Ortiz died on November 13, 2007, in Edinburg, Texas. A funeral service for him was held on November 16, 2007.