Lopez was born in Dallas, Texas, on Ashland Street in the Little Mexico neighborhood. He began his entertainment career in Dallas playing at the Vegas Club, a nightclub owned by Jack Ruby. He made his name on the club circuit of the Southwestern United States before being 'discovered' in 1962 playing at the club PJ's in Hollywood, California, by record producer Don Costa. Costa was taken with Lopez's Latinized versions of contemporary hits and signed him up to Frank Sinatra's record label, Reprise Records. His debut album, Trini Lopez Live at PJ's, was released in 1963. The album included a version of "If I Had a Hammer", which reached number one in 36 countries (No. 3 in the United States) and was a radio favorite for many years. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. He also performed his own version of the traditional Mexican song "La Bamba" on the album; his recording of the tune was later re-issued as a single in 1966.
His popularity led the Gibson Guitar Corporation to ask him in 1964 to design a guitar for them. He ended up designing two: The Trini Lopez Standard, a rock and roll model based on the Gibson ES-335 semi-hollow body, and the Lopez Deluxe, a variation of a Gibson jazz guitar designed by Barney Kessel. Both of these guitars were in production from 1964 until 1971 and are now highly sought after amongst collectors. Some owners of the guitar include Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Noel Gallagher of Oasis.
He scored thirteen chart singles through 1968, including "Lemon Tree" (1965), "I'm Comin' Home, Cindy" (1966) and "Sally Was a Good Old Girl" (1968). On the adult contemporary chart, he ranked up 15 hits, including the Top 10 singles "Michael" (1964), "Gonna Get Along Without Ya' Now" (1967) and "The Bramble Bush" (1967). Beyond his success on record, he became one of the country's top nightclub performers of that era, regularly headlining in Las Vegas, Nevada.
During the 1960s and 1970s Lopez moved into acting, though his film career was not as successful as his music. His first film role was in Marriage on the Rocks (1965), in which he made a cameo appearance in a nightclub scene; Lopez's soundtrack song, "Sinner Man", became a hit single (No. 54 pop/No. 12 adult contemporary). He was one of The Dirty Dozen (1967) and starred in Antonio (1973). He made two appearances (playing different characters) on the television program, Adam 12. He continued his musical career with extensive tours of Europe and Latin America during this period; an attempt to break out by releasing a disco album in 1978 proved a flop. Lopez produced a single promoting the Coca-Cola soft drink Fresca in 1967.
Since then, Lopez has done charitable work and received honors such as being inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2002, Lopez teamed with Grammy Award-Winning artist-producer Art Greenhaw for a critically-acclaimed return to Trini's Texas-style roots and the resulting album LEGACY: MY TEXAS ROOTS. The album used the "Texas Roots Combo" including Trini himself, Greenhaw and Lopez' brother, Jesse. Said reviewer Steve Leggett of All Music Guide, "The album has an easygoing feel very similar to Lopez' classic live sets from the 1960s, only it rocks a good deal harder."
|1963||"If I Had a Hammer"||3||4||12|
|1964||"Sinner Not a Saint"||103|
|"Jailer, Bring Me Water"||94|
|"What Have I Got of My Own"||43|
|"Are You Sincere"||85||25|
|1966||"Made In Paris"||113||36|
|"I'm Comin' Home, Cindy"||39||2||28|
|"La Bamba Pt. 1"||86||9|
|1967||"Gonna Get Along Without Ya' Now"||93||6||41|
|"Up To Now"||123|
|"The Bramble Bush"||4|
|1968||"Sally Was a Good Old Girl"||99||30|
|1969||"Come a Little Bit Closer"||121|
|"Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'"||133|
(excluding compilations and re-recordings)