Los Lobos

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Los Lobos
Los Lobos performing at the White House in 2009
Los Lobos performing at the White House in 2009
Background information
OriginEast Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1973–present
Past members
  • Francisco González
  • Richard Escalante
  • Victor Bisetti
  • Cougar Estrada
  • Enrique Gonzalez

Los Lobos (pronounced [los ˈloβos], Spanish for "the Wolves") is a Mexican-American rock band from East Los Angeles, California. Their music is influenced by rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music such as cumbia, boleros and norteños. The band rose to international stardom in 1987, when their version of "La Bamba" peaked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and also topped the charts in the United Kingdom, and several other countries. Songs by Los Lobos have been recorded by Elvis Costello, Waylon Jennings, Frankie Yankovic,[1] and Robert Plant.[2] In 2015, they were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[3] In 2018, they were inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. They are also known for performing the theme song for Handy Manny. As of 2024, they have been nominated for twelve Grammy Awards and have won four.[4]


1973–79: Formation and early releases[edit]

Vocalist and guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer Louie Pérez met at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, California, and bonded over their mutual affinity for musical acts such as Fairport Convention, Randy Newman and Ry Cooder.[5][6] Pérez recalls, "We're looking at each other, 'You like this stuff? I thought I was the only weird one.' So I went over to his house one day for about a year, which we spent listening to records, playing guitars, and starting to write songs."[5] The two borrowed reel-to-reel recorders from a friend and created multitrack recordings of music spanning from parody songs to free-form jazz.[5] They later enlisted fellow students Frank González, Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano to complete the group's lineup, in 1973.[6] Their first album, Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, was recorded at two studios in Hollywood in 1977 over a period of about four months. At that time, they all had regular jobs, and it was hard to get together for the sessions. To accommodate that situation, their producer Luis Torres would call the engineer, Mark Fleisher, who owned and operated a high-speed tape duplicating studio in Hollywood, to find a studio when he knew all the band members could get off work that night. Most of the songs were recorded at a studio on Melrose Avenue, located next to the Paramount studios at the time, and a low-priced studio on Sunset Boulevard.

The band members were unsatisfied with playing only American Top 40 songs and began experimenting with the traditional Mexican music they listened to as children.[6] This style of music received a positive reaction from audiences, leading the band to switch genres, performing at hundreds of weddings and dances between 1974 and 1980.[6] "If you were married between 1973 and 1980 in East L.A., we probably played your wedding," said Louie Perez. "They would pay us like $400 for the four of us, a case of beer, and all the mole we could eat..." said David Hidalgo.[citation needed] However, Los Lobos took notice of the popular groups on the Hollywood music scene and added influences of rock to its sound.[6]

Originally, they called themselves Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles), which translates to The Wolves of the East (of Los Angeles), a play on the name of the norteño band Los Tigres del Norte. There was another conjunto band at the time named "Los Lobos Del Norte", which had released several albums already. The name was quickly shortened to Los Lobos.[7]

1980–88: How Will the Wolf Survive? and commercial success[edit]

The band's first noteworthy public appearance occurred in 1980 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, when they were hired by David Ferguson and CD Presents to open for Public Image Ltd. On September 28, 1983, the band released an extended play entitled ...And a Time to Dance, which was well received by critics but sold only about 50,000 copies. Slash Records/Warner Bros Records was not confident enough in Los Lobos to release a standard 10-song LP. So they released a 7-song debut LP. Seven months after the release, the group won a Grammy Award for Best Mexican American Song in 1984[8] However, the sales of the EP earned the group enough money to purchase a Dodge van, enabling the band to tour throughout the United States for the first time.[8] Los Lobos returned to the studio in the summer of 1984 to record its first major-label album, How Will the Wolf Survive?[9] The album's title and the title song were inspired by a National Geographic article entitled "Where Can the Wolf Survive," which the band members related to their own struggle to gain success in the United States while maintaining their Mexican roots.[8]

Los Lobos were exposed to Rock and Roll audiences when they opened for The Clash, a punk/new wave group, and they later opened for a Los Angeles band the Blasters, with influences in rhythm and blues and rockabilly.[1] Steve Berlin, who was born in Philadelphia, played saxophone for the Blasters then left the group to join Los Lobos. When he joined the band, Berlin spoke about his similar record collection to the other members of Los Lobos, where they shared loves for George Jones and Hank Williams.[1]

The film Colors includes "One Time, One Night" in the opening credits, although the song was not included on the soundtrack album. In 1986, members of Los Lobos appeared alongside Tomata du Plenty in the punk rock musical Population: 1. In 1987, they released a second album, By the Light of the Moon. In the same year, they recorded some Ritchie Valens covers for the soundtrack of the film La Bamba, including the title track, which became a number one single for the band plus "Come On Let's Go" and "Donna" which also charted. In 1988, they followed with another album, La pistola y el corazón, featuring original and traditional Mexican songs. The album never peaked above #189 in the pop charts, but it did garner Los Lobos their second Grammy Award for Best Mexican American Album in 1990. Also in 1988 they contributed their cover of "I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)", to the Disney tribute album Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films.

1988–94: The Neighborhood and Kiko[edit]

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the band toured extensively throughout the world, opening for such acts as Bob Dylan, U2 and the Grateful Dead.

Los Lobos returned with The Neighborhood in 1990, and the more experimental Kiko (produced by Mitchell Froom) in 1992. Kiko sold more units (over 400,000 sold) than the previous two albums and was voted 'Album of the year' by the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Sun-Times.[citation needed] The band contributed a lively cover of "Bertha", a song which they often performed live, to the Grateful Dead tribute–rain forest benefit album Deadicated. In 1994 they also contributed a track, "Down Where the Drunkards Roll", to the Richard Thompson tribute album Beat the Retreat.

On the band's twentieth anniversary in 1993, they released a two-CD collection of singles, outtakes, live recordings and hits, entitled Just Another Band from East L.A.

1995–98: Papa's Dream and Colossal Head[edit]

In 1995, Los Lobos released the prestigious and bestselling record Papa's Dream on Music for Little People Records along with veteran guitarist and singer Lalo Guerrero. The album garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Children's Album. The band also scored the film Desperado. The album track "Mariachi Suite" won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and was their 3rd Grammy Award.

In 1996, they released Colossal Head. In spite of the fact that the album was critically acclaimed, Warner Brothers decided to drop the band from their label. Los Lobos spent the next few years on side projects. The band contributed along with Money Mark to the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin, produced by the Red Hot Organization, on which they performed "Pepe and Irene."

1999–2006: Mammoth Records, subsequent releases[edit]

Los Lobos on stage in 2005

Los Lobos signed to Mammoth Records (a music division of The Walt Disney Company) in 1997 and released This Time in 1999. Mammoth also reissued 1977's Del Este de Los Angeles. In November 2000, Rhino/Warner Archives released the boxed set Cancionero: Mas y Mas.

In 2001, Los Lobos was awarded the El Premio Billboard Award.[10]

The band released their Mammoth Records debut, Good Morning Aztlan in 2002. They released The Ride in 2004 as an unofficial 30th Anniversary album. The Ride featured Tom Waits, Mavis Staples, Bobby Womack, Elvis Costello and others covering Los Lobos music with the band. They did a follow-up album in 2005, Ride This – The Covers EP featuring Los Lobos covers of songs by Dave Alvin, Waits, Costello and others.

Los Lobos released its first full-length live-show DVD Live at the Fillmore in 2004. The DVD captures the band's act over a two-day period in July at the famed San Francisco venue.

In September 2006, Los Lobos released The Town and the City (Mammoth Records) to much critical acclaim.[11][12] The album's lyrics deal with Louis Perez's childhood in East Los Angeles, while the music provides complex and original soundscapes reminiscent of their previous release Kiko. Cartoonist Jaime Hernandez did the artwork for the album.[13] The album is told in the first person, with each song serving as an episodic step.[14]


Los Lobos performing in 2017: Cesar, Conrad and Enrique

In 2007, Los Lobos performed a cover of Bob Dylan's "Billy 1" (from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid) for the soundtrack to Todd Haynes's film I'm Not There. Also in 2007, they participated in Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard), contributing their version of Domino's "The Fat Man."

In 2009, the group under contract to Disney Music released an album of Disney covers, Los Lobos Goes Disney (Disney Sound/Walt Disney Records)[15] and participated in a tribute album to the late Doug Sahm, Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm (Vanguard). The same year, on October 13, they also played on the South Lawn of the White House during the "In Performance at the White House: Fiesta Latina" concert, celebrating Hispanic musical heritage.[16][17]

In 2010, Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo were featured artists in the Experience Hendrix Tour.

On August 3, 2010, the group released their first album in four years, Tin Can Trust. In 2011, the group was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Tin Can Trust in the categories of Best Rock Instrumental Performance and Best Americana Album.

In 2011, the group was awarded the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[18][19]

In 2013, the group toured Europe supporting Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

On September 25, 2015, their album Gates of Gold was released.

On October 9, 2015, Los Lobos was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the first time.[3]

In 2017, Los Lobos appeared in the multi award-winning documentary film The American Epic Sessions directed by Bernard MacMahon, where they recorded "El Cascabel",[20] live direct-to-disc on the first electrical sound recording system from the 1920s.[21] During their session, the belt holding the 100Ib weight that powered the 1924 cutting lathe broke and Jack White had to rush to an upholstery shop to repair it.[22][23]

Los Lobos was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in 2018.[24]

On October 4, 2019, Los Lobos released Llegó Navidad, an album of Christmas music from Central America and South America with Mexican folk songs, as well as an original song by Hidalgo and Pérez.

On January 1, 2020, Los Lobos performed on a Wells Fargo float in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

The band was a recipient of a 2021 National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.[25]

On July 30, 2021, Los Lobos released their 18th album, Native Sons, on New West Records. It is a collection of 12 songs written or performed by California based musicians (including Jackson Browne, The Beach Boys, The Blasters, Thee Midniters, Willie Bobo, and Lalo Guerrero) with one song written by Hidalgo and Pérez, the title track "Native Sons".[26]

The group's co-founder and former band member Francisco González died on March 30, 2022, at the age of 68.[27]

On April 3, 2022, at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards which was held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas,[28] Los Lobos won their fourth Grammy Award for Native Sons, this time in the Best Americana Album category.[4]

On November 25, 2023, Los Lobos celebrated their 50th Anniversary at their alma mater, James Garfield High School in East Los Angeles with a sold out performance at the high school's auditorium. Two shows earlier that week in Los Angeles also sold out immediately: The Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood and The Paramount Theatre in Boyle Heights.

In January 2024, Los Lobos were inducted in the California Hall of Fame.

In April 2024, the 157-second trailer for a Los Lobos documentary titled Native Sons was released on YouTube. Among the people interviewed about Los Lobos are musicians Tom Waits, Linda Rondstadt, Ozomatli, Bonnie Raitt and actors Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos and Chicano activist Dolores Huerta. The documentary will be released in 2025.


Former members[edit]

  • Francisco "Frank" González – vocals, mandolin, arpa jarocha (1973–1976; died 2022)
  • Richard Escalante – bass, vocals (1973–1974)

Touring musicians[edit]

  • Victor Bisetti – drums, percussion (1990–2003)
  • Cougar Estrada – drums, percussion (2003–2011)
  • Enrique "Bugs" González – drums, percussion (2012–2020)
  • Alfredo Ortiz – drums, percussion (2021–present)



Live albums[edit]


Extended plays[edit]

Soundtrack, compilation, and guest appearances[edit]



Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
1981 "Under the Boardwalk" Non-album songs
"Farmer John"
1983 "Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio" ...and a Time to Dance
1984 "Let's Say Goodnight"
"Don't Worry Baby" 57 How Will the Wolf Survive?
"Will the Wolf Survive" 38 78
1987 "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" By the Light of the Moon
"Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)" 45 99
"Come On, Let's Go" 22 13 25 9 9 24 14 22 18 21 La Bamba (soundtrack)
"La Bamba" 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1
1988 "Donna" 98 27 29 32 26 83
"One Time, One Night" By the Light of the Moon
1990 "Down on the Riverbed" 67 The Neighborhood
1991 "Bertha" Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead
1992 "Bella María de Mi Alma" Just Another Band from East LA: A Collection
"Reva's House" Kiko
"Kiko and the Lavender Moon"
2000 "Cumbia Raza" This Time
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Featured singles[edit]

Year Single Artist Album
2010 "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" Rick Trevino Non-album song

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lipsitz, George (1986). "Cruising around the Historical Bloc: Postmodernism and Popular Music in East Los Angeles". Cultural Critique (5): 157–177. doi:10.2307/1354360. ISSN 0882-4371. JSTOR 1354360.
  2. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (n.d.). "Band of Joy Review". AllMusic. Retrieved September 12, 2021.
  3. ^ a b France, Lisa Respers (October 8, 2015). "Janet Jackson, N.W.A, Los Lobos among Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees". CNN. Retrieved October 11, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Artist: Los Lobos". www.grammy.com. Recording Academy. n.d. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Kot, Greg (November 15, 2011). "Los Lobos interview; Louis Perez on songwriting". The Chicago Tribune. Tribune Company. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e Hilburn, Robert (October 11, 1990). "Los Lobos Returns to Old Haunts on New LP". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  7. ^ El Cancionero: Mas y Mas liner notes of CD box set.
  8. ^ a b c "100 Best Albums of the Eighties - Los Lobos: How Will the Wolf Survive?". Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner. November 16, 1989. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Los Lobos - Biography". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  10. ^ Cobo, Leila (April 28, 2001). "El Premio Billboard Award: Los Lobos". Billboard. Vol. 113, no. 17. Nielsen Business Media. p. LM-10. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  11. ^ Gilstrap, Andrew (September 28, 2006). "Los Lobos: The Town and the City". PopMatters. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  12. ^ "The Town And The City - Los Lobos". Metacritic.com. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  13. ^ Gale, Dan (2005). Los Lobos LP/DVD Discography. Retrieved February 24, 2006.
  14. ^ "Band". Loslobos.org. Retrieved July 31, 2010.
  15. ^ Chris Morris Los Lobos: Dream in Blue 2015 -029274823X - Page 142 "They countered that by saying, 'If you want to do another children's record, you can do Disney songs. ... Alas, the band's collective heart was clearly not in the making of the awkwardly titled Los Lobos Goes Disney,"
  16. ^ Los lobos plays at "In Performance at the White House: Fiesta Latina" concert, The White House Historical Association, 2009.
  17. ^ In Performance At The White House: Fiesta Latina on Dailymotion
  18. ^ "Latin Grammy Academy Honoring Willy Chirino, Los Lobos and Others". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. July 1, 2014. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  19. ^ "2014 Latin Recording Academy Special Awards". Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. July 1, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  20. ^ "Music from The American Epic Sessions". Americanepic.com. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  21. ^ "The Long-Lost, Rebuilt Recording Equipment That First Captured the Sound of America". WIRED. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  22. ^ Lewis, Randy (July 21, 2017). "Reinventing the machine that let America hear itself on the PBS-BBC doc 'American Epic'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  23. ^ "'American Epic': Inside Jack White and Friends' New Roots-Music Doc". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  24. ^ "Los Lobos". Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. Austin City Limits. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  25. ^ "NEA National Heritage Fellowships 2021". www.arts.gov. National Endowment for the Arts. n.d. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  26. ^ Deming, Mark (2021). "Los Lobos: Native Sons". AllMusic. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  27. ^ Arrellano, Gustavo (April 4, 2022). "Francisco González, Los Lobos founding member and guitar-string pioneer, dead at 68". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  28. ^ Aswad, Jem (January 18, 2022). "Grammy Awards Moving to Las Vegas on April 3". Variety. Archived from the original on January 19, 2022. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  29. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 181. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  30. ^ "ULTRATOP". Ultratop.be.
  31. ^ "Results - RPM - Library and Archives Canada - Top Singles". RPM. Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  32. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  33. ^ French peaks Les Charts
  34. ^ Search for Irish peaks. Irish Charts
  35. ^ "Dutch Charts - dutchcharts.nl". Dutchcharts.nl.
  36. ^ "New Zealand charts portal". Charts.nz.
  37. ^ Swiss peaks. Hit Parade
  38. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  39. ^ "Los Lobos Album & Song Chart History - Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
  40. ^ "British certifications – Los Lobos". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved September 28, 2022. Type Los Lobos in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  41. ^ "Gold & Platinum Search - Music Canada - Los Lobos". Music Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2011.

External links[edit]