Los Lobos were formed in 1974 by David Hidalgo, Conrad Lozano, Louie Prez and Cesar Rosas -- four friends from Garfield High School in east Los Angeles. Though they started out as a rock 'n' roll band, they soon chose a more traditional Mexican acoustic style. For years the quartet played wedding gigs as well as other traditional Mexican gatherings around east Los Angeles' Chicano community. In 1978, Los Lobos landed its first steady professional gig, playing at a Mexican restaurant but got fired as they gradually evolved back into a loud rock 'n' roll band, complete with an accordion. In time, the band adopted music from Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B and blues, as well as the traditional Mexican songs from their roots.
The band released a local EP in L.A. in the late 1970s. Hidalgo, who handles most of the lead vocals, teamed with Prez to write the majority of Los Lobos' original songs, with Rosas providing vocals and songwriting on the rest. About this time, the L.A. music scene began exploding with a new generation of bands like the Blasters and X. The common ground with a lot of these bands, however, was a mutual respect for the roots of rock 'n' roll and creating new hybrids from the early years of rock.
They started playing gigs on the Hollywood circuit gaining the respect from fellow bands. They hung out with the Blasters and soon were invited to play with them at clubs such as the Whiskey in Hollywood. The Blasters' saxophone player, Steve Berlin, became close with Los Lobos and after some jam sessions with the band was made an honorary Chicano and added to the band's lineup.
During this time, Los Lobos were signed to Slash Records. With a small budget and a little time between gigs, Los Lobos recorded another EP, an eclectic mix of roots rock 'n' roll and Mexican Nortea music. One of its songs, "Anselma," won a Grammy for best Mexican/American performance.
After a year of heavy touring, the band released How Will the Wolf Survive? in 1984 and By the Light of the Moon (displaying distinct jazz, blues and country influences) in 1987. But their biggest commercial success to date was in 1987 when the band's remake of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba," from a biopic of the same name, topped the pop charts.
Though future albums did not duplicate the commercial success of "La Bamba," the band won Grammys for a 1988 Spanish-language album and for their contribution to the film Desperado. They also released a children's album in 1995. After two studio albums in the late 1990s underperformed, the band signed to Mammoth Records for 2002's Good Morning Aztlan and 2004's The Ride. Among those who contributed to the latter album were Dave Alvin, Rubn Blades, Elvis Costello, Little Willie G, Mavis Staples, Richard Thompson, Bobby Womack and Tom Waits.