This multiple Grammy-winning traditional Sinaloan band was founded by Cruz Lizárraga in 1938 in the town of El Recodo (Sinaloa) and has played a fundamental role in the dissemination and innovation of the genre in Mexican Regional music throughout the world. The group — always under the direction of the Lizárraga family — has, throughout its history, undergone innumerable personnel changes. For their first few decades, they were devoted to playing and performing predominantly instrumental music. Their many recordings, however, often included top-tier vocalists including Lola Beltrán, Lucha Villa, Yolanda del Río, Antonio Aguilar, José Alfredo Jiménez, and Juan Gabriel, among them. Since 1981, the group used its own primary vocalists who, like the rest of their membership, frequently changed. Among its best-known singers were Conrado Calderón, Julio Preciado, Luis Antonio López, and Carlos Sarabia. The instrumental part of the ensemble consists of four clarinets, three trumpets, a tambora, a bass drum with a cymbal on top, a tarola, a snare drum, a tuba (Sousaphone style), three trombones, two alto horns (referred to as saxores in Mexico), and a pair of singers.
After playing at local high society dances, Lizárraga decided to form his own band in 1938. After naming it for his home town, he decided he wanted to do more with his instrumentation than the traditional four- and five-piece bands traditionally heard in Sinaloa. The end result was ultimately an 18-piece traveling ensemble.
During the 1940s, Banda el Recodo recorded and experienced hits on regional radio including "Samson y Dalila" and "La Patrulla Americana" that were written to be performed for dancing audiences, who delighted in them. Banda el Recodo left their mark on cinema during the golden age of Mexican film, contributing to soundtracks such as Que Me Entierren con la Banda and Yo el Valiente. In 1951, record company RCA Victor approached Lizárraga about recording, which led to the hit singles "El Callejero" and "Mi Adoración." They became the first banda group to record a complete album. Banda el Recodo's music caught the ear of Gabriel and Jimenez, who often requested them as accompanists live and in studio. Jimenez always shared credits on the recordings he made with them during the '50s and '60s.
The ensemble remained pretty much a regional phenomenon until the late '80s, when banda music underwent a profound cultural shift and entered Mexico's mainstream. At that time, a modern version of the music (including the fast-paced quebradita and techno-banda sounds) swept Mexico and the immigrant community of the United States. While it stuck to its traditional acoustic instruments and eschewed the electronic keyboards and guitars of newer bandas, Banda el Recodo did borrow a feature the newer groups employed: They put their singers front and center, altering their sound. The '90s brought the addition of vocalist Julio Preciado to the lineup and Banda el Recodo moved to Fonovisa, where they recorded a slew of hits. By 1995 the band was touring Europe, allowing Lizárraga to see his brand of regional music enjoyed by international audiences. 1997's Tributo a Juan Gabriel was their first Mexican Regional Top Ten, but it wouldn't be the last. Banda el Recodo ruled the Mexican Regional Albums chart, often placing multiple entries in the Top Ten simultaneously.
The elder Lizárraga passed away in 1995; he was succeeded by his sons Germán and Alfonso, who directed the band's musical direction while management was handled by their mother, Maria de Jesus Lizárraga. After Preciado left, the band hired other singers, eventually setting on two young men — Luis Antonio Lopez and Carlos Sarabia — in order to add dimension to their sound, subsequently modifying it again. Even though the banda craze that started in the '80s had ended by the mid-'90s, it returned in the 21st century and Banda el Recodo remained popular and were rightfully noted as legends. In 2000, they won a Latin Grammy for the album Lo Mejor de Mi Vida for Best Banda Performance at the first annual awards ceremony. Between Tributo a Juan Gabriel and 2017's Ayer y Hoy (which was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Regional Mexican Music Album), they placed no less than 31 albums in the Top 15 of the Mexican Regional Albums charts, 15 at Top Latin Albums, and two in the Top 200 — they also had 37 singles chart in the Top 20 of both the Mexican Regional and Hot Latin Songs charts. ~ Thom Jurek