Credit: Credit: Jazz Video Guy / Youtube

Francisco González — founding member of the band Los Lobos, onetime Santa Barbara resident, Goleta business owner, and musical historian — died in late March at age 68 from cancer. 

During his time in Santa Barbara, González could be heard singing and playing the Vera Cruz harp at house parties and pastorela performances. In between songs, he would provide short but in-depth discourses on the multiple origins of all the Mexican folk traditions he’d mastered. In between discourses, his playing stopped people in their tracks. Men shut up; women cried. 

From left, Francisco González, Steve Valdez, an unnamed female guitarist, and Luis Moreno in the 1981 production of The Rose of the Rancho, at El Teatro Campesino Playhouse, San Juan Bautista, CA. | Credit: Courtesy

In 1973, González had teamed up with a fellow Garfield High School student named Cesar Rojas. With the addition of David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez, and Conrad Lozano, they formed what he termed “just another band for East L.A.” — still America’s premier Chicano rock band. 

When Los Lobos veered from a strictly traditional bill of fare into its omnivorous stew of rock, R&B, soul, González left the band and went his own way. He would wind up in Santa Barbara, immerse himself in the productions of Teatro Campesino and marry UCSB professor, activist, and musicologist Yolanda Broyles-González. 

In 1990, González started a company in Goleta making strings for traditional Mexican folk instruments—Guadalupe Custom Strings. Today, that company has moved but is still very much in business under new ownership.

Correction: The caption for the photo of The Rose of the Rancho mistakenly identified the female guitarist as Yolanda Broyles-González; her name is unknown.

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