The history of Los Madrugadores is somewhat confusing when approached via standard family tree discographical spectacles, in which a group is expected to have a cut-and-dried evolutionary pattern, with members joining and dropping out and so forth. Los Madrugadores were less a group with a core of stable members than they were a concept, in which various musicians assumed the name for the purpose of playing Mexican-American folk music. Los Madrugadores were the most popular Depression-era Mexican-American group, performing emotional canciones and corridos that emphasized close harmonies and accomplished guitars.
Los Madrugadores came into being through the efforts of Mexican-born Pedro J. Gonzalez, who in the late 1920s started one of the first Spanish-language radio shows on the West Coast. At the beginning of the '30s he made his first records, and in 1931, started to play with guitarist-singers Jesus Sanchez and Victor Sanchez. Gonzalez named the group Los Madrugadores, which recorded in various combinations, not always including the Sanchez brothers. Singer Fernando Linares joined the group in their early days, and the personnel expanded to include other singers and guitarists, such as Narciso Farfan, Crescencio Cuevas, Ismael Hernandez, and Josefine Caldera.
Sometimes their singles were performed by the Sanchez brothers and Gonzalez; sometimes they were performed by the Sanchez brothers, Linares, and Hernandez; sometimes they were done by the Sanchez brothers with just Linares, and on and on. There were also singles credited to Los Hermanos Sanchez, or Pedro J. Gonzalez and Victor Sanchez, or Pedro J. Gonzales and Jesus Sanchez, or Pedro Gonzales and Fernando Sanchez. To make matters more confusing, Narciso Farfan and Crescencio Cuevas, who became known as Chico & Chencho, also made recordings under the Los Madrugadores name that did not feature any of the other musicians that participated in other Los Madrugadores tracks. Do we even have to add that Chico & Chencho also did some discs on which other Los Madrugadores musicians, such as the Sanchez Brothers and Fernando Linares, did participate?
The important thing to remember is that whatever the configuration of personnel, Los Madrugadores issued numerous singles in the '30s with good harmonies on simple, direct Mexican songs. Although guitar was usually the instrumental accompaniment, some of the early discs in which Gonzalez was involved have piano too. A couple dozen of the discs issued by Los Madrugadores or musicians in Los Madrugadores are compiled on the Arhoolie CD 1931-1937.
Los Madrugadores' career was impeded in 1934 when Pedro J. Gonzalez was sentenced to one-to-fifty years in San Quentin prison on rape charges. Although the woman he was accused of raping admitted after the trial that she had been coerced by authorities to lie under oath, this admission was not considered as new evidence, and Gonzalez ended up serving six years. The deaths of Narciso Farfan in 1939 and Jesus Sanchez in 1941 forced changes in the Los Madrugadores lineup, although the group continued until the '60s. Gonzalez, in the meantime, formed a second Los Madrugadores group in Mexico that also had a fluid membership. ~ Richie Unterberger