Isidro López Interview

Isidro López, “El Indio,” was born in Bishop, Texas, in 1933. He began playing tenor saxophone when he entered Miller High School in nearby Corpus Christi, an instrument he also played during the one year he attended A & I College in Kingsville. Although he learned auto mechanics from his mechanic father, Isidro was drawn to music early—he learned a little guitar when he was eleven—and so he began playing professionally by the time he was in high school. In the ensuing years López played with the well-known tejano orquestas of Juan Colorado, Balde González, and Eugenio Gutiérrez.

In 1955, López decided to leave the Juan Colorado orquesta and form his own. He had already recorded a vocal with the Colorado orquesta, for Ideal Records, when he was obliged to fill in for the missing singer of that orquesta. Thus, when he started his band, Ideal quickly added it to its roster of recording artists.

Expanding the orquesta tejana style by incorporating the canción ranchera in polka tempo, López, now his own band’s featured singer, quickly became an acclaimed figure in tejano music. “El Indio” had many hit recordings, but perhaps his most famous was a polca ranchera, “Ando sufriendo y penando,” which adumbrated the bimusical style of successors like Little Joe y la Familia.

López and his orquesta toured throughout the Southwest and beyond for many years. But, as happened with orquestas across the Southwest generally, López’ popularity declined, and, although he recorded sporadically during the 1980s and beyond, he was never able to recapture the glory of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Isidro López died on August 15, 2004, at the age of 71.

Introduction by Manuel Peña

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Interviewee: Isidro López
Interviewer: Manuel Peña
Date: May 31, 1979
Language: Spanish and English

The interviews by Manuel Peña presented on this website were originally recorded for research purposes only, and are presented here in their raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. They were often recorded in conditions adverse to obtaining  good audio quality and often using very basic recording equipment. All rights to the interviews are reserved by Manuel Peña. Please do not use anything from this website without permission.

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.