Bands that have been around four decades have their share of road-tales. If they're not on the state fair or biker rally circuit, they're playing random clubs with only one or two original members. Maybe they've lost musicians to the trials of the music business, bad decisions or overdoses.
Except Los Lobos.
The band that has been around since the early 1970s retains all original members and has managed to adapt to the changing music industry to maintain one of the most respected musical careers in the history of American music.
It is nothing short of a rock institution, playing with everyone from the Grateful Dead to The Clash to the puppets of Sesame Street. Los Lobos will return to the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"The fact that we have all original members is something," said Steve Berlin, keyboard player and saxophonist from his home in Portland. "These are things we don't ask ourselves, we just plow forward and never think about how long we've been at it."
In addition to Berlin, Los Lobos is David Hidalgo on guitar and vocals, Caesar Rojas on guitar and vocals, Louis Perez on guitar, drums and vocals, and Conrad Lozano on bass and vocals.
Part-time member Cougar Estrada is the band's touring drummer.
For Berlin, this all began as a teenage hobby.
"I would say that it was my dream to play music. That's all I wanted to do" said Berlin. "I felt like I'd do it whether or not I was paid to do it. I never thought I would have joined a band and be in it for almost 30 years."
From modest beginnings on Slash records playing the Southern California punk and rockabilly circuit, to major label contracts and Grammys, to contracts with Disney (for which it will be releasing a children's album), the band has done just about all of it.
"The industry has changed 180 degrees. It's a completely new business and a lot of it has yet to be figured out. How do you sell stuff when you compete with free goods?" Berlin said.
"We're not sure if our next record is going to be self-released," he said. "We just have to figure out if it makes sense for us to reaffiliate with another record label or what. And there's a new 'what' every 20 minutes."
The band's persistence remains key.
If one thing that is a constant in the music industry, whether a Grammy winner or not, is that the business is unstable.
It's a wonder anyone makes a decent living at it.
"We just roll with it," Berlin said. "You can't do this this many years without taking a few punches."
Liggettb@fortlewis.eduBryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.