More than a musical group, La Arrolladora Banda el Limón de René Camacho is an institution. Forty-plus years old and 17-men strong, it's a fine-tuned operation that has withstood the test of time and trends.
Under the musical leadership of René Camacho and the production and business leadership of son Fernando, La Arrolladora-as it is affectionately known-has become a chart mainstay and a touring phenomenon, notching back-to-back No. 1s on the regional Mexican charts and playing more than 250 dates per year.
The secret to its success? Old-fashioned promo, tons of airplay, live shows every single weekend of the year and steely discipline.
...Fernando says. "Honesty, principles, values-honesty," he emphasizes.
Banda-the brass-based acoustic Mexican music played by big groups, using the tuba as the bass-is one of the most traditional and dominant subgenres of regional Mexican. During the last several years, Arrolladora has been particularly visible, demonstrating a versatility in repertoire similar to that of competitors Banda el Recodo.
Now, as the group prepares for the Aug. 6 release of its new album, "Gracias por Creer" (Thanks for Believing) on Disa/Universal Music Latin Entertainment (UMLE), it's already reached No. 1 on Billboard's Regional Mexican Airplay chart with "El Ruido de Tus Zapatos" (The Sound of Your Shoes) less than a month after the single's release.
Penned by Mexican singer/songwriter Espinoza Paz, who's also signed to UMLE, the song is a ballad about loss that somehow works with the banda brass instrumentation. It's also a major departure from the group's big 2012 hit, "Llamada de Mi Ex" (Call to My Ex), a good-riddance song that spent 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart.
"We have to give variety to the music," Fernando says. "It's not just about aggression and spite."
Although La Arrolladora had a certain degree of success in its early years following its founding by clarinet player René in the 1960s, the group's profile changed dramatically when Fernando, an attorney, took over the business in 1995. Fernando chooses the group's tracks and supervises musical production, in addition to booking shows and handling the day-to-day management, overseeing an administrative staff of 25 in Mexico and the United States.
"I may not be a musician, but I can tell you if it sounds good or not. I can tell you if it works or not," he says.
Although he won't discuss the details of how exactly the band operates, La Arrolladora, like many other big bandas, is owned by a person, family or company (in this case, Fernando) and contracts its musicians, who change frequently over time. Beyond the business part, Fernando also gradually changed the group's repertoire and look.
"I began to push the band toward a younger market," he says. "We made an effort to understand the younger audience and give them music they could relate to and make their own."
Arrolladora signed with Disa in 2002 after a stint with Sony that yielded the group's first track on the Hot Latin Songs chart, 2001's "Que Me Vas a Dar," which peaked at No. 21. Arrolladora also reached No. 1 on the chart with "Nina de Mi Corazon," which stayed in the top spot for three weeks. All told, the group has notched eight No. 1s on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart and 10 top 10s on Hot Latin Songs.
On the touring circuit, Arrolladora plays nearly 300 shows a year-200 in Mexico and up to 60 in the United States-for audiences ranging from 3,000 to 40,000, although at least 10 shows a year in Mexico are for audiences of more than 40,000 people.
The brand name is so strong that the group's albums almost market themselves.
"We do all the big TV shows, we do big pre-campaigns and placement, but the clients propose it because they're an act that generates sales," Disa/Fonovisa managing director Antonio Silva says. "This is a group that moves the industry."