Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan
Gaspar Vargas (father of Silvestre) started Mariachi Vargas in 1897. You read that right -- 1897. This band basically invented modern mariachi, and they're still playing today. The group formed in a small Mexican town called Tecalitlan (south of Jalisco), and they spent their formative years defining their sound and experimenting with different instrumental lineups. Silvestre Vargas took over in the 1930s, bringing a level of professionalism (and sobriety!) that made them oddities in their field -- and ultimately helped them cement their status as a premier mariachi band. They played behind all the great singers, including Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and continue to drive the form forward today under ever-evolving leadership.