Born in 1913 in Cuautala, Jalisco, Mexico, Jose learned to play violin at an early age. By the time he became a teenager, he began performing as part of a classical symphony orchestra and eventually became its leader. He married Josefina Barragan in 1940 and formed a touring mariachi band called Los Cardinales. Jose moved to San Francisco in 1961 where he played several gigs at local clubs and social events. He continued to play a weekly show at La Cantina in nearby Mill Valley, Calif., up until his death
Carlos Santana used these words to describe his father: "Jose Santana was a supreme communicator with his voice and violin. His graciousness, charm and charisma were a natural joy to witness."