The group was founded on 12 January 1924 in the Barrio Ojo De Agua district of the Cuban city Matanzas. Initially, for political reasons, the band was called Tina Liberal. It was created by Valentin Cane and Pablo Vasquez Gobin. The original lineup also included Manuel Sánchez, Ismael Goberna, Domingo Medina, José Manuel Valera, Julio Gobín, Juan Bautista Llópis, and Eugenio Pérez. Back then, the band wasn’t performing anything distinctive since the musicians didn’t find their unique sound just yet.
In 1927, the band moved to Havana in order to try their luck in the big city. There they met many celebrities and recorded their first songs. Two years later, the band signed a contract with radio El Progreso Cubano (later renamed Radio Progreso), where they performed on a regular basis. The contract was signed in the 1930’s, back when the Cuban radio was becomign very popular. This popularity reflected on the success of the group. The band changed its name to Sonora Matancera and went through some lineup changes. The contract with the radio ended in 1939. It helped the band earn worldwide fame since the show was popular all over the Caribbean Many radio stations were hoping to book Sonora Matancera but not everyone was as lucky as Radio Progreso.
In 1945, a talented singer Bienvenido Granda joined the band. At that time Valentin Cane, the founder of the group, started having respiratory problems, which interfered with his singing.
The “Golden era” of the band started in 1950. It coincided with the golden age of entertainment on Cuba. At that time, TV appeared on the island and Sonora Matancera became one of the first bands to perform on the Cuban TV. The same year, the band signed an exclusive contract with the American company Seeco, which brought it worldwide recognition. The company sold the band’s records in many different countries. The relationship with Seeco lasted for 15 years.
Due to political problems, which dominated Cuba in 1959, the band’s golden age was over. Sonora Matancera left the island in 1960 in order to fulfill a contract in Mexico. They left to “discover new horizons”, but, in reality, working on Cuba was almost impossible. The band stayed in Mexico for 2 years and then moved to New York.
In 1960’s, the band was doing well in the USA. They performed Cuban and Afro-Cuban dance music. The group’s lineup was changing rather often.
In 1970’s, Sonora Matancera continued conquering the listeners’ hearts with the help of new vocalists, most of whom were from Puerto Rico. The band went on various tours. They travelled to Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Japan.
In 1986, more than 240,000 fans attended the band's concert on Tenerife.
In 1989, the group celebrated its 65 anniversary with fanfares. They gave concerts in Carnegie Hall and Central Park. Sonora Matancera recorded the performances and the live album became very successful all over the world.
In 1993, the band released the LP Mexico, De Nuevo. A year later, Yayo El Indio retired. This vocalist stayed in the band longer than any other singers did.
In 2001, Rogelio Martinez died. With the permission of Rogelio Martinez Jr., Javier Vasquez became the leader of the band. He moved Sonora Matancera to Las Vegas.
In 2009, the band released the album Hay Sonora pa 'rato. Right now, the leading vocalist of the band is Dario Rosado from Puerto Rico.