Lakatos was one of twelve girls and women who contracted with the Rajkó Ensemble in the 1960s. To say that she came from a musical family is an understatement. Her paternal grandfather was one of the first Romani musicians to be educated at a conservatory – namely, the Prague Conservatory. Lakatos’s uncle, Sándor, was arguably the leading Romani violinist of his generation, and her father, Floris, played in Sándor Lakatos’s band. On her mother’s side, she was related to Gyula Farkas, the artistic director of the Rajkó. In a 2002 television interview (on the occasion of the Rajkó’s fiftieth anniversary), she related how she had auditioned for the Rajkó as a singer at the age of eleven with a slightly older friend – Jenő Csocsi Lendvai – as her accompanist (Lendvai was already a member of the Rajkó as a violinist). The ensemble’s executive director, Pál Szigeti, remarked that her voice was good but still young, whereupon Farkas said, ‘You study violin, don’t you?’ and brought her into the group as a violinist. She eventually became a featured primás (concertmaster, conductor and soloist), as shown in the 1964 album cover.
Being part of the ensemble was more than a performing opportunity: her younger brother stated that they ‘grew up together’ in the ensemble. By 1967, both she and Lendvai were primáses in the Rajkó, and they married in 1968. There were opportunities to pursue higher education, she said in a 2002 interview, but ‘that was not the assumption, because we went abroad a lot’. In 1974 their son József was born, at which time they both left the Rajkó, Lendvai to found his own restaurant orchestra and Lakatos to tend to their home and child.
Most of the small number of women who played in the Rajkó reportedly concentrated on homemaking after leaving the ensemble. Young women were pushed towards a homemaking role not only by the gender role expectations of the time but also by the logistics of parenting. Restaurant bands usually stayed until at least midnight and might continue to play beyond that time if the crowd was tipping well. Moreover, the best musicians had lucrative opportunities to perform abroad. If both parents were restaurant performers, childcare arrangements would be quite challenging. One benefit of women staying at home after childbirth was that they could pass on their musical training to their children. In the words of Erzsébet Katona: ‘Those women [who were in the Rajkó] teach their children how to play … fantastically.’ Mariánn Lakatos’s son, József Lendvay, studied at the Liszt Academy of Music and has won several international violin competitions.