Latin Boogaloo and Soul Outburst 1966-67, 1967
After such a great year breaking into the American charts, 1967 looked to be an even bigger year. The first issue, January 7, 1967, gave more coverage to what Billboard continued to call “Latin-Rock” on the front page and the long piece continued even to page 22. Trying to catch, or perhaps contribute to, a wave, the two headlines read:
Latin-Rock In Sales Upswing
Latin Rock Picks Up Sales
Steam Despite Ethnic Tag
The article notes sales not only in New York, but in other markets like “Philadelphia and Los Angeles—sales generated from heavy airplay on r&b radio stations—have forced the pop stations to play the records” even though the pop stations find “that the music is “ethnic.”” After noting ten pop stations playing the music, the article goes on to highlight “Hey, Leroy” as well as “Oh Yeah” and “At The Party.” The New York radio station WWRL is again highlighted and then the article notes how serious and controversial playing these records really was:
It was WWRL, New York’s r&b powerhouse that started the Joe Cuba Sextet on its way to fame. The record was “El Pito.” It did quite well in sales in New York, but “Bang Bang,” the second splash for Cuba, did much better and began to establish the Latin-Rock sound.
To illustrate just how rocky the road was for the Latin-rock sound, it resulted in the exodus of at least two men from their radio jobs. One deejay on an r&b station was fired for playing a record not on the station’s playlist. That was “El Pito.” Two or three weeks later, the station added the record to their playlist. A program director of a major pop station came to a parting of the ways with management after slating Cuba’s “Bang Bang” for airplay. He went to another market, the station later played the record.
Producer Pancho Cristal is quoted as calling the music a “marriage of latin and boogaloo” and that it is “the teens who are going for it.” Other pop stations are noted and the article sums up by further emphasizing the role played by r&b stations, citing WVON (Chicago), KGFJ (Los Angeles) and KSOL (San Francisco). But it also notes a Denver station, KIMN, because it is holding off on “Hey, Leroy” for the present. The last paragraph cites new and exciting releases in the Latin-rock bag, citing Tito Puente’s “Fat Mama”. Less than a month later, the Puente album which contains “Fat Mama” received a glowing note in the February 18, 1967, International Spotlight section (p57). WWRL listed “Fat Mama” in its “On the Move” section for the week of January 26. One might think that 1967 would be an ever more exciting year in the charts for latin boogaloo and soul. And with regard to the industry charts in the USA, one would be 100% wrong. Maybe the daring and creativity and innovation, especially by r&b stations just faded. Not one record of this music hit the Billboard or Cash Box pop and r&b charts in 1967, though WWRL continued to play latin boogaloo and soul records. Perhaps the “ethnic” tag also reveals more than a casual notice would indicate. These hits of 1966 were not straightforward performances of afro Cuban or Puerto Rican musics. They did not use “clave” time or rhythm, or the 6/8 time signature; they were not sung largely in Spanish. They were records that fused elements of Cuban and Puerto Rican musics with elements of blues, r&b, soul and even rock. The latin boogaloo is sometimes called cha cha cha with a back beat or guajira with a back beat. My version of this, already used earlier is shuffle-cha or cha cha cha with shuffle, bringing home the 4/4 time and beat, the blues and r&b elements in the music on these records. The resultant latin boogaloo is clearly a hybrid of many things, though it is more “latin” than not, even if its detractors would cringe at this. As will be presented later, the large popularity of latin boogaloo and latin soul did seem to decline and there are, though well after the fact, claims popularized by former participants, claims that it lost out precisely because it was a hybrid in an era of rising ethnic and nationalist pretentions. However, no matter what did happen, in 1967 many records went “international” and made the international charts in Billboard and Cash Box.
The determination to be different and expand and diversify playlists by r&b stations evidently petered out as the opening months of 1967 went by. Latin boogaloo and soul records had good sales in the US (including Puerto Rico) and internationally. But still, the American charts remains elusive. Great records, many of them in English, like “Boogaloo Blues” and “I Like It Like That” (not the Chris Kenner record) did not register. Billboard and Cash Box, however, because they monitored international doings—even with somewhat sporadic coverage—noted a significant number of the boogaloo and latin soul records that were popular in other countries, and the number of these “chart” successes is twice the number of records that charted in 1966 in Billboard and Cash Box that have already been noted.
By the end of February, 1967, all the hits from December, 1966 had left both the Billboard and Cash Box charts. Few artists even associated with what has come to be called and considered ‘Salsa’ are even getting notice in the international coverage. Celia Cruz is the first one to hit and some of this is unusual and cannot altogether explained. Cruz left Cuba with Sonora Matancera in 1960 and soon located in the US and she became a citizen. Born in 1925, she had been singing professionally since 1950. Her solo recordings for the end of her Seeco contract, and the beginning of her Tico contract were all done in NYC. Her recordings from 1967 (as well as 1968) were all done in Mexico, and most of them with Memo Salamanca, a pianist, band leader and arranger who had worked with and for Perez Prado. Her initial releases in Mexico were on the local label, Orfeon, not on Tico; they were, presumably, leased from Tico. Tico seems to have had releases (as Discos Tico) in Mexico by the beginning of the summer, though no deal was announced until September, as both Cash Box and Billboard note the startup of Discos Tico in September 9, 1967 issues.
The initial chart success, in Mexico for Cruz was “Bravo,” an interesting balada with bolero aspects which charts in March (Cash Box) and then April (Billboard, Mexican coverage) but is not a part of this story. Her next release, still on Orfeon, which enters the Cash Box Mexican coverage chart before Bravo disappears from Billboard, is a version of “Pulpa de Tamarindo,” a song that was hugely popular in many parts of the world in 1967. The Cruz version competed with three others: Sonja Lopez (she may have been first); Lina Valdez; and Los Dominic’s. The Cruz version ended up doing the best, and it is a very contemporary version with aspects of the drive, vocal arrangement and fun time of latin boogaloo, all, presumably, courtesy of Memo Salamanca. (1)
Billboard notes the Lopez disc (a thirteen week run which began on May 6 and a week’s return after dropping off!) Though it never got higher than 6, (which it hit for the first two weeks) but Billboard notes nothing about the Cruz disc. It only gets Mexican chart notice in Cash Box, also starting May 6, ending June 17, and peaking at number 4 for two weeks. What is confounding is that her version never got released in the US by Tico in any form. It was on subsequently on a Mexican Tico 45 EP and on the Mexican Tico album, Celia Cruz 67, but not on any 45 or album release here in the USA! Quite strange. Also strange is that while searching for release of this track on 45, aside from the EP, the only other release I found was from Columbia, a Tico-Discos Fuentes release, with “Juntos” on the flip, and in 1967 it was a 78 and NOT a 45! The last 78s pressed for release in America on major labels date from 1959.
It is kind of hard to fathom that Cruz would have successful releases in Mexico, first through Orfeon and then Discos Tico, and not have this material released where the label was based. This seems to have escaped notice altogether in accounts of Cruz’s recording career and so I have no more information about this oddity. The reasons, or her reasons, for making all these discs in Mexico also continues to be somewhat of a mystery as well. What remains is the energy of her version of “Pulpa” and that it made the Mexican charts according to Cash Box, in May 1967.
The next related hit comes from a group almost as venerable as was Celia Cruz in 1967, El Gran Combo (of Puerto Rico). Formed in 1962 after the original Cortijo group disbanded, unlike the NYC groups, El Gran Combo used trumpets and reeds and often balanced the two “sections” and played them off one another, usually with the reeds laying the foundation for upper register brass in a stylized, Afro-Cuban manner that often seems derived from the best aspects of Perez Prado recordings.
Their chart appearance, in Records of the World is also the only spring appearance of Puerto Rico in that Billboard international coverage, and it is from June 17, 1967. In this chart, “Bugalu” by El Gran Combo, on the Gema label is listed at number 7 and at 7 for the previous week as well. The title is as much a surprise and mystery as the one week only coverage. I can find no record from 1966 and 1967 with the title, “Bugalu,” by El Gran Combo. The one clue to this comes from the August and September Puerto Rico coverage in which one finds chart coverage for “Vas Bien” by that band. That title reached number 1 on August 12, but as it was a conventional guaracha, it is NOT latin boogaloo and soul and not part of this discovery. “Vas Bien” was the B-side of Gema 45, 1560, in the USA, Puerto Rico and Peru, with “El Gran Combo’s Boogaloo” on the A-side. So “Bugalu” may well be that title in question and if it is, it is a very smart and jovial record. It has touches of a party sound, some clapping and spoken interjections; it uses mambo like pumping reeds underneath fiery, riffing trumpets. The absence of further Puerto Rican chart coverage until late in the summer makes it impossible to know if the record remained popular for more than two weeks, or if it attained a position above 7.
Further support for this comes on p54 also in the June 17 issue as the San Juan news notes that the Bugaloo album is “breaking sales records and hitting local charts.”
If “El Gran Combo’s Boogaloo” was this June hit, then the boogaloo movement was also beginning in Puerto Rico, and the instantiation was through an established, establishment, though accomplished, band. El Gran Combo went on to record four albums of latin boogaloo and latin soul from 1967 to 1969, a sure sign that international recognition and popularity was happening.
Another one week anomaly of Puerto Rican coverage happened the week of July 8, when the Billboard Hits of the World once again included Puerto Rico and the number 10 chart slot, making its debut, was “Richie’s Jala-Jala,” by Ricardo Ray. Pulled from the Ray album on Alegre, Jala Jala y Boogaloo which was a June release, this is the only week of Puerto Rican coverage in July, so the fate of the record there cannot be fully explored, but it is another move in the direction of more popularity of latin boogaloo and latin soul outside of the US and especially NYC.
While El Gran Combo was on the Puerto Rican charts with that guaracha “Vas Bien”, Ms Cruz also hit the PR charts with another up-to-date record, one tinged with boogaloo: “Guardame Tu Amo.” It appears on her Bravo album and may not have been programmed from a 45. It hit the Puerto Rican Billboard chart on August 5 in the bottom slot of 10. It remained through September 16 and rose as high as 4 for three weeks in a row. Parts of the arrangement incorporate a rock music beat; what sounds like double-tracked vocals also give it a very contemporary, pop soul aspect. The slinky and punchy horns, especially the reeds, also provide touches of r&b laced latin boogaloo. It is an ingratiating record; since I cannot find evidence of a 45 release on any Tico label, it may well have been programmed directly from the Bravo album.
By 1967 Joe Quijano was a prolific and adventurous latin band leader with nine albums to his credit since 1960! Quijano had considerable musical training and studies from age seven, After high school he briefly attended Columbia University. He grew up with future luminaries Orlando Marin and Eddie Palmieri, and was performing with them by age 15. A trip to Cuba in 1956 exposed him to the Senen Suarez Group; this greatly influenced him. Upon return to NYC he set out to form the same kind of group, one with two trumpets and flute. His group recorded several pachanga dance albums with this line up that excluded violins and became successful enough that after small label releases on Spanoramic and Tee Jay, he was signed to Columbia and made three records for the label.
The initial Columbia release contains a song in which Quijano sings the definitions of the popular dance and clarifies charanga from pachanga:
Everyone is dancing the pachanga. There is talk that a charanga is the orchestra that plays it…that everyone is dancing the pachanga, the dance rage of the moment… (2)
Quijano’s approach to pachanga was different and it may have influenced Ray Barretto to add brass to his charanga by the mid 1960s. Forming a group with trumpets and flute was not the end of
Quijano’s adventurousness. He started his own label, Cesta, which is still active, and put out his first DIY release while still recording for Columbia. After leaving Columbia he did a second record for Spanoramic and included a rousing cover of the Beatles’ “She Loves You.” Doing so in 1964 was far more daring than any other latin band I can think of, and as daring as the Beatles sounding rock hit, “She’s The One” by the Chartbusters! As early as 1964, few UK and US bands were covering Beatles songs, and hence this version of “She Loves You” IS comparable to the Chartbusters sounding like the Beatles and scoring #33 on the Billboard charts.
Quijano did not stop with “She Loves You” for in 1965 he recorded Fiddler on the Roof Goes Latin for MGM. By 1966 he had sussed the sounds of latin boogaloo and soul that were in the air because his next two records covered some boogaloo, shingaling, jala jala and a very personal version of latin soul. From the first of these two records, Shing-a-lings (Cesta 3000) he released Cesta 45-509, “Fun City Shingaling”/”Lo de Boogaloo.” The cover of the album has print that announces, “Featuring the hit song Fun City Shing-a-ling”; no American chart, pop or r&b, verifies this. The A-side is a powerful, moody guajira-son performance and it adopts some party boogaloo aspects. It is a great record. But it was the very different, almost Brazilian sounding flip side, that found international favor and success and it became the fourth latin boogaloo hit record in the 1967 Puerto Rican charts covered by Billboard.
“Lo de Boogaloo” was that fourth in a row to chart on Puerto Rico Hits of the World, starting at the bottom, at 10, on August 12, and running through October 14. It peaked at 2 for two weeks in a row, September 9 and 16. The record is a bit of an anomaly as it really doesn’t sound very ‘boogaloo’ at all; the breezy, nosy flute and light beat does have something of a bossa feel and sound. Perhaps Joe’s title was a bit of a spoof.
Up next to appear in the Hits of the World is a longer appearance of “Richie’s Jala Jala,” by Ricardo Ray & Bobby Cruz. After that one week in Puerto Rico, it had a great run in Venezuela in early September. Jala jala as a song form and dance has an uncertain background, but in this instance, it seems to be something derived and adapted, loosely, from “El Jala Jala,” recorded by El Gran Combo in 1964, and written by Roberto Roena and Pellin Rodriguez. After it was released on the Ojos Chinos—Jala Jala album, many versions and titles of “jala jala” followed, and it eventually mixed with aspects of American pop, latin pop of that era and latin boogaloo. It some ways, it was this Ricardo Ray disc that solidified the jala jala popularity. The flip of the single, Alegre 4013, “Columbia Boogaloo,” was also very popular, especially in Columbia, but no “chart” history survives concerning this side. “Richie’s Jala Jala” entered the Hits of the World Venezuela of Billboard September 2 at 7 and ran through October 14, peaking at #1 for four weeks in a row! The recording returned November 4, after three weeks OFF the chart, at 7 and had two more weeks at the end of the year, December 30 at 6 and January 6 at 9. Very curious!
Even more than Hector Rivera and Joe Quijano, Ricardo “Richie” Ray Maldonado was a child prodigy. At age seven he played bass with singer Bobby Cruz and the band that Cruz formed began performing in 1957 when Ray and Cruz were 12 and 16. Ray attended the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, the High School of the Performing Arts and then for a year, Julliard, before forming his own group with Cruz as one of the singers. By late 1963 or early 1964 a man named Carmelo Fonseca began his Fonseca label and he recorded Ray & Cruz, as well as other musicians. The two produced one of the earliest Fonseca 45s, “El Maton” (1115). The Seeco label would later re-release “El Maton” and other very early recordings from that Fonseca label. Though Cruz got some billing on “El Maton”, evidently Carlitos Arroyo and Tony Garcia actually handled the singing and talking. From 1964 through early 1966, Ray, Cruz, and Ray’s band made five albums for the label and had material on a compilation released after Ray was signed to and recording for, Alegre, the label of “Richie’s Jala Jala.” By February 1966 the Alegre label had become part of the Morris Levy and Branson Music stable (along with Tico, Roost, Roulette and several others) and not many months later Ray was signed away from Fonseca and recording for Alegre. His first releases were in June of 1966. His initial album, Se Solto/On the Loose (850 mono, 8500 stereo) was popular and contained two early varieties of latin boogaloo somewhat derived from the Cuban danzon: “Danzon Boogaloo” and also “Lookie, Lookie.” “Danzon Boogaloo” also had contemporary pop influences, which may have helped its popularity (3) “Lookie, Lookie” may have received some generous radio play in the US, and it is often noted that it was a hit, but I’ve found no sources to verify this whatsoever. However, it was covered in Mexico by the organist Tono Quirazco, on Orfeon. At the time, Quirazco was already famous for introducing Jamaican music to Mexico via two 1965 records of Ska, and at some point, Quirazco did an entire album of latin boogaloo, apparently in 1968.
These early recordings for Alegre teamed Ray with two phenomenal trumpeters, Pedro Rafael Chaparro (better known simply as Chaparro) and Adolphus “Doc” Cheatham. Chaparro was from Venezuela and later formed his own band with Cheatham. Cheatham was an outstanding section man as well as soloist, who had professional and recording experiences as far back as the 1920s, recording as early as 1927 with Tiny Parham and then starring with McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Cab Calloway (1932-35), Teddy Wilson and Benny Carter, to cite the biggest names in his resume. Chaparro and Cheatham made several more sessions with Ray and Cruz and stayed with the band, at least for recording purposes, until late 1969 or early 1970 when both trumpeters began to record for the Rico label under Chaparro’s lead.
Much of Ray’s recorded work for Fonseca ranks with the best latin music and latin jazz of the period. His jazz interests and abilities are manifest on versions of Bud Powell’s “Parisian Thoroughfare” and a reworking of the popular MJQ record, “Django” (as, by Ray, “Jango”). These are breathtaking and remarkable recordings. “Jango” was popular on jazz radio in the north east and also had an African American audience. His work for Alegre, like “Columbian Boogaloo,” helped establish an international career for Ray, and “Richie’s Jala Jala” made a significant mark on another country in South America, obviously, Venezuela. Ray and Cruz would move to Puerto Rico, continue recording, find God, have personal problems, and reunite from there into the present. At the same time as he made boogaloo and jala jala records, he forged another musical path with things like “Tin Marin,” which uses hard hitting block chords and a fast tempo to create a unique version of latin dance music, not quite like any competition at the time. He would also go on to record soul, r&b, rock and some pop while at Alegre and later on the Vaya label, and maintain some popularity and visibility in rock and soul scenes into the end of the decade, even charting in 1968 with a cover of the Shirley Ellis 1963 hit, “Nitty Gritty.”
It took band leader Pete Rodriguez much longer to break into recording activity than it did any of the other artists discussed. He had been leading a band since 1956 or 1957 and did not have his first release, At Last, until 1964 (Remo 1511) He may have been the first, or certainly among the first, latin artist to associate with some aspects of boogaloo, as Remo 1517, his next album, was entitled The King of the Boogaloo Pete Rodriguez y La Magnifica; it seems to have had a 1965 release and another title of La Reencarnacion. There really is no trace of the latin boogaloo as such on the record, though the second half of “Dame Un Beso” sounds suspiciously like Ricardo Ray and his band at a medium romp, and the guajira, “Oye Mira” is a well done, medium grind, with striking timbales at its close.
Another album was released in 1966, Este Pete Si Este En Algo …! (Remo 1525) but it is a re-release of 1511 retitled.
Sometime after Alegre was sold Rodriguez was signed to the label and his album, Latin Boogaloo was released not too long after the Ricardo Ray album (Latin Boogaloo, Alegre 852; noted in Billboard, October 8, 1966, p4). Although Al Santiago was no longer the owner and main producer, he did produce Latin Boogaloo before Pancho Cristal took over the duties for the next three records. The single drawn from the Alegre debut was “Pete’s Boogaloo”/”Guagaloo” (Alegre 4003) and it apparently made latin radio play when “Lookie, Lookie” did. The next Rodriguez album on Alegre garnered more attention. Pulled from it as a single was “I Like It Like That (A Mi Me Gusta Asi),” the title track, which was released in March, of 1967; it received notice May 6 in Billboard and a review (Popular Special Merit) in the May 13 issue. The review also noted the presence of the “boogaloo beat” and that the 45 was “already a popular side”. (Alegre 855) This title track did not chart Billboard (despite two notices) and did not chart Cash Box. It did get WWRL play, making the On The Move listing March 16, 1967 and breaking into the Top 16 chart at 8, on April 27, 1967 (survey book, p 19-20). The next 45 was the first one to hit the international charts, Billboard’s Hits of the World, for Puerto Rico, September 2, at the bottom slot (10): “Oh That’s Nice” lasted in this chart through October 14, and it peaked at 5 for its final four weeks. (9/23; 9/30; 10/07; 10/14). Divided into “Part One” and “Part Two”, the flip side might not have gotten a great deal of play as one of the lines is, “I’m gonna buy some dope now”, a sentiment the FCC (and most station management) would hardly have welcomed! “Oh That’s Nice” is not exactly boogaloo of any sort, but does match up with various strains of latin soul. (4)
Trumpeter Tony Pabon (3/6/39; 1/21/14), co-wrote “Oh That’s Nice” along with fellow band member Benny Bonilla, a timbales player. Pabon had co-written the other 45 sides that had received air play and he was a crucial member of Rodriguez’s band. After disagreements between the two, Pabon left, recorded a solo record for the same label, Alegre, and then organized a group he named La Protesta. This group made several records for the Rico label.
Rodriguez had another entry into the international charts as five months later “Micaela” made Hits of the World Venezuela on March 9 and 16, 1968, at position 3. Although this period is outside of our study, I mention this because “Micaela” had been the B-side of “I Like It Like That” and was at least a year old at the time it charted in Venezuela. During the following year he made a great and neglected record with George Goldner, Latin Soul Man (Alegre 875). This was the final release to feature the band (or at least some of that band) he had been recording with since at least 1966. In 1970 he changed producers again and made Now! This album featured two very strong compositions by Venezuelan pianist Ray Perez.
Rodriguez made only two albums after Now! On one of them he and his band backed Rueben Blades on his debut (1970) and under his own name for WS Latino and the All-Art label, from 1971. Nothing more seems to have been heard from him since then, a very sad and premature end to a career that was crucial to latin boogaloo in 1966 and 1967. Rodriguez made several great records and sadly he remains neglected and under-appreciated in north America.
Willie Bobo got to repeat from his brief 1966 appearance with a track that was the B-side of “Sunshine Superman.” His label, Verve, did not give up on that flip, “Sockit To Me,” as it was re-released as an A-side (with “1-2-3” as the flip; VK 10475) in early 1967, and seems to have had a special issue in Argentina, on Philips, as it successfully crashed the charts in Argentina, as documented by Billboard AND Cash Box. It first made noise in Cash Box entering the charts of Argentina on September 9 at 19, starting an eleven week run that lasted through November 18. It peaked at 8 two weeks in a row—October 7 and 14—and even made a four week return beginning December 9 and lasting through December 30, when it hit 14, 16,16, and 19. Again, this is unusual.
“Sockit To Me” was even more successful in the Billboard, Hits of the World Argentina. It entered on October 14 at 8 and then mostly remained at 6 from October 21 through November 18 and then peaked at 4, December 2, making its final entry on December 9 for a nine week run. If boogaloo had not quite invaded Argentina, this wonderful piece of latin soul by Bobo certainly did.
Fueled by spoken interjections, this almost doo wop ballad intimates sexual involvement, via expressions in Spanish, like the well placed “ah na mi”—which can almost be translated, ‘get it on’—and the twice spoken “sabor” at the beginning of the guitar solo. The title itself (along with its quadruple repetitions) has sexual implications. Just before the fade ends, the final interjection is “some soul!” and “Sockit To Me” does have it, does exude it. “Sockit To Me” is it especially in the realm of the sweet and greasy, soul that is.
The world famous Queen of Latin Soul, La Lupe, hit the Puerto Rican international charts in May, though not with anything like latin soul or boogaoo. She scored in May with “Cumba Cumba” (Tico 493) and then in July with “Oriente” (495) both from the El Rey y Yo—The King and I album (1154), the “King” being Tito Puente. Billboard international columns from Caracas noted “Cumba Cumba” on August 12, 1967 (p59) and the column stated that “Cumba Cumba” was getting “noticeable airplay”. The column also mentioned a new Venezuelan radio show, La Hora de la Salsa, sponsored by the very Tico label.
None of these 45s made even a squeak in the US, though the March 4, 1967 issue of BB has “Cumba Cumba” in the regular feature that is a Spotlight of records the pickers thought would make the Hot 100 (p14). Neither “Cumba Cumba” nor “Oriente” made Hits of the World outside of Puerto Rico.
La Lupe’s first disk to chart that resembles her appellation, was a version of the Beatles recording, “Yesterday” and it debuted on the Puerto Rican Hits of the World October 7, 1967 at the bottom, 10. It had a four week run, through October 28, and peaked at 8 for two weeks. It was also on the El Rey y Yo album but unlike the other two tracks, it does not seem to have had a 45 release, as the next two Tico 45s I have found are “La Salve Plena”/”El Amo” (503) and “Que Bueno Boogaloo”/”Si Vuelves Tu” (511). The ballad, “Si Vuelves Tu” made the Puerto Rican Hits of the World December 2, 1967 at 10, but as there was no Puerto Rican coverage for the rest of December, its fate cannot be determined. It is certainly not a latin soul record, and even though there was “boogaloo” in the title, “Que Bueno” has more to do with older, mambo influenced latin music.
Born Lupe Victoria Yoli Raymond On December 23, either 1936 or 1939 (Wikipedia has 1939, while a 2008 Guardian article has 1936) San Pedrito, near Santiago de Cuba, Ms Yoli began her singing in public by performing an Olga Guillot number in a talent contest, and her success allowed her to make her first recording for the Cuban RCA label, Discuba, in 1960: Con El Diablo En El Cuerpo. A second album, La Lupe is Back, was released in 1961. Her version of the Little Willie John hit, “Fever”, as “Fiebre,” is a highlight of her debut, as much because of the wonderful arrangement by Julio Gutierrez as Lupe’s equally inventive vocal. The jazzy “El Recuerdo Aquel” is also very good. The pop side of this work is represented by two heavy handed Paul Anka covers, “Crazy Love” and “So It’s Goodbye.”
These pop efforts point the way for much of La Lupe Is Back, which is dominated by big strings, choruses of horrible, mostly female singers, undifferentiated horn arrangements, clumsy tempi, and for the most part, an unrelaxed, too revved up, La Lupe. It can be said that a few of the tracks on this album point to the repertoire of later latin soul, as La Lupe did versions of “Sincerely,” as “Sinceramente,” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” as “Manana”,” and while both recordings are deeply flawed, they have moments and her singing is powerful, though not capable of altogether ‘saving’ these versions.
In 1962 La Lupe abandoned Cuba and recorded initially with percussionist Mongo Santamaria (Mongo Introduces La Lupe Riverside, 1963) and then for Mercury, where she remade “Fever”, more uptempo and somewhat successfully, though it did not chart; she was introduced to something like girl group pop, via the flip, “Ooh” (Mercury 72149). Bill Grauer, one of the founders of famous jazz label Riverside, is credited with producing the vocal! Her 1964 single, a version of a number penned by Rudy Clark, “Spanish Boy” or “Spanish Girl”—depending on the singer—was also very pop soul/r&b in a girl group kind of way. It got BB notice May 16, 1964 (Hot Pop, p24) but did not chart. It was a clogged market, though, as there was also a version by The Rubies in May, and while it did not chart either, it seemed to have life into July as its label, Vee-Jay bought an ad June 20 (p11) and it made Breakout Singles July 4. Another version was released by the Kane Triplets (Kapp 596, June 13, Hot Pop, p20) and later, as “La La Joce Song,” it was done by Merry Clayton (Capitol 5164). La Lupe’s blatant pop r&b/soul records came to an end, temporarily, when she signed to Tico and began recording with Tito Puente; their first together was Tito Puente Swings The Exciting Lupe Sings (1121).
By the end of 1965, Puente was making records with Celia Cruz and evidently La Lupe deeply resented this. She went on to make one record with both Chico O’Farrill arranging and conducting and Al Santiago producing, and then she was produced by Pancho Cristal with Hector de Leon arranging and conducting the band. Some of her material was English language and pop or soul, but her most significant move was the record she made with the prominent latin soul benefactor and musician, Harvey Averne. Averne had been working and recording for Fania since 1967 and even had some of his releases leased to Atlantic. By 1968 he was spearheading the latin soul and straight soul label Fania had started, Uptite, and he had releases on it as well as Fania, many of them in a latin soul and boogaloo bag. How he was introduced to La Lupe, and why he produced an album with her that was released on a major rival to Fania, is not clear. Perhaps Averne adequately perceived the draft at Fania and took an opportunity to produce a pop, rock, soul and r&b record on La Lupe that would never happen at Fania. Perhaps he was really pissed off at those who were running Fania and Uptite, as he did end up leaving the organization and going to United Artists to head their Latin Division, as noted in the Executive Turntable column of September 19, 1970, p6. The notice also indicated that Averne had worn four hats for Fania, as writer, artist, in sales and also promotions!
However the gig emerged, Averne cut ten tracks on La Lupe with a great band that included a very funky electric bassist as well as a similarly talented electric guitarist. Released in 1969, The Queen Does Her Own Thing came out on Roulette (42024) rather than Tico. Averne contributed two numbers and oversaw eight covers. In the US, Roulette released only one 45, “Down On Me”/”Touch Me” (7043), numbers previously recorded by Big Brother And The Holding Company and The Doors, respectively. The June 7, 1969 BB New Album lists includes the release as The Queen Does Her Thing (p53) but no other attention was garnered and her next Roulette 45, “Don’t Ever Leave Me”/”Frenesi” (7054) was material not included on Does Her Own Thing. In France Roulette issued “Se Acabo”/”Don’t Play That Song” on 45, and as the Ben E King cover is one of the strongest on the album, featuring inspired singing and a very wired and fitting arrangement, still it apparently never received any US release on 45. There is no evidence of French air play or popularity. It is a great performance as soul, latin soul, and music, so this was a very lost opportunity to further expose The Queen to a wider audience. It is also my opinion that La Lupe’s version of The Doors “Touch Me” aces the original, and “Down On Me” is also very strong.
While the commercial failure of her Roulette recordings did not quite dent her career, it is worth noting that the Queen only had only one latin soul record, “Yesterday”, become chart prominent. Though she continued to record into the 1970s, made a famous appearance on the Dick Cavett show and has had a film of her life presented on the PBS Independent Lens series, some important
measures of success eluded her.
The last of the international hits to debut in 1967 was “Cabo E,” a track from the Ricardo Ray album, Jala Jala y Boogaloo. It entered the Venezuelan Hits of the World chart October 21, 1967 at 2. The following week it disappeared and the only remaining trace of Ray for that year is on page 10 of the same issue, where his new 45, “Mr Trumpet Man” (Alegre 4016) is listed with numerous other releases as part of the weekly report, of 45s predicted to hit the Hot 100 listing. It never did, nor did “Cabo E”, which is jala jala meets boogaloo, meets Ray’s driving rhythmic ideas.
Of all these international records, “Ray’s Richie’s Jala Jala” had the longest international BB run at ten Venezuelan weeks, followed by Willie Bobo’s “Sockit To Me” in Argentina, at nine weeks. It had an even longer, though interrupted, Cash Box life at sixteen weeks, which though unusual, because it fell off and returned, (twice!) is a very long (four months) run!
Only “Richie’s Jala Jala” crossed over into 1968, for only one week, and nothing like these boogaloo or latin soul records made the international charts until Pete Rodriguez’ year old record, “Micaela” saw life on the BB Venezuelan chart on March 9 and March 16 at 3.
1 “Pulpa de Tamarindo” was very, very popular and recorded many times, though no records charted in the US. It is worth mentioning my favorite version, by Los 3 Sudamericanos, a three person singing group (two men, one woman singing lead) from Paraguay who formed in the late 1950s around the same time as Los Cincos Latinos. They relocated to Spain by 1965. Their recording of “Pupla” is a wonderful example of what is now called “sunshine pop” and has aspects that resemble the best of early 5th Dimension singles. It is not at all latin boogaloo or latin soul, but is really worth hearing.
2 See the album cover for La Pachanga Se Baila Asi, Columbia 1744 (mono) 1961; Joe Quijano at Donald’s Encyclopedia; allmusic.com; puertodetieno.info; discogs.com; Al Santiago interview at Descarga.com. There is also helpful information at: The Willie Torres Discography (A Career Timeline & LP Discography), compiled by Edwin Garcia, ESQ, self published, USA, 2013 https://archive.org/details/WillieTorresDiscography
4 Frank W Hoffman, WWRL Weekly Music Chart 1966-1972, (USA, Paw Paw Press 2015)
I can’t wait to hear the adds
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – January 1981 (Volume 12, Number 8)
I don’t believe in tomorrows
the night was quite a wild ride
I wish Cliff had beat Stormzy -who I admire but not here
we are all now sold on “Anti-Hero”
A horrorcore anthemic track with creepy vocals and abrasive guitars
they don’t quite show growth they do show
The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 12-2-22 – 12-8-22, Yemi Alade’s “African Baddie” Reviewed
One of the best albums of the year
Want to join me in supporting a good cause?
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – December 1980 (Volume 12, Number 7)
Boy Howdy! did Susan Whitall put together a solid team of writers