(Independent scholar and cultural critic Paul Yamada has spent thirty years in different areas of the music business, in the midwest and the east. A founding editor of the pioneering rock zine Terminal Zone (1976-78), Paul has written on blues, rock, soul, jazz, and avant garde music. In addition, Yamada has written on cinema, art, and theater for a wide variety of local and national publications in Chicago, St. Louis and Washington DC. He has consulted for National Public Radio, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the Washington DC Performing Arts Society and Asian American theater companies in Chicago. His current works include a Chicago project, Wholesome, which includes music revues, essays, visual arts and daily streamed radio shows. Her also does DJ gigs. This is the introduction to his essay on Boogaloo & Latin Soul, which will be completed in subsequent posts)
The 21st Century rise of Nuyorican arts and culture has created a new interest in boogaloo/bugalu, latin soul and the somewhat related shingaling and jala jala. Commercial success of the music that is, or is denominated “salsa” (salsa tipica/tipica) encouraged many band leaders to abandon the innovative mid 1960s sounds, rhythm and language; many critics and practitioners bad mouthed and denigrated the music especially its use of English lyrics and expressions. Of course, some of these band leaders, and their record labels, were either against this music or its reticent practitioners–like Tito Puente–at best. The negative views remain:
Therefore, we must not overemphasize the role of boogaloo and its later development, Latin rock, in locating the origin of the real salsa like express. Rather, we should take the boogaloo only as a point of reference, since as a discrete, singular beat, it lacked substance and consequence.
Cesar Miguel Rendon, The Book of Salsa, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008, Caracas, Editorial Arts, 1980), 28 (1)
Despite…efforts to promote boogaloo…the genre found active hostility from established bandleaders (including Tito Puente) who considered it musically primitive but were clearly threatened by the competition.
Deborah Pucini Hernandez, Oye Como Va!, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010), 47
The richness of Latin music and a wider celebration of that richness within the Nuyorican cultural movement has resulted in new interest and appreciation for that moment which especially thrived from 1966 to 1967; and while it may have peaked during those years, it continued until at least 1972. Even now, however, there are claims that it all died a premature death in 1968, due to a conspiracy or a cabal composed of old guard Latin band leaders, their promoters and DJs of Latin recordings.
This investigation will concentrate on commercial recognition in and by the American music trade paper, Billboard during the years 1966 and 1967 and Cash Box for the same period; and on record labels and recording artists both recognized by Billboard and Cash Box and NOT. It will also encounter and discuss some surprising ‘crossover hybridity’ and instances of Billboard and Cash Box recognizing the music in locations outside of the continental United States, marking a kind of geographical movement and incursion that is transatlantic and transnational to be sure; revealing movement and appreciation of this American musical and cultural hybrid which nevertheless remained importantly “latin” in a profoundly Latin American fashion even in the continental United States. Indeed, the most proper way of addressing this music is to preface “latin” to boogaloo, to distinguish it from r&b records that, while many are great, are not really related. So, one of the things that will also emerge in this investigation is what can constitute latin boogaloo and latin soul, not an altogether easy task. Although I intend to provide as much information, at least in passing, as possible, recognizing that the whole of this project is not a common subject within most discussions of popular music in the United States, I fully recognize that I am not either going to make claim on or actually attempt to discover any origins or make any teleological claims. I am reminded that at least some aspects of work by Michel Foucault and Edward Said questioned traditional narrative history which sought to discover “origins”, and at least some of their work was about “beginnings” as well as temporal changes and historical arrivals. (2) Clearly, by consulting music industry trade papers, like Billboard and Cash Box, my project ends up resonating with the said emphasis on beginnings and arrivals. (3) I also hope that through an inquiry aspect of this project, by more than incidentally highlighting how, in especial and mainstream commercial contexts and commerce contexts, some kind of archaeology of knowledge can be pursued, in spite of, rather than because of, what might be deemed the neoliberal claim that the market processes “information”. In large part this might be because the uncertainties and subjectivities that are behind the charting of a record and a record becoming a hit cannot actually be processed, parsed or analyzed, and hence in ironic ways are actually within AND without the market, existing at once as product, construct and lived culture, and perhaps also art.
Two record labels/companies that Billboard noticed which were both organized in New York City play an important role in this story and investigation, though only one of these labels managed “hit records” according to Billboard. Both of these labels also contribute significantly to the roots and beginnings of latin boogaloo and latin soul prior to 1966. These two labels are Seeco and Tico. After discussing the two record labels, and before charting the hits of 1966 and 1967, I shall suggest and outline various aspects of latin boogaloo and latin soul, as they are richer and more historically complex than the usual descriptions that are offered as simply cha cha cha with a backbeat or guajira fused with rhythm and blues.
Noting beginnings is also a factor in reviewing the many recording artists involved in the story because the majority of the artists concerned were not novices, and not terribly youthful. The rancor and rejection for this younger sound and audience expressed by the older latin bands was mostly in their minds and egos, especially on the part of Puente and perhaps Eddie Palmieri and some unscrupulous booking agents. As we shall see, almost all the major players, (and Bobby Cruz) and even Joe Quijano and Jimmy Castor, were veteran musicians and band leaders, and all of them had made records well before 1966 and 1967 when their latin boogaloo and soul contributions were noticed and popular. Except for Ray and Cruz (b 1945 and 1941) and Castor (1940) all the others were born before 1937: Cuba, 1931; Quijano, 1935; Rivera, 1933; Rodriguez, 1932; Jimmy Sabater, 1936; and Willie Torres, 1929. By 1966, none of these men were young by the usual measures of popular culture, even if they were just entering middle age. A case can be made that Ray WAS young, though he was making records in 1964, before he was 20, and so by 1966, youthful as he was, he was a veteran band leader and so was his singer, Bobby Cruz, at 25. Overall, it is important to note that none of these musicians were just starting out and that they brought many years of experience to their work and recordings by 1966; they were not neophytes and they were not just figuring out what they wanted to do in latin music. We will eventually encounter a few artists who were just starting out, though, and that makes the story and the arrivals all the more interesting, unusual and note-worthy.
The footnote process and problem for this article is complex, confusing, frustrating and difficult. There are few conventionally published books and sources, and almost all the materials I have read and consulted on the internet are, in a word, problematic. Rather than make my pages profuse with notes of uncertain value, I will list below the numerous things I have consulted and make comments as notes when I feel they are necessary. Part of the problem is that almost none of the materials I have seen are in any ways sourced themselves, and while almost all of them contain information and “facts” that I think are worthy, or “true” they also contain numerous things with which I disagree and think (or am sure that) are not true. Hence the comments above.
1 It is worth noting that Senor Rendon is so careful of a scholar that he confused pianist Pete Rodriguez with singer Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez, a mistake exceptionally pathetic, and which neither his local nor his UNC editor/fact checker caught. His prose is so often arrogant and chauvinistic, that his foolish error has been the cause of much snorting, sarcastic laughter.
2 I was reminded of the archaeology and beginnings aspects during the writing process while reading this: J.B. Shanks, The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment, (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2008), 23-25
3 Billboard=BB; Cash Box=CB will be used in the future.
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