(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.)
What is Latin Boogaloo and Soul?
Before moving on and into the guts of this investigation, the latin boogaloo and soul hits of 1966-67, it seems as though it is a worthy thing to have an overview of just what might constitute latin boogaloo and latin soul. This is much easier to note than to answer and define. Clearly there are at least four strains, one of them represented by the recording, “To Be With You,” which was released on 45 (8060) in 1963, and those which follow it by the Joe Cuba Sextet. “To Be With You” is certainly distinctive and like several of the other English language ballads the group recorded, written by band members. As noted earlier, though, it really has very little stylistically in common with soul or r&b. It has more in common with jazz vocal arranging, some things by the Four Freshmen, Mel Torme and the Mel-Tones and Johnny Mathis. I think Mathis is just about right, though I do not find any of these Cuba recordings as sophisticated, rich or even as well sung as Mathis’s prime work from the mid and late 1950s. The instrumentation is far too limited, the arranging too simple, and the lyrics far to drab and common-place. There is, however, some sophistication about these performances: good singing and vocal arranging, and as a group they did well within the limits, though not more than that. There is little here that is as amazing as something like the version of “Misty” by the Vibrations, which came out on 45 in 1965, and itself recalled the Mathis hit from 1959. I have no intention of denigrating or desecrating this kind of performance by Cuba’s group, even if I find it rather underwhelming. It is certainly an example of interesting and significant hybridity, developed by Cuba’s band members, mostly pianist Nick Jimenez, along with singers Jimmy Sabater and Willie Torres. I can live with it being termed “latin soul” as long as it is clear that there is very little in it that relates to r&b or soul of the early and mid 1960s.
The band continued to record material like “To Be With You” and include an English language ballad on the subsequent three Tico albums, and on one more LP which they had released on Seeco. The initial release for Tico, Hangin’ Out/Vagabundeando contained “I Need You,” written by pianist Nick Jimenez. El Alma Del Barrio had a Torres-Sabater composition, “You’re Gone,” and by the end of 1964 or early 1965, Bailladores once again included a Jimenez ballad, “Please Don’t Forget.” The Seeco offering, Comin’ At You included a ballad by Diana Bonilla, “This Is Love.” All four have background vocal arrangements and are in the vein of “To Be With You.” The English language ballad on the fourth, and breakout (eventually) Tico record, We Must Be Doing Something Right, from late 1965, does not come from either the band or a latin music source. It is from a pop-rock-soul writer, Ted Daryll, who is perhaps more famous for his partnership with Chip Taylor than he is on his own. Nevertheless, Daryll is an estimable songwriter with significant hits and a track record going back to at least 1962 when his song, “My Wonderful You” was waxed by the Cuba Sextet. (1)
The ballad side, the sweet side, of latin soul, some of which derives from “To Be With You,” comes after 1966-67, or most of it does. This is the early period of latin boogaloo and soul. Many other recordings also have jazz, doo wop and even soul aspects and they date from 1969 to 1972. This is also the case with the strain that more closely derives from doo wop and aspects of black vocal music that is considered rock’n’roll as much as it is r&b. An example of the doo wop strain is the brilliant cover of “Sincerely,” originally recorded by the Moonglows, done by Joey Pastrana, in late 1968, which apparently appeared only on his third Cotique album. (2)
In a way, the treatment Joe Quilano gives the pop ballad,”Ven Amorcito Ven,” is a kind of latin soul as well. The arrangement, especially the horn presence and horn lines throughout, borrow from mid 1960s soul and the entire feel is akin to rhythm and blues, and not all like the popular version in Mexico by actor/singer Alberto Vazquez. It is not really doo wop, but closer to latin music transforming pop, r&b AND SOUL, and to me, since it uses English lyrics, and also borrows from doo wop, “Ven Amorcito Ven” is what I consider latin soul dominated by latin music. (3)
Like this there are, however, other wonderful surprises that predate not just 1968, but also 1966. Some of them are, (no surprise,) by the Joe Cuba Sextet, but the earliest one I know of is from a group that is NOT named Cuba but actually FROM Cuba.
I think it is necessary now to side step exactly what constitutes and is constitutive of what is commonly called doo wop, because this article is not an encyclopedia, though I am trying to include a wealth of information. It is also not an elaborate work of critical-historical aesthetics. There is an elaborate and extended doo wop tradition and genre and it is both within and without r&b and early rock’n’roll. The practice in the music business of “the cover” is also difficult to conceptually define and varies greatly depending on the circumstances, though it does seem to have begun as a way to cash in on a hit happening ‘now’ and also as a way to add “filler” to an album: don’t have enough original or in-house material? Do “covers”. Some bands and A&R people also felt that music fans would want to hear their favorite bands play the big hits of the moment. Taking all of this into account, it is worth noting in any discussion of latin soul that latin bands recorded and covered doo wop materials and songs, mostly former hits, but not always, and this added to the SOUL in many ways, and it also gives some indication what the artists, singers and bands listened to, especially in their youth. It is in this context that it is important to locate and consider one of the earliest examples of this I know, a cover of the Platters huge hit, “Only You,” by Sonora Matancera, from 1960.
Formed in 1924 by guitarist Rogelio Martinez, in Matanzas, Cuba, Sonora Matancera lasted for many decades playing a wide variety of Cuban dance music, becoming increasingly popular in the 1940s and gaining more popularity by adding singers Daniel Santos, Myrta Silva and then Celia Cruz. How this conjunto came upon the Platters hit is unknown, as well as who arranged it.
The song was several years old by 1960. It had been written for the Platters by their manager, Buck Ram and first recorded in 1954 for Federal, but was unreleased. The group moved to the Mercury label in 1955 and re-recorded it in May; later that same year Federal released the earlier version but only the superior Mercury disc became popular, reaching #1 on the R&B best sellers charts and #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Sonora Matancera recorded their version of “Only You,” as “Solo Tu,” in August of 1960. This was probably one of their earliest sessions outside of Cuba, taking place in either Mexico or the United States, as the group abandoned Cuba in June, 1960, and never returned. The track does not appear to have been issued on 45 (or 78) by their label, Seeco, only appearing on the album En Mexico (Seeco 9203, released in late 1960). “Solo Tu” is a stunning performance, with striking touches of jazz in its arrangement. The performance covers a great deal of musical ground in less than 2:30: unison trumpets begin it, which peel off tart lines and add a touch of bop; then stating the languid melody with eloquence and elegance along with a few rhythmic and stop time surprises. The biggest surprise arrives near the end of the record via several bars of wordless vocals arranged for multiple voices: deftly done, it may have shocked its audience in 1960, with delight, as it clearly comes from a jazzy place and also resonates with some things Andrae Crouch would do in his early records from 1968 to 1971!
There may be other Sonora Matancera recordings from the 1960s with this kind of material, but I have not encountered them. Solo Tu, in my estimation, is the start of something unique and important in afro Cuban and latin dance music of the 1960s and it deserves to be recognized as a brilliant and nonpareil recording. After hundreds of listens, it continues to delight and take my breath away.
The Joe Cuba Sextet—surprise, surprise–also provide a wonderful and early example of this doo wop derived strain of latin soul on their second Seeco album Diggin’ The Most: the recording “Remember Me”, which also was released on 45 (8093). The original was waxed by the famous (for “In The Still Of The Night”) African American vocal group from New Haven, CT, the Five Satins. Though they made almost all of their early recordings for the Ember label, this was a one-off 45 on Warner Brothers in1963, produced, arranged and written by the once famous and constantly in demand Stanley Applebaum.
Applebaum may be forgotten now but he was widely revered in pop and rock recording circles as a musician, writer, arranger and producer. The famous and well respected Jack Nitzsche supposedly remembered Aplebaum as “the greatest arranger or at least the most inspirational for me was Stan Applebaum…” (4) Applebaum worked with and for Neil Sedaka, Paul Anka, Bobby Vinton, and Brook Benton. Leiber and Stoller used him as an arranger for the Drifters (“Dance With Me”) and Ben E King (“Spanish Harlem”, “Don’t Play That Song”). He made his own records on Warner Brothers, where he was on staff as a producer and arranger from 1962 through 1963, and he also worked closely with singer Joanie Sommers.
How he came to produce a record on the Five Satins is a mystery. The A side is a good, but not great, dance record, “Kangaroo”—do the kangaroo—that names many other dances, a common, though not always successful trope, of that genre and moment. The June 22, 1963 Billboard, however, surprisingly gave the “Kangaroo” four stars. The other side is what drew the Cuba Sextet, a suave, cha-cha-cha-shuffle, written by Applebaum and Dick Arnold, “Remember Me.”
How the Joe Cuba Sextet came to know this record well enough to want to record it is a mystery, though Applebaum’s reputation in Brill Building circles was certainly high enough that various NYC insiders might have paid attention to this west coast production out of curiosity and a kind of fealty. This does still not explain how “Remember Me” got to the group, to people at their label, or to their producer, Joe Cain, whose interests were hardly vocal r&b. The short transmission period of six months or less is also significant. The Cuba album that includes “Remember Me” was noted in Billboard on December 14, 1963 while the review of “Kangaroo”/”Remember Me” was in June.
The Five Satins recording opens with seductive percussion and an energizing, upper register vocal. Both slide along on a cha cha cha meets a shuffle beat which incorporates shiny electric guitar and some lush brass that easily elides into something performed by a traditional conjunto. As the performance progresses falsetto aspects of the lead vocal come to fore and it soars agilely during the fade out. Not a fancy performance but tuneful indeed.
The Cuba recording starts more forcefully with slapped tom or timbale, something not included in the Five Satins intro. Lead singer Jimmy Sabater forgoes the upper register for something deeper and richer. The vibes replace the electric guitar and a lone trombone takes the place of Applebaum’s brass arrangement. This may be the only use of horns or brass on a Cuba recording in the period, so the brass on the original must have made an impression on someone connected with this recording. The overall feel is as light as, and ‘cha’ as, the original, though no attempt is made to imitate the falsetto swoon of the Five Satins. Even without the engaging falsetto this version if “Remember Me” is quite fine and Sabater is smooth enough to have satisfied an El Monte audience, craving sweet and greasy, doo wop-soul.
Sonora Matancera were not the only latin music group to record “Only You,” though they were apparently the only group with strong connections to the United States including Puerto Rico. There were vocal groups from South America who occasionally recorded doo wop materials, though they seem less animated by American r&b and doo wop than American pop. Los Cincos Latinos is such a group. The long running Argentinian singing group, Los Cinco Latinos recorded it in 1958 for their very first album, Maravilloso Maravilloso, which was released in their home country on CBS and in parts of Europe on Fontana. They called it “Solamente Tu.” By the early 1960s, the US Columbia label was releasing their music on 45 and album, and some of it is in a Platters meets the Diamonds doo wop mold, rather squeaky clean, sung in Spanish, and not very r&b in feel or execution, though certainly well sung. “Dimelo Tu” is a good example; it was released here (Columbia 45 4-41624) and is on youtube. It would be interesting to discover a connection between this early example of Spanish language doo wop derived music, from South America and a latin audience in NYC and Puerto Rico (or even LA) from the end of the 1950s to 1966. The group did make an Ed Sullivan Show appearance but it seems that they performed more in California than anywhere else in the US. Overall, especially since the approach and arrangements privilege female singer Estella Ravel and use other voices in a choral fashion it is hard to see Los Cincos following, or wanting to follow, the directions that latin music groups in NYC were. Los Cincos, rather than making records that pushed into latin soul, seem to have wanted to make something that might be called “global pop” and despite releases on American Columbia, may well have been looking more toward Europe than the US. (5)
Los Cincos Latinos, at least into the late 1960s, continued to record some doo wop derived material and once in a while actually attempted an arrangement that hints at bluesy rock’n’roll and r&b. “Locamente Te Amare” from the Inseparables EP (Fontana, Spain, 1963) is one example; though when the group tackled something that is actually like American rock, it was often in the vein of Paul Anka or Neil Sedaka, like “Los Nardos”, from the EP !Los fabulosos cinco latinos! (CBS, Spain, 1963). Indeed other 1960s records cover much ground when it comes to pop, chanson, ballade, slightly jazzy pop, and so forth, but not much in the way of material that is sweet and greasy like much American doo wop and early soul and indeed, not at all like the latin counterparts ‘what is latin soul’ is uncovering. (6)
After cutting two albums as Cheo Rosario y Sus Imperial Boys (El Bardo and La Yuca) Rosario cut El Vive Bien as Cheo Rosario y Su Orquesta which eventually landed on the Salsa label. There are two notable tracks on the album, “The World Is Full Of Sin,” derived from works by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and “All Night Long,” a direct cover of the huge, #1 r&b hit, “Let The Good Time Roll” by New Orleans artists Shirley and Lee, this can also be considered another, distinct strain of both latin soul and latin boogaloo.
Salsa was one of three labels run by Ismael Maisonave. The other two were Mary Lou and then Salsa International. Mary Lou was apparently in business well before 1966, perhaps even in the late 1950s, which is probably not the case with the Salsa label, as the earliest documentation I have found is Maisonave buying an Alegre All Stars session from Al Santiago and releasing it in 1968. The photo of the cover of El Vive Bien shows two members with afros, something which, in 1966, could especially be construed as cutting edge for a latin music group. But without any other evidence, the varied postings on the internet of 1966 and 1971 cannot be definitively challenged.
The doo wop inspired number, “The World Is Full Of Sin,” owes much to Frankie Lymon records of the late 1950s, and at times, sounds like a slowed down remake of “I’m Not A Juvenile Delinquent”, though there is only the lead singer and there are no backing vocals. The high pitched voice is indebted to Lymon, and the piano solo is reminiscent of much doo wop. Only the percussion adds a touch of latin. It is a fun and interesting track, but not much more. It is also rawer than “To Be With You.”
The remake/cover of the huge Shirley & Lee hit, using the same singer, is a bit more than that, however. There are no composer credits, so it is not possible to tell if “All Night Long” was correctly credited to the artists who wrote it, Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee, but “All Night Long” is really just a retitling of their hit. It has a nice piano intro and decent brass with cogent touches of muted trombone. It is certainly listenable, and clearly a kind of latin boogaloo that directly stems from older, in this case 1956 vintage, rock’n’roll and r&b. If the 1966 date IS correct, it is at the front of the pack in this strain, though it is not alone. Bobby Valentin covered “Good Lovin” (on his debut Fania album from 1966) as did the Gilberto Sextet (on Cotique 45 and album) and Arsenio Rodriguez recorded “Hang On Sloopy,” in 1966 as well, (it appeared on his Bang label album). While both those classics were big ROCK hits by The Young Rascals and McCoys respectively, the original versions were by black vocal groups, which had latin and afro Cuban arrangements and instrumentation. “Good Loving” (1965) was originally done by the Olympics and “Hang On Sloopy” (as “My Girl Sloopy”) by the Vibrations (1964).
These three covers do seem to qualify as a distinct strain of rock and soul influenced latin boogaloo, while “The World Is Full Of Sin” fits into the vocal group/doo wop strain of latin soul. There is also a wonderful version of “Louie Louie” by the Lat-Teens from 1967 on Cotique. Perhaps in a class by itself, is the Joe Quijano recording of “She Loves You” from 1964; though it is more fairly considered latin rock, it can elide into latin boogaloo and is an interesting precursor from 1964. It can be found on the Conjunto Cachana record, Volvi a Catana, which may not have borne Quijano’s name because he was still signed to Columbia Records. It is also on the Swingin’ Latin 60s CD. It is also a much stronger recording than the La Playa Sextet version of “Twist And Shout” from 1965 for United Artists, though “Twist And Shout” itself deserves status as alatin boogaloo and soul precursor and notice as a big hit by The Isley Brothers that had latin touches—dig those trumpets!– and borrowed the chord change from “Guantanamera,” done as a guajira, with what actually sounds like early boogaloo tendencies.
Another significant and distinctive strain of the latin boogaloo emanates from the Mongo Santamaria version of “Watermelon Man” already discussed. These are mostly instrumental (though not exclusively) recordings that combine aspects of jazz, soulful or early soul jazz and dance r&b, perhaps even blues with some essentials of afro Cuban and Puerto Rican dance music. After 1963 and prior to 1967 there are a handful of great and important examples of this which make up another aspect of latin boogaloo and soul. In my estimation there are seven records that are important and exceptionally strong which form the base of this strain: “Be’s That Way”—Willie Bobo (1); “Fat Man”—Montego Joe (2); “Soul Sauce”—Cal Tjader (3); there are two versions of “Cuchy Frito Man”, one by Tjader and one by Ray Terrace (4&5); “Chicharrones,” a 45 by the author of “Cuchy Frito Man,” Ray Rivera (6); and another Willie Bobo disc, “Sunshine Superman”/“Sockit To Me” (7). Except for the first Bobo record, which is on Tico, none of the other six are on latin labels and all these artists are more in line with latin jazz than latin dance music.
Born William Correa, Willie Bobo’s parents were from Puerto Rico and he grew up in Spanish Harlem. In his late teens he met Mongo Santamaria, recently arrived from Cuba via Mexico and studied afro Cuban percussion with him while also serving as his translator. Before he was 20 Bobo joined the band of Tito Puente with Santamaria and a decade later he struck out on his own and made his first album for Tico in 1963, Bobo Do That Thing/Guajira, from which the track “Be’s That Way” (Tico 433) was culled. The album was noted in Billboard during March of 1964 and the 45 received advertisements in June of the same year.
“Be’s That Way” on 45 has a wonderful, compressed sound that makes the bass trombone part seem almost like a sound effect, and which slightly enhances the jazzy and bluesy aspects of the electric guitar. The beat and flow borrows from strutting, playful New Orleans r&b. The stereo version, lacking the engineered compression, has a more open and jazz-like quality, and is not as slinky sounding. The Tico label bought ads in Billboard for the 45 throughout the month of June, 1964, after the album was noted in March.
Roger Sanders, a drummer and percussionist, came to be called Montego Joe, and he was almost as busy in the studios as Ray Barretto. His debut album on Prestige was Arriba Con Montego Joe; the lead track is “Fat Man,” a driving, brisk piece of latin dance jazz that was edited down to 2:18 for its 45 release (Prestige 45 324) probably by mid year, 1964. The album received a positive notice in Billboard, December 26, 1964. The 45 version has only a tenor sax solo, while the longer album track also has solos by trumpet and piano. The beginning of the piano solo quotes Freddy King’s “San-Ho-Zay” (shades of Dexter Gordon’s “Watermelon Man” solo) and this came from the finger tips of a youthful musician named Chick Corea. Given the strength and power of this track’s arrangement, groove, and solos it is very sad it did not become a hit at all, and sadder still that it has not been discovered since. Next is a Cal Tjader gem that actually charted.
By 1965, when Cal Tjader’s “Soul Sauce” charted on Billboard and Cash Box, he had been making latin and latin jazz records for over a decade, mostly for the Fantasy label and often with Charlie Brown pianist Vince Guaraldi. His move to Verve was a commercial step up. The Soul Sauce album and 45 represented a simpler, more groove and beat oriented attack for Tjader and the band’s brisk, though relaxed simplicity and chant make the record very amenable to dancers as well as latin jazz fans. It is a tight fit, like new go go boots and a sweater that shrank, though it did not get higher than #88 in Billboard (06/05/65) or #87 at Cash Box (05/55/65). It remained on both charts for five weeks.
Tjader’s next groove oriented release, Ray Rivera’s “Cuchy Frito Man,” was released on 45 in April of 1966, and did not chart, though it has become a standard. Tjader’s recording, with arrangement by Oliver Nelson, is light, jaunty and very upbeat and it became the first of numerous, similar, further recordings. Though it did not chart, the album it was on, Soul Burst, sold well and is considered a classic of its kind. Ray Terrace recorded a version for the same label as he did “Watermelon Man,” Jubilee, and his heavier, more driving approach was apparently released in July or August of 1966. It is a stone winner and sadly got no industry notice and did not chart. In 1967, Rivera would release his own version on Mercury, though it was only an album track, as the label chose to put his version of “Bend Me Shape Me” on 45 instead. Percussionist Bobby Matos, who is still making records, debuted on wax with a version on Speed (1012) sometime in 1968.
If Rivera seems to have been late to his own party, he managed to have a fitting, soulful latin record out while Tjader’s version of “Cuchy Frito Man” first gained some popularity. Sometime after the infamous sale of Red Bird Records by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, to George Goldner, for $1.00. Goldner made a second try at a latin label, Cotique. (7) Tico, we recall, had been his first attempt in 1948. The overall logistics might have been complicated or drawn out since Goldner inaugurated the label with a 45 by Rivera, but Goldner had nothing to do with its production; sort of a surprise considering his history and insistence on making records produced a certain way, his way, on HIS labels. Rivera’s disc was produced by Claus Ogerman, a German musician who had been working for Polydor and then signed on with Creed Taylor at Verve, after emigrating to the United States. Ogerman would work with Rivera on his Mercury album and became very famous after this time for his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Frank Sinatra, separately and together. The 45 Ogerman and Rivera served up, “Chicharrones,” which may have been released as early as March to June of 1966, borrows neatly from these other latin soul dance records; it has vibes like the Tjader and Cuba discs, but also tight, punchy trumpets and a seductive groove. The song would have some life later, as it was rerecorded by a group named the Latin Gents, for Tico, in 1969. Rivera would continue writing songs and making records. Since the 1960s he seems to be best known for co-writing “You’ve Been Talking ‘Bout Me Baby,” which was popularized by Gale Garnett in 1965 and has, like “Cuchy Frito Man,” been recorded numerous times since her recording, as a vocal and an instrumental.
1966, the magical year of instrumental latin soul, would close with Willie Bobo making the charts through a latinized version of Donovan’s number one smash, “Sunshine Superman”: making the charts, sort of…landing at #107 Billboard bubbling under in mid December and charting on Cash Box, just barely, at #98 on November 11, 1966 and staying there not. Its flip, “Sockit To Me” will get attention later. The Bobo disc is also of interest because it has prominent electric guitar, which is not usually a feature of this music at all, though it also made an appearance on “Be’s That Way”. Bobo often used electric guitar and no piano during the mid 1960s. Also deserving of consideration is the instrumental from 1964 by Ricardo Ray, titled “Brother Ray,” with hints of Ray Charles and strutting New Orleans r&b. Released by the Fonseca label on Album and 45, though it leans more towards latin jazz, it has a groove and deserves more than honorable mention.
There is one more recording of significant latin soul interest I wish to turn to before surveying the major chart events for latin boogaloo and soul in 1966 and 1967.
This strand, the last one I wish to review, is instantiated by an unusual, perhaps nonpareil recording by a latin group of a song by a pop-soul-rock writer that was not a cover. This was done, of course, by the Joe Cuba Sextet, on a number written by Ted Daryll. The number of important and unique things Cuba’s group did in the 1960s certainly makes it one of the most important latin groups of that era, and this is another aspect that makes them unique and interesting. I am sure it is possible that there might be another group I have not discovered that did this, but in assembling the materials for their 1965 album, We Must Be Doing Something Right! Cuba’s group seem to be the first latin group from the New York and Puerto Rican scenes to be the initial artists recording a song by a pop-rock-soul writer associated with the Brill Building. This song is “My Wonderful You (Baby When I’m Down)” written by Ted Daryll. Daryll actually worked at 1650 Broadway rather than 1619 which is the Brill Building. It seems that not only was the Cuba Sextet the first to record this song, but probably the ONLY to record it. Latin groups had been recording Tin Pan Alley/Brill Building songs since the 1930s, but not as first recorders or as originators within the field. Since by the 1960s, the songwriting business, exemplified by the many writers working and doing business in the 1600 block of Broadway, had changed dramatically from what it had been since at least 1920; part of what makes this interesting and important is that Daryll represents a newer kind of writer, not a writer interested in musical theater, movie music or the standard, adult pop that had been in charge until the riot of r&b and rock’n’roll began after World War II. Daryll was in fact a product of that riot. Much has been written about the Brill Building scene and phenomena, for example, the very fine book, Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, by Ken Emerson. (8) I will not attempt to repeat it. But Daryll does deserve a sketch up to late 1965 when Cuba recorded “My Wonderful You.”
Ted Daryll (real name: Ted Meister) has 102 songs listed at BMI and 55 more at ASCAP, which is his present publishing affiliation. His first big hit was in 1962, as he co-wrote “He Cried” with fellow band member and friend Greg Richards (real name: Greg Gwardyak). They were both friends with another person who became a songwriter, Chip Taylor. “He Cried” proved to have its own life span after it was initially a hit for Jay and the Americans. The Shangri-Las did it as “She Cried” and charted in 1966 while The Letterman were even more successful with their 1970 version. Daryll went on to write with Taylor (who ought to be well known for penning “Wild Thing,” “Angel of the Morning”) and Dusty Springfield cut their song, “Don’t Say It Baby” as UK B-side in 1964. Also in the UK, singer-songwriter Twinkle cut “A Lonely Singing Doll” and “Tommy,” which Daryll had a hand in; “Tommy” was a hit on Decca UK in 1965. They wrote a wonderful groover, “Sneakin’ Up On You” which was done by Peggy Lee (1965) and Sonny Stitt (1966) and Jerry Butler charted r&b as well as pop with Daryll’s “Good Times,” also in 1965.
This is a solid track record and Daryll also mixed company as a staff writer as well for Kama Sutra productions at 1650 Broadway during 1964, before the company actually began as a record label. Daryll was one of several writers signed to Big Seven Music Corp after it was unified by Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin who had signed on with Morris Levy and his publishing firm, Planetary-Nom. So while he was not the best known and most successful writer at 1650 with Big Seven, he was something of a success. (9) By recording one of his tunes, Cuba may have been trying to enlarge his repertoire. I have not been able to come up with ANY information that indicated how or why this was done, or what the business or personal connections might have been that got this Daryll tune into the hands of the band or its new producer Pancho Cristal, who had replaced Teddy Reig for this (and future) new album projects.
“My Wonderful You” was placed on Tico 45 T-467 with “Pruebalo, OK?” on the A-side (on most issues it is simply “Pruebalo”), and neither side seems to have gone anywhere. Part of this might be because “My Wonderful You”, despite some initial pop soul touches, comes off more like a poppy torch song than anything resembling what Jerry Butler would have done, and it does not do a proficient job of showing the band’s strengths in arrangement, execution or even the lead vocal.
Although it is apparently an anomaly,” My Wonderful You” has to be considered a parallel to the English language songs the band created, like “To Be With You.” Indeed, “My Wonderful You” did not start a commercial or A&R trend in latin dance music of the mid and late 1960s. This was indeed a lost and missed opportunity for all concerned. It is true that from 1966 forward latin groups were more willing to record pop-rock, rock, soul, r&b and even funk tunes, though they almost always recorded material that had already been a chart hit and a proven seller. This sometimes led to overkill: there are so many latin versions in this period of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” that it almost is a cliché; sadly, one of the best versions, an instrumental by the mysterious El Combo Nacional, remains as unheard in the present as it seems to have been when it was new at the end of 1966.
Nonetheless, original or lesser known ballad materials, usually with English lyrics, and often done in a manner that pop, rock and soul audiences would recognize, remained popular even as “salsa”, or salsa tipica began to dominate latin music in the early 1970s, especially in NYC and Puerto Rico. Even a very retro-traditional group like Tipica 73 made a recording in this vein on their debut album, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” written by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman for a film, and popularized by Sarah Vaughan. There have also been several CD and vinyl compilations touting the sweet and even sweeter side of latin soul and they contain tracks that have affinity with To Be With You as well as with doo wop and r&b-rock’n’roll just covered.
During the many years that various kinds of latin boogaloo and soul were popular, a wide variety of cover material was recorded. A number of these records were popular, mostly on latin radio, played and pushed by DJs Dick Sugar (WHBI) and Symphony Sid (WEVD), though only one disc, Ricardo Ray’s cover of “Nitty Gritty,” a Shirley Ellis r&b-rock hit from 1963, made the pop-rock charts, in 1968.
Later on, this study will show that latin boogaloo and soul became popular outside of the US (which DOES include Puerto Rico) though there is little evidence that after the start of 1967 it made much impression on the US national charts or in national sales. This is what probably played the largest role in the eventual demise of such vibrant music, though perhaps it is likely that other cultural and commercial circumstances also contributed. It is also the case that the groups that recorded soul and rock tunes using Spanish lyrics rather than English, had little, if any success with mainstream, American audiences or markets. Even a major and popular group like El Gran Combo did not succeed, as their 1969 album Latin Power (Gema 3074) does not seem to have been popular, which is really very disappointing since the Spanish language version of “My World Is Empty Without You” is incandescent, and their version of “Aquarius,” from the musical Hair is every bit as engaging as the mildly popular one recorded by Tito Puente and Celia Cruz.
The latin soul bag instrumentals have had a somewhat different vita than the vocals, even if they have not had any more national chart success. These mostly instrumental performances pricked the ears of a wide variety of musicians, especially in jazz and soul circles.
I intend to offer more pertinent details elsewhere, as there is a trove of riches from 1966 to 1972. It is worth considering that the rise of salsa tipica, and what can only be characterized as prejudices, a kind of Spanish language cultural chauvinism, did contribute to the demise of the various strains of latin soul. It is fortunate that the recent Nuyorican culture and arts interests have rediscovered the wonders and power of some of this music. I do hope the interest does not die out and that even more of this music is re-issued on CD and vinyl (and even the woeful, disgusting MP3) so that it can be enjoyed, though at this time, the companies that own the most music seem uninterested and frankly genuinely uninformed about what they have, going all the way back to the 1940s!
1 Chip Taylor article, Spectropop, www.spectropop.com/ChipTaylor/idex.htm ; Kama Sutra Records at Wikipedia; Big Seven info, Spectropop, www.spectropop.com/KoppelmanRubin/index.htm
2 One listing of Cotique 45s cites two versions of 134, one of which is listed as by Little Joey Pastrana and the B-side of My Victrola is Sincerely; most copies I’ve seen of Cotique 134 have Afro Azul with My Victrola on the flip. See http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/cotique.htm
3 “Ven” on The Joe Quijano Party Album, Cesta 4000, 1966 and on CD, The Swingin’ Latin 60s, Cesta 25000.
4 This quote comes from a youtube posting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw3Jl2sln7g
5 Los Cincos Latinos, Wikipedia espagnol. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Cinco_Latinos
6 This group was brought to my attention by Professor Charles McGovern; I was unaware of them prior to working on this section of the article and even after doing my work for me, Professor McGovern has made incisive observations for this short section. See also the La Lupe paragraphs in 1967.
7 Goldner did not sell off the main assets, of Blue Cat and Red Bird, until 1969, to Shelby Singleton so whence came the money for Cotique is a bit of a mystery: see John Broven, Record Makers and Record Breakers, (University of Illinois Press, March 2009).
8 Ken Emerson, Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era,(Viking Penguin Group, NY, NY, 2005).
9 See the listings at note 1.
weaving a fairy tale for us to get lost in
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – July 1973 (Volume 5, Number 2)
“I don’t consider David (Bowie) to be even remotely big enough to be any competition.”
an old school New York feel
oedipal vulnerable and blue collar visceral
An emotional song with Miya’s acrobatic and vulnerable vocals
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – May 1973 (Volume 4, Number 12)
From Robert Johnson to the Ramones – what a life!
one of the great top tens of the 2020
will mark their return to the road in early February, 2023 with a string of to-be-announced US arena dates
enjoyable and soulful romp
another full day of music