Monday, December 10, 2007

Tito Rodriguez (The Frank Sinatra of Latin music) - Que Sera

From: carlosaleon

Tito Rodríguez (wiki)(January 4, 1923-February 28, 1973), was a popular 1950s and 1960s singer and bandleader. He is known by many fans as "El Inolvidable" (The Unforgettable), a moniker based on his most popular interpretation, a song written by Cuban composer Julio Gutierrez.

Early years
Rodríguez (birth name: Pablo Rodríguez Lozada), born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, became interested in music as a child. He was always surrounded by musical toys, such as guitars, pianos and trumpets. His older brother, Johnny Rodríguez was a popular song composer and bandleader, who inspired the younger Rodríguez to become a musician. In 1936, 13 year old Rodríguez joined the group of Ladislao (El Maestro Ladí) Martínez, "Industrias Nativas" as a singer and when he was 16 years old, he participated in a recording with the Mayari Cuartet. In 1940, Rodríguez emigrated to New York City shortly after his parents, Jose and Severina died. He went to live with his brother Johnny, who had been living there since 1935.

Musical career
In New York, Rodríguez found a job as a singer and bongo player for the orchestra of Eric Madriguera. In 1941, he recorded "Amor Guajiro", "Acercate Mas" (Get Closer) and "Se Fue la Comparsa". In 1942, Rodríguez joined the band of Xavier Cugat, and recorded "Bin, Bam, Bum" and "Ensalada de Congas" (Conga Salad). [2]

Rodríguez joined and served in the U.S. Army for one year. After he was discharged, he returned to New York where he joined the orchestra of José Curbelo. On one occasion, the band performed at the China Doll Cabaret. There he met a young Japanese chorus girl by the name of Tobi Kei (b. Takeku Kunimatsu, 23 January 1925, Bellingham, Washington, USA), who eventually became his wife.

Solo debut
In 1947, Rodríguez made his "solo" debut and finally organized his own band, which he named "Los Diablos del Mambo". In 1950, he enrolled in The Juilliard School of the Performing Arts, where he studied the vibrophone, xylophone and percussion. He renamed his band "Los Lobos del Mambo" and later he dropped the name altogether. That's when he decided to go with the name "The Tito Rodriguez Orchestra". The first song that he recorded under the bands new name which became a "hit" was "Besame La Bemba" (Kiss Me Big Lips). In 1952, he was honored for having developed his own unique singing style by the "Century Conservatory of Music of New York". His orchestra won the "Gran Trofeo Award" for two consecutive years.[1]

In 1953, Rodríguez heard a percussionist, by the name of Cheo Feliciano. Rodríguez was so impressed with Feliciano that he offered him a job in his band. Rodríguez discovered that Feliciano also knew how to sing and gave him an opportunity to sing at the Palladium Ballroom. Eventually, Feliciano went to work for another band but, the friendship between them lasted for the rest of their lives. Among the other orchestras that played at the Palladium, where the Charlie Palmieri and Tito Puente orchestras. A rivalry which was to last for years, quickly developed between the two Titos. The popular Latin music craze at the time was the cha-cha-cha and the Mambo.

The feud between the two Tito's was reflected on some of Rodriguez's recordings. "Avisale a Mi Contrario Que Aqui Estoy Yo" (Tell My Counterpart That I Am Here) and "Que Pena Me Da" (I Pity You), are just two examples of the bad feelings between both of them.[1]

Rodríguez also feuded with future bandleader Johnny Pacheco, who was once Rodríguez's musical arranger. When Pacheco went solo, he did three arrangements on hire for Puente. Since his financial situation at the time was not healthy, Pacheco later visited the band's rehearsal studio as to ask Rodriguez (who was not at the room at the time) for further work, then left. When Rodríguez returned, not only he forbid his musicians to make any further contact with Pacheco, he wrote "A mí no me importas tú" ("I don't care about you"), an indirect jab against Pacheco which eventually became a popular salsa single.

With the beginning of the 1960s, all that was going to change with the popularity gained by rock music. Latin bands began to switch their styles and started playing more salsa and boogaloo, which was more attractive to Latin youth of the day. Rodríguez then tried his luck with boleros and recorded various albums, which gave way to various hit songs, particularly "Inolvidable" (Unforgettable), composed by Julio Gutierrez, and "En La Soledad", (In Solitude), composed by Puchi Balseiro, which are considered by many to be his most successful songs. They sold over a million and a half copies world wide. He also produced records for other groups, such as Los Hispanos and Los Montemar.

Later years
Rodríguez returned to Puerto Rico in 1970 and built a Japanese style house in the Santurce, where he lived with his family. Rodríguez produced his own television show called "El Show de Tito Rodriguez" which was transmitted through San Juan's television Channel 7 (whose call letters were WRIK-TV at the time). Among the special guest stars that appeared in his show were Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett and Shirley Bassey. Rodríguez also founded his own recording studio called TR Records.

Rodríguez's last public appearance was with Machito and his Band on February 2, 1973 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Tito Rodríguez died of leukemia on February 28, 1973, in his Coral Gables, Florida home where he had recently moved with his wife.

On April 1999 Tito Rodríguez was represented by his son, Tito Rodriguez Jr., in the induction ceremonies of the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. Tito Rodriguez's Japanese style house in Puerto Rico is featured in tours of the San Juan metropolitan area. Cheo Feliciano recorded a tribute to Rodríguez honoring his memory.

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