single artist associated with LP
is more famous than this pioneer. No percussionist
bandleader has ever done so well.
first saw Tito at the Palladium Ballroom on Broadway
and 53rd Street in New York City. The year
was 1961. I had just been graduated from
college and with my studies behind me, I was able
to visit the music clubs that I couldn't really
get to while getting my degree. The band
he led at the time was tight and he was a stern
task master. It was a great time for the
mambo, the dance craze at the time that was not
only danced to by Latinos but by people of many
other ethnic backgrounds. It is not an easy
dance to do (I never quite got it right) but they
were all doing it with style in those days.
Those days were the winding down days of a great
era in music. Today, Tito is the last of
that breed. When Tito goes, so goes an era
didn't get to meet Tito until several years later.
Johnny "Dandy" Rodriguez who I had become friends
with while he was working with Tito arranged to
borrow a pair of Cuban made timbales that Tito
had stored at his mother's house. These
drums became the prototype for the LP Tito Puente
Timbales that are now the standard of excellence
in percussion the world over. The drums
that I made were made from stainless steel and
featured for the first time a stand mounted cowbell
post. I later added brass shells to the
line and eventually made the first tilting timbale
stand which was first appreciated by drummers
outside of Latin music and in later years became
popular with Latin players who felt they got a
benefit from having the heads tilted.
the end of the 1970's I decided to put a band
together to tour Europe and Japan. The reason
was to develop a market for the percussion instruments
that I made. They weren't easy tours but
the three European tours and one Japanese tour
with groups featuring Tito and Patato along with
Johnny Rodriguez and other notables of the time
were highly effective in building a worldwide
market for my company.
this same period of time I began making recordings
that featured Patato, José Mangual, Perico,
Eddie Montalvo. Sixteen in all.
They didn't sell and after the last performance
of the Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble in Montreux,
Switzerland in July of 1980 I ended my work with
in recording and presenting live music.
I could no longer take the strain.
20th of 1998 Tito celebrated his 75th birthday
and was still working all over the globe.
For the summer of 1998 he is planning to tour
with an all star band featuring Stevie Winwood
and Arturo Sandoval. His reserve of energy
amazes me. I hope I can endure as well as
last public birthday celebration was for his 76th
birthday and took place at Jimmy's Bronx Cafe
in the Bronx, New York. A place this large was
needed for the party because of how many celebretaties
would be attending. Bill Cosbey held court on
stage and in attendence was Lionel Hampton, Isaace
Hayes, Susan Taylor of Essense Magazine, ......there
are many that I can't remember but are in the
Gallery from that event.
last time I spoke to Tito Puente was by phone
to the hospital room a week before he passed.
He was nervous, anxious to speak to those he knew
and to express his hope that he would be able
to come home for a holiday weekend before having
his surgery. He never did return and I lost a
great friend and inspriation. The entire world
of music lost one of its icons. A lasting figure
that commanded the spotlight and even at his advanced
years, was able to make his orchestra sound like
no other one could.