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Tito Puente Tribute

 


Tito Puente - Long Live The King
April 20, 1923 - May 31, 2000

I had the honor of not only having Tito Puente record on several of the albums I produced in the 1970s into 1980, but was also fortunate to travel around the world with him on 4 tours with the "Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble."

In 1979 and 1980, these tours helped move Tito into the world of Latin Jazz and introduced the world to this master's music.

During the most difficult moments of these tours, Tito was always there with a funny line to break the tension and make the shows a success.  He slept very little and was, inspite of his advancing age, always buoyed up by the work he did and the adulation of his adoring fans.

Tito Puente was the most loved musician I have ever known and was always loyal to the musicians who served him.  Some, like Johnny "Dandy" Rodriguez, have been with him for over 38 years.

The passing of this legend, I am most sorry to say, brings to an end the era of big band Latin music.

I will always love Tito, and his music and memories will never fade.

Martin Cohen (aka congahead)

Para una versión española, por favor chasquido aquí.

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I have an autograph book from 1979, when I was ten years old. Among the first autographs I received was Tito's.  My childhood memories are filled with Tito.  Besides growing up with his music in our house throughout the night.  I most remember him, his family and many musical friends filling our house with laughter.  Not ordinary laughter but the kind that makes you cry and gives you a stomach ache. 

As a child, I was always extremely eager for the times he visited us since I knew it would be a fun and memorable occasion for everyone.  From his impromptu performances, to his 59th birthday party where HE threw himself into his own birthday cake they were always highlights for me.  I was extremely fortunate to know Tito in this personal way.  Even years later, he still would greet me as if I was still that little ten year old.  Asking about my own family and filling me in with the news on his family.  He will be a great loss to all but fortunately his memory will live on.  He was bigger then life and loved by all.

Andrea Cohen Nasstrom

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Tito Puente's passing on June 1, 2000, brought the Latin big band era to an end.  And, though most people knew Tito Puente from his stage persona -- as a consummate showman, Timbale Legend, and cultural icon -- not everyone had the opportunity to see the more "down-to-earth" side of him: a warm, friendly man with a sharp sense of humor and a  big smile.  Fortunately, many of the employees at LP got to know him on a personal basis as a result of his decades-long association and unwavering loyalty to the company. 

Tito's lack of pretention became evident whenever he visited LP.  He would always drive himself alone, and didn't need any chauffeurs or limousines, much less an entourage.  "What you see is what you get" was true when it came to dealing with Tito.  Further, he wouldn't leave until every autograph was signed for the group of LP employees who would line up every time to meet this gentleman of a man.  He even went so far as to do a private concert with his band for LP employees only, since he wanted to make sure that everyone who worked at LP had the opportunity to see him perform with LP instruments at least once in their lives.

Tito Puente was also a very good sport when it came to "livening up" the many photo shoots with LP's Founder and Chairman, Martin Cohen, behind the camera.  He was never "above" getting a laugh, even if it meant dressing up in rented character costumes.  Two such instances occurred when he dressed up as "The King" (complete with a jeweled crown, cape, and scepter), as well as "Tito the Artiste" (to simulate his decorating a new set of custom-painted timbales which LP had made especially for him).

Martin Cohen best summed it up nearly two years ago when asked if Tito was partly responsible for LP's acceptance and success in the industry.  "Not only did Tito play a big part in it, Tito Puente IS Latin Percussion."

Tito Puente will be sorely missed, but his music, generosity, and legend will live on for eternity...

Stephan S. Nigohosian
LP Artist Relations Manager

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Back in 1980 I was sitting in the office of Mr. Nater (Pete's dad) the president of the Puerto Rican local of the A.F. of M.  I was with Eric Figueroa listening to all the hoopla the union had to offer us if we became members.  Mr. Nater gets a call from New York City and they tell him that Tito Puente had just died.  I was shocked to say the lease and started to cry as I remembered the many times I was blessed to have seen  and played with him.  About twenty minutes later Mr. Nater gets another call from New York advising him that it was a mistake and that Tito was fine and dandy.  the next time I saw Tito was at SOBs when I played there the first time with Giovanni.  That was about thirteen years later.  I told him that I had already grieved at the news of his death back in 1980 so to please forgive me if I don't cry at the real gig.  We all broke into laughter, Tito, Eddie Palmieri, Mario Rivera and myself.  Well now is the real gig and I cried when I heard that the King has passed on. 

Now everyone will record tributes and write tons of great things in his honor.  Record companies will release and re-release his music in his honor and forward the profits to Tito's favorite charities.  The United States Postal Service will issue a stamp of the King and Newsweek and Time magazines will run his picture on their covers.  I wish it could all have been done while he was here to enjoy it.  I'm just glad that I was able to grieve him while he was alive and able to tell him just how much he meant to me and how much I hurt at that moment. 
LONG LIVE THE KING................

Eddie Gua-Gua Rivera

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Tito was always so appreciative when you would do anything for him. Due to this, I considered it a honor to be able to do special things for him. Most recently, a set of Gold plated Timbales to commemorate his years in the music business. Anytime he was either in the office or you saw him in an outside setting, he was always quick to acknowledge you. Serious business conversations, quickly took a humorous direction. The banter between Tito & Martin was always the highlight of a day in the office. 

I was always struck by the respect Tito received from our younger artists, many of whom are world class players in their own right.  Taking care of the product needs of Joe Madera & Johnny Rodriguez, I always sensed their appreciation for what Tito meant to them not only musicaly but his obvious care for the members of his band.

Seeing The King today at his wake holding a pair of his Signature Timbale sticks, I designed in conjuction with Tito, I felt truly honored to be connected with him.


Ray Enhoffer
LP Manager of Research & Development

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