Morrison (IM) To start off can you tell me something about your background, where you were born etc.
Chino Rodriguez (CR) I was born in New York City, Feb. 2, 1954 – in Chinatown / Little Italy on the island of Manhattan, New York. My Father was Chinese from China he got his US Citizenship via the Merchant Marines during WWII and my Mother was 3rd generation Puerto Rican New Yorker, so I am
Borin-chino half Chinese and half Puerto Rican or New York Rican, I was raised by my uncle who is Italian living in little Italy’s Mulberry Street area, so I’m all mixed up, I guess that’s why I had to play Salsa cause I already had the fusion in me. I fell in love with Latin Music I guess it was 1962 maybe 65 when I first saw Johnny Colon performing in a street fair and playing Boogaloo Blues, I looked at the trombone and just had to learn how to play that instrument, but not just play that instrument but play Latin Music with it. So I started to try and get a band together and perform at the schools talent contest, that did not happen but what did happen was it gave me the drive to look for others like me that wanted to perform. At that time I had met a girl from Brooklyn and so I started to take the train everyday to see her. She lived above a bridle studio where a band called Orchestra Dee Jay would rehearse every night. I was compelled to get to know them and I found my way into the band, first as a Band Boy and then singing Coro at some of the gigs, during rehearsal breaks Belly the first trombone player for the band would show me a little bit about playing the trombone. After awhile I started a band back in the Lower East Side of Manhattan I just called it Chino Rodriguez and his Orchestra, we got to perform a few birthdays and one private party. Mostly we would rehearse that’s what I remember the most. Preparing for what who knew.
(IM) Who did you work with and hang out with?
(CR) As I said we would rehearse a lot, but we did work at private parties, at one of those parties I met my wife, who’s cousin Johnny Vasquez was trying out for the Andy Harlow Band as a singer, (Johnny went on to make two albums with Andy and then went to sing for Bobby Valentin) this is how I got to meet the Harlow Family, I became real good friends with Andy and Larry Harlow and I still am. During that time Larry was the hot Salsa Band and I would hang out with Larry at all the events and private parties. Including parties that all of the business would be at, such as Jerry Masucci, Harvey Averne and Ralph Mercado, Hector Maisonave etc… so I got to meet and know almost everyone that started this business called Salsa and
to this day most of those people are still in the business. I would hang out all over New York… I also would work with Larry and Andy doing Coro live at gigs.
Ismael Quintana and Ray Barretto
at a private party Jerry Masucci threw before the Fania All-Star Concerts in PR.
(IM) In the early days did you get many gigs?
(CR) Back in the day once I started hanging out with Larry Harlow, things started to happen, I got more focused and since I met a lot al of the promoters / club owners I started getting more work around the New York Area.
(IM) How did your band La Consagracion come together and do you recall when?
(CR) I started a band back in the Lower East Side of Manhattan I just called it Chino Rodriguez and his Orchestra, It must have been 1968 maybe 1969 we got to perform a few birthdays and one private party. Mostly we would rehearse that's what I remember the most. Preparing for what who knew, it just was something that kept pushing me to get better and sound the best I can get the group to
(IM) You recorded two albums for SALSA RECORDS, what were they and do you recall the original release dates?
(CR) Well, I recorded three, however the third Album I still have the Master Tape, looking to sell it (alert,
alert). Back in the day, I was funding the projects (albums) and then sold them to the record company, or at least I tried to sell them, since I never got the money for the projects which was the two albums, Maestro de Kung Fu and Si Te Vas Mi China, I basically let them release
it. The release dates? I can’t remember the date but I think it is in the Latin NY magazine, since Mary Lou aka Salsa Records placed the ad, but I think Maestro de Kung-Fu was finally released in 1976, it was recorded in 1974. and Si Te Vas Mi China was released in 1977 but I recorded that in 1976.
(IM) What went wrong with the Fania Records deal you had, and how did you come to sign up with SALSA RECORDS?
(CR) The deal I have was due to Andy Harlow, Larry Harlow’s
brother. My wife’s cousin Johnny Vasquez was Andy’s singer and before that he sang with Larry Harlow, anyway, Andy and Larry had Jerry Masucci agreed to put me on Vaya which another long time friend Harvey Avenre was running for Fania at that time (Harvey wound up leaving Fania and started Coco records and produced the recordings of a guy called Eddie
Palmieri and found a kid called Lalo Rodriguez and then won the
first two grammies ever for Latin Music), and since at that time Jerry was buying up every
little Latin Label on the market and he was looking at Salsa Records to purchase the talks went from Vaya to Salsa, but as my luck went south, so did the deal and Larry Harlow and Andy advised me to
pursue Ismael Maisonave which had owned Mary Lou and Salsa Records. So I did and that’s what happened, in this business things change from day to day.
(IM) The production of your first Salsa Records LP is by Andy Harlow and the second by Larry Harlow, it suggests you were close to the Harlow family?
(CR) Yes, the Harlow brothers were just great, they really mentored me, I met them through my wife’s cousin
Johnny Vasquez and we became great friends till this day. I am also a fan of their music.
(IM) During the recording of Maestro De Kung Fu how were things between Andy and Larry Harlow? How much did Andy play on the LP?
(CR) Well as you may or may not know they are brothers, and it was like super opinions between
them. I had wanted Larry to do the first album but since Larry was producing a Fania All-Star Album as well as some other project he didn’t have the time so Andy stepped in.
Larry would show up anyway… letting Andy know what was wrong or what should go where and that was something I stayed away from, never get in the middle of family, that’s my
motto. Andy got to record some sax an vibes on the fisrt album as well as share the producing with Larry.
|Larry Harlow, Chino, Willie Colon and Ismael Miranda
in the office of club Broadway in NYC 1992
(IM) Was it difficult recording those days - the arrangements are great but I don't suppose that you had the best of studios or a lot of time to record?
(CR) Well in fact the studios were as some of the studios are today, in fact I would dare say that back in the day some of the studios seemed warmer, and by that I mean in terms of sound, the sound seems more real,
embracing, smooth, clear, live… today with the digital movement it seems to clean, to crisp.. it is still good but I can remember a more warm feel.
(IM) How was it working for Ismael Maisonave, he did seem to record lots of young bands on Salsa Records?
(CR) Ismael Maisonave, was an old salt, I really didn’t see much of him, he was a nice guy with me, and a strict business man, I really can only say that he was a nice guy with me.
(IM) How were your albums received at the time of their release? What was the award you won and the hits from the albums?
(CR) When the albums were first released I was already working the market in New York, back
during the 1970’s there was more clubs than bands so you would work everyday and at that time for
$30 to $50 per man you would work 4 or 5 forty-five minute sets for that money. It was hard work and long hours and we would work after hour clubs also, a day started at 8 pm and ended about 10 am next day, everyday, if you
were a hot band, if not you still worked at least 5 days a week same
hours. My only regret was that I never traveled out side of the tri-state area of the
the east coast USA. I had found out from one of my teachers, Jose
Rodriguez, that my album was in Colombia and other parts of South America as well in Europe…
I wish I could have performed live in those areas.
(IM) The Maestro De Kung Fu LP has a number of guest musicians on it, how did you recruit these guys?
(CR) I knew a lot of the musicians and just asked them to come up and record they all worked for hire, back during the 70’s is was love thy
neighbor, the flower generation love is everywhere, everyone was just really helpful and willing to work with everyone.. some had a price and some would just do it.
|Chino and Yomo
Toro on stage together.
During a benefit for the Bronx Arts Council, Chino Rodriguez and Friends.
(IM) The band play some great arrangements, any spring to mind as being a favorite of yours? What instruments do you play on the LPs?
(CR) Well I remember a few songs on the first project that I think date the time. La Computadora was the first Latin recording to use a MOOG synthesizer. And Larry Harlow played it, he didn’t even know how to turn it on, it took about an
hour, maybe more, to figure it out. The other was Moonlight
Serenade with Alfredo Rodriguez on piano. He was a Cuban Master, what an artist, this guy would play and you would just be amazed, he would just make you be amazed when you heard the sound come out of the
piano - it was true magic. Also when Edwin Sanchez was singing and his brother Nestor Sanchez was coaching him, Edwin would mess up and Nestor would correct him but it was like
seeing Nestor getting upset with Edwin on the
little thing was just funny at the time. I truly miss Nestor Sanchez.
(IM) This LP has some gritty numbers on it that have stood the test of time, what do you think of it now after
(CR) I tell you, I’m in love with the music business, I sleep, breath and dream of this business everyday, (what a bore I am) I never forgot those projects, if a man could say he has experienced birth
then that's what making a record is to me. Giving birth, getting out what one feels is a story a
feeling of what one wants to share with the world (corny huh), but that is what I
feel about it.
(IM) The second album is yet to be re-issued but I am sure it will be this year (hopefully), anything to say about it?
(CR) Si Te Vas Mi China, That was a real strong project, I
rehearsed the band for about a year straight, every day, every day till we went to the studio, because this time Larry Harlow produced it by his
lonesome, and I wanted to make sure we recorded this with no problems at
all. But I think musically it shows how the musicianship grew and the experience of playing every day stood out. Also working with Jon Fausty and Willie Colon dropping by and just having all of the guys in the business at that time come by and just hang out was the most greatest thing for a guy who not only was part of the business but was still very much a fan.
|Chino with the late Pete “El Conde” Rodriguez
during 1994 Fania All-Star rehearsal in PR.
(IM) After the two LPs on Salsa Records what did you do?
(CR) Well I worked till the Salsa scene died, after all Disco took over and a thing called DJ’s became in demand. So I started a computer company selling and programming software
for Doctors and Lawyers - the people who had money at that time.
(IM) Did the A and R Management side of the music business appeal to you more than being a performer?
(CR) I can honestly tell you that being an owner of a computer business after you have been on stage, was boring, and I missed the business so much that I
sold the business in 1986 and returned. I was made an offer to head up a record company call Hidden Faces and
produce two of the artists signed. So I did it, I sold my company and went back to the business with my eyes wide open.
(IM) During the 1980s and 90s who did you work with?
(CR) I was getting back into the scene and found nothing had changed, behind the scene that is. So I knew everyone and when I started the booking agency I was able to work with everyone and I mean everyone, I also did a
different type of producing, since I would convince the record company to do a project that I would suggest and when they said go do it, I now was the overall producer,
the General Producer, I would pick the Music Producer for the project and pick the songwriter and arranger and studio and everything, I controlled the money and how it would be spent. I produced two great CDs, Lalo Rodriguez’s come back CD “Naci para cantar” on capital EMI and “Cantar o no Cantar” by Ismael Miranda and Jr. Gonzalez with Larry Harlow as a guest pianist on ASEFRA Records also Adriel on Mambo City and his new one on Lideres records.
(IM) Are you intending to run your own Record label?
(CR) Yes, I am looking for funding and I think I will be opening up another Label soon, as well as looking at the movie producing side of the world.
(IM) Anything else you want to comment on?
(CR) I just want to leave everyone who reads this with a big thank you for remembering.
And a note that we in this business enjoy and remember the thanks you give to your favorite artist, now that truly stays with that artist for the rest of their lives. And with that I say thank you for listening and being a fan.
in Brass section with Jose Rodriguez at end, next to Lewis Kahn.