Rican. OK that one I wrote, that was the time when there was
a lot of things going on here in New York with riots. It was
a kind of a rough time in New York city with the riots and
all that. I wrote that songs Soy Puerto Rican to give it to
the Young Lords..'
In conversation with....
Soy Puerto Rican
My mother is... Puerto Rican
My father is... Puerto Rican
My sister is... Puerto Rican
My brother is... Puerto Rican
My uncle is... Puerto Rican
My nephew is... Puerto Rican
Mi abuela es... Puerto Rican
Mi abuelo es...Puerto Rican
Mi madre es... Puerto Rican
Mi padre es... Puerto Rican
Mi hermana es... Puerto Rican
Mi hermano es... Puerto Rican
Mi primo es... Puerto Rican
Mi prima es... Puerto Rican
An unsung hero of salsa music in New York, Willie Rodriguez
led his own hard-hitting orchestra from the late 1950s to the
early 1970s. Specialising in the uncompromising hard salsa
popular at the time with local Puerto Rican audiences, his
music featured punchy arrangements and strong playing -
a combination that has stood the test of time. A fact ably
demonstrated by the high price his original LPs exchange hands
for on the collectors' market!
This interview is probably the only one he has given, and I am
proud to present it here for those interested in the true
history of Latin music in new York and Puerto Rico.
Full name: Jose William Rodriguez De Jesus Escalante - band
leader, trumpet player, composer, arranger.
DOB March 18th 1935
Willie Rodriguez 'At the Happenin' (Fonseca Records LP-1115)
Mr. Willie Rodriguez Orchestra with Leo Casino 'Heatwave' (Fonseca Records LP-1117)
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra (Fonseca Records LP-1120)
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra 'Live' (Man Records)
'Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra' featuring the song 'Soogie'
(Mary Lou MLP1018)
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra 'Descarga 71' (Salsa
Records, A Division of Mary Lou LPS2002)
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra 'The Puerto Rican Kid'
(Mary Lou MLP1026)
Plus various tracks on compilations including:
Richie Ray, Kent Gomez, Willie Rodriguez 'Duelo Musical' (Fonseca Records)
Ian Morrison (IM) Your albums were released on the Mary Lou
and Fonseca labels..... and the live album which came out on the label Man Records, do you recall this LP? Willie Rodriguez (WR) Yeah, that was in 1958, right. That was from a night club, the most popular night club for Latin music in New York at the time, it was called
Club Cabo Rojeno.
(IM) One of the things I wanted to get into perspective was your discography, I know that you were on the Fonseca label and one of your early LPs was called 'Pussycat' with Leo Casino (WR) Leo was a singer I had at the time, the vocalist. Yeah with Adalberto Santiago.
(IM) When was your time with Fonseca, was it before Mary Lou or afterwards? (WR)
It was before Mary Lou. I started my orchestra around 1957, I started with a five piece group and I worked a night club called Los Panchos, a cabaret which was very famous at that time. And then from there I made a conjunto with two trumpets and I added two guys to my group making seven guys, and I worked at a club
called Monte Carlo on Broadway and 135th Street New York. The Monte Carlo was very well known at that time, and we had to play Afro-Cuban music long before Pacheco and all those other bands. I used to get most of my arrangements from Cuba, and I used to get most of my music from
Sonora Matancera and other composers from Cuba. So you can see the album that I have 'Willie Rodriguez Swings', there is a lot of Cuban numbers there, some of them are my arrangements, my music also.
Willie Rodriguez 'At the Happenin'' (Fonseca Records LP-1115)
1. Boogaloo Hay (C.F. Rodriguez)
2. Jala Jala Boogaloo (W. Rodriguez)
3. Mi Guajira (W. Rodriguez)
4. The Clock (B. Valentin)
5. What You Want Is Boogaloo (B. Valentin)
1. Sansuyo (W. Rodriguez)
2. Resbala Y Cay (D.R.)
3. Mi Shingaling (B. Valentin)
4. 7th Ave Train (B. Valentin)
5. Descarga El Bravo (C.F. Rodriguez)
(IM) Do you have all your original LPs? (WR)
No I only have about 5 or 6, because every time people come to visit me they take them. Those that I have I have them is because when my mother passed away she had them
(IM) Did you know that the Fonseca material have never come back out on CD, the story is that the original tapes are lost? (WR)
On my travels to Puerto Rico they tell me that he is there somewhere but I never search for them.
(IM) Is the LP 'At the Happening' the same at the Live LP that came out on Man Records? (WR)
No, No the Man Records is different, let me tell you how that album came to be. I was working at this nightclub, and this record company came over to talk to me, they wanted to record a group. The
deal they were offering to me it was not a good deal at all. And I told the people I could record my own band anytime I wanted to. So the following day after we finished playing that night I think we did two jobs and finished at about 3 o'clock in the morning, the following Sunday we were playing at another club and recorded the LP.
(IM) Were you pleased with it? (WR) Yes, but I wish we had done it at a studio because the group that I had at the time was very very tight and really sharp, my groups were always sharp, but that particular group was very sharp and not having a professional studio to do it didn't do much justice to the music. I was pleased with it and the album sold quite a bit.
(IM) At that time in your career were you just selling and playing in New York or did you go further
a field? (WR)
Well I played mostly in New York, but I did travel quite a bit around because I used to get a lot of jobs outside, Latin Puerto Rico and the other States. A lot of the trips that I had offers to I turned down because I did not want to travel that far, and some of the countries were not that stable, like Columbia at that time they wanted me to go a couple of times.
(IM) One of the things that struck me about your albums was that you or your band wrote most of the numbers. (WR)
Well I used to write a lot of my numbers and record them, and I then I would give breaks to guys that other artists would not record, if a guy had a number and he needed some help to put it out, so many times I put in music in the albums I did to help out other guys.
(IM) Like a lot of the LPs of the time there was never any real credits to the band itself, but I do know that there
are a number of great solos on timbale and conga etc. Do you recall any musicians that you used that you think were worthy of note? (WR)
Most of my albums I did with the guys from my band. I did an album that had 6 numbers done with a three trumpet conjunto, which is the one I did with Adalberto Santiago. At that time Adalberto was singing with a group led by Chuito Velez, he was a good vocalist, I think that was maybe the second album with him. That album did a lot for him to make his name known. The first six numbers were done with Adalberto and my group then he had an accident and was out for a while, and then when we did the other six numbers I used different musicians, I used Richie Ray on the piano, Richie recorded with me on a couple of albums. I had Bobby
(Cruz) doing coro with YaYo El Indio and I use different musicians on that
particular album. But then most of my albums were done with the guys from my band.
(IM) Who was your timbales and conga players? (WR)
I had my drummers, I had a guy named Chuito, can't recall his last name now, he went on to work with La Lupes, and he dies after that. I had Martin Martinez also a great drummer.
Mr. Willie Rodriguez Orchestra with Leo Casino 'Heatwave' (Fonseca Records LP-1117)
1. Pussycat Boogaloo (J. Cotter - W. Rodriguez)
2. Simon (Leo Casino)
3. Golden Bugaloo (Marty's Tunes)
4. Chickies Choice (J. Cotter - W. Rodriguez)
5. Goza Mi Guaguanco (W. Rodriguez)
1. Mi Bomba Es (W. Rodriguez)
2. A Mi Negra (Leo Casino)
3. Dig It (W. Rodriguez)
4. Tremendo Guaguanco (D.R.)
5. Descarga D.J. (W. Rodriguez)
'... the album Heat Wave
features the members of one of New York's best bands.
They are from right to left
Willie Rodriguez - band leader and trumpet player, Leo
Casino - vocalist, composer, Felix - coro singer, Milton
- conga and bongo player, Luis Rodriguez - band boy and
conga player. Second Row from left to right, Luis
Rodriguez - sax and flute, composer, arranger, (not related to Luis the
band boy), Miguelito Ramos
- trumpet and flugelhorn, Martin Martinez - timbales and traps, composer, Jack
Cotter - bass, composer, arranger.
This album was titled Heat Wave because there was a heat wave in New York and we decided
not to take the pictures in the studios and went to Central Park and took the picture by one of the lakes.
As you can see the word salsa is at the left side of the
picture. This album was recorded in 1965. Every number in this album
is a contribution by the members of the Willie Rodriguez
(IM) On the Pussycat album, do you remember the track Descarga DJ?
Yeah, that we made up in the studio. I used to have a habit that when I wa s recording I would make up a number in the studio, we would just improvise them. Descarga DJ was improvised in the studio. As a matter of fact on my album
(Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra) where I have the number Soogie the descarga that I have there Salsa Con Willie, I also made up in the studio, no rehearsals, just one take. Its a true descarga, to have a descarga it has to be
improvisation, if you have arrangements then it is not a descarga. To have a real descarga is to have the guys improvise spontaneously, to be able to bring out the creativity of the musicians, at that moment you have to just perform.
(IM) One of the things which makes Salsa Con Willie such a great descarga is the solo from the percussionists. (WR)
Yeah, I had on that my drummer Martin Martinez, he worked with me for quite a few years, I had on conga Milton, he also worked with me for many years. Martin Martinez also doubled up on the traps. On the number Soogie he was on the traps and the other the timbales. The number Soogie I wrote as a teaser, and funny thing is that I went to introduce the album in Chicago, I remember Ismael Maisonave then owner of Mary Lou, Sophia the singer known as Sophie, and Raul
Marerro, we all went together to introduce new releases that we had and everybody wanted me to start with the song Soogie. I did not want to because of the word 'Pee', I said no because of the word. But sure enough we played the number, the owner of the station an older lady came running into the studio and said no you cannot play that! And that was it. (Laughs).
But the album sold pretty good, it is a good album. You can know this, in 1969 when I recorded that album we used to use the word salsa. Salsa then became very popular as years went by, because a lot of musicians used to say salsa, salsa, ma salsa que pi'ca and stuff like that. There are
different ideas about where salsa came from, but it used to be a word that we used to use mostly when we were playing, I guess to define the music..
'Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra' featuring the song 'Soogie' (MCD1018)
1. My Dog Soogie (Uptight Rock) (W. Rodriguez)
2. La Puerta Del Dolor (Guaguanco) (M. Cartagena)
3. El Chivo (Guaguanco) (D.R.)
4. Grande (Guaguanco) (M. Cartagena)
5. Los Callos De Dolores (Guaguanco) (J.L. Ortiz)
1. Porque Yo Te Amo (Bolero) (Sandro)
2. Al Compas Del Guiro (Son Montuno) (J.E. "Joe
(IM) On Salsa Con Willie there is a great trumpet solo at the end, is that you? (WR)
Well I have also with me Victor Paz, he is the one who took the solo on Salsa. He took that solo as on that number I was directing the band. Most of my albums I have one or two
numbers improvised in the studio, and I remember I came outside and I was telling Barry Rogers who was on trombone and Mario Rivera who was on sax, and then my trumpet player Miguelito Ramos (he worked with me for almost 18 years straight), then I had my sax player Louie Rodriguez who also worked with me for 16 years, and I just started out vocalising it (sings opening trombone piece) and then I told the piano player who was Joe Loco (he played with me for quite a while). We just took it up from there, and it just turned out to be a great number.
So the trumpet solo was done by Victor Paz, who also worked with me for quite a while, a good friend of mine.
(IM) And was Frankie Figueroa your vocalist at this time? (WR)
Frankie Figueroa worked with me a short while, he used to be with Tito Puente. I think he went to Puente afterwards. He worked with me for a while, I have some good
vocalist. The album I had 'At the Happening', I had Chivirico
Davila, ??? he worked with me for a while, Sammy Figueroa, may he rest is peace, Frankie Figueroa, Johnny Cavan, a lot of good vocalists.
(IM) Do you remember how many albums you recorded for Fonseca? (WR) I think I did three or four.... and then there was some music they put out an album on which they have Richie Ray, Kent Gomez and myself and the numbers that you have there are very very old numbers, this is going back to 1955-56 and those numbers were not even supposed to be put onto the market. One of them is called Alma Llanera and another one and a bolero, then some from Kent Gomez and Richie Ray.
(IM) That album was called Duelo Musical? (WR) Duelo Musical yeah. But that was something that Fonseca was not supposed to do, but he did put it out on the market. I guess it was to cash in on the popularity we had at the time.
Richie Ray, Kent
Gomez, and Willie Rodriguez
'Duelo Musical' (Fonseca Records)
1. Mambo in Paris (Ricardo Ray)
2. Alegrese Senor (Kent Gomez)
3. Rico Son
4. Sweet was the Wine (Kent Gomez)
1. Ye Maya (Kent Gomez)
2. Alma Llanera
3. Latin Soul (Kent Gomez)
4. Descargas Los Bravos (Kent Gomez)
(IM) That is the only album that I have seen on out CD from Fonseca. (WR) Yeah they have it because I have friend of mine here he is called
Mike Amadeo, who happens to be a great composer, he has I think maybe the oldest record shop, Latino record shop in New York which is on on Prospect Avenue. One day he calls me up he says we got to get a good price for you, then he showed me it, I could not believe it that they have put it out on CD.
(IM) Do you recall when you first joined Mary Lou records? (WR) When I started with Mary Lou Records. I think it was probably around 1968. And I think I did only one album for him (Ismael Maisonave).
(IM) The other albums that are now on the Salsa International label that were originally on the
Mary Lou label are Willie Rodriguez and His Orchestra (with the Soogie
track), Descarga '71... (WR) Well the Descarga '71 is another album that I don't know who put it out but they also picked numbers that were pre-recorded and they mixed them up and they put them on an album. You can tell that it is a different combination of instruments, and I think they take from some old music and they put it with some other music and they put out the album. I think they also put on that album Amores Con
La Luna, a very nice number a good arrangement. When we did that number it was 1969 that was when the Americans went to the moon, so we wrote that number and we recorded it. I think he had some old stuff all mixed
together for that album.
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra
'Descarga 71' (Salsa Records LPS2002)
1. Descarga '71 (8'35")
2. Amores Con La Luna (4'02")
3. Dolor Y Pena (3'24")
1. Descarga '72 (3'10")
2. Solo Para Ti (3'08")
3. La Mulata Maria (2'49")
4. Dame Un Chance (2'36")
5. Sujetate La Lengua (2'46")
6. Los Que Lloran Son Los Ninos (2'44")
(IM) And then there was the Puerto Rican Kid album? (WR) OK that one I wrote, that was the time when there was a lot of things going on here in New York with riots. It was a kind of a rough time in New York city with the riots and all that. I wrote that songs Soy Puerto Rican to give it to the Young Lords. The Young Lords were very well known, it wasn't a gang, it was a
political activists - Filipe Luciano, Juan Gonzales a columnist for the daily news, Filipe Luciano who is the great tv actor, a lot of good people came out of that. It was an activist group they were protesting about what was happening at the time.
(IM) What year would that be then? (WR) I think that was around 1963. It was the time of the riots, it was really bad.
(IM) The name The Puerto Rican Kid, was that a name given to you? (WR)
No no, I wrote that (track). On the album Ismael from Mary Lou he put on the name Puerto Rican Kid, he asked me and I said well OK, because I was not very choosy about titles and stuff like that. I said you want to put that then its OK, and so he put that as the title. Mi Pueblo Mis Amigoes I think is from that album, I wrote that for my home town. You know when I left my home town I wrote that song.
(IM) Where is your home town in Puerto Rico? (WR)
My home town is Coamo. Coama, I think it is the second or third oldest town in PR. It used to be the capital of the south.
(IM) When did you leave there to come to New York? (WR) I came right after I finished High School. I was going to go to the college in Ponce, Santa Maria, but at the time I wanted to volunteer for the Korean
war, I didn't want to go to college. My father and mother say that I was inclined to volunteer for the war and they decided then to give me my second choice which was to come to New York. So I remember my father gave me $500 Dollars which at that time was a lot of money and the airplane tickets.
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra
'The Puerto Rico Kid' (MCD1026)
1. Soy Puerto Rican (3'30")
2. Campesino (5'31")
3. Vida Fiel (4'51")
4. Mi Pueblo Y Mis Amigos (4'18")
5. Fiesta (2'46")
6. Guaguanco #1 (2'23")
7. El Velorio (2'51")
8. Que Dichoso Es (3'24")
9. Ruby (2'55")
And we cried and departed and all that - to this day, here. I travel back to PR every year, once or twice. I love to go there the weather is great, and in my home town they have these thermal waters, they are very medicinal. So people from all over the world they come. The water is hot and you can only stay 15
minutes at a time but it is medicinal. It is the fountain of youth the water comes from the earth!
(IM) Who produced your albums? (WR) My album was produced by Bobby Marin. I think I signed to do one album with him because I had other commitments. I think I did just one album, I don't know if he put out another album because he recorded music that he didn't want to put out, I am not sure.
(IM) When did you leave Mary Lou? (WR) The album that I did was in 1969 and then I think I was supposed to do for him another two albums after that. But I wanted to produce and at the time I was
traveling quite a bit. And at about that time I decided to split up my band because the drugs scene over here in New York City was really very bad at the
time. There was the Vietnam war, the Bronx, Manhatten - everything was burning down here it was incredible.
That was the time when the South Bronx was burning down, it used to be in the news all the time. The thing wasn't really pretty and the drugs were really - it was a terrible time. The musicians did not want to get dressed properly, they wanted to play in sneakers, sandals. The hippie and the drug scene were too strong for the music scene. That was Woodstock and all that. It was then that time I split up my band and did free-lancing for a while.
(IM) Did you do much free-lancing then? (WR) I was free-lancing for a while and then there were these guys who came from South America called The Silver Stars, and they were on tour of the United States and when they finished the tour a lot of them stayed here in the States. Then they hired me to be their musical director. We had a great band, and the most impressive thing
that I have from these people was that not one of them read a note of music, everything was by ear. But they were great musicians, they had tremendous talent and the vocalist was super fantastic.
(IM) Where were they from? (WR) Originally they were from Honduras, they were very well-known and they came to New York and the first dance they were playing was at the Hotel Diplomat. And a name was chosen that night for the band, and everyone chose the name Sonido 75 (Sound '75, which was when we introduced the band) . And the band was incredibly good, I mean good.
(IM) Who did they record for, did they have a contract? (WR) No, we wanted to record and we had people interested in recording the band, there was a problem due to the fact that some of the guys were not legally in the country. So the really prevented the band from flourishing because it
was an unbelievable band. Everything was memorised and I remember when we made the first presentation at the
'Club Cabo Rojeno' after we did the first dance at the Diplomat we started working in all the nightclubs and
the other bands were always amazed that we did not have a sheet of paper in front of us, and we are playing all these heavy arrangements. I used to express my soloing in all different ways as far as harmony and arrangements were concerned. It was an incredible experience for me, because I did learn with them, I learned quite a bit, how to use your ear, sounds without having to write it down. It was a great band.
Rodriguez in action in New York City
(IM) Looking back over this time was there any down sides, did you make much money from your LPs and playing with your band? (WR) At that time royalties here, well it was like forget about it. So what I used to do was make a package deal. And once I had a package I got my money from that and that was it.
(IM) What about publishing, I notice that you wrote a lot of your own tunes? Were they published? (WR) To be honest with you there was no publisher. Now I have one of my kids compiling all my music just to register everything.
In 1967 I was recording an album, we were doing some jingles for commercial products in
New York. After the jingles we had a lot of time left at the studio which was paid for, so I spoke to the guys in the band and we decided to record some new numbers we had been working on and we had already arranged and rehearsed. We did that and in that album I wrote a number which I think could be a hit record to this day called MI SUEGRA, I also had another one called NO AYE MI QUIERA and another one my piano player wrote - three numbers of mine and one of his - and the other ones were from some other people who made some arrangements. Now what happened was after we did that album the whole thing was stolen, it disappeared, this is going back to 1967, I was heart-broken. We never did them again, but we had some beautiful music then.
What happened was that not too long ago they sent me the quarter inch tapes, which the studio don't use them any more. So when they send these four tracks to me I was completely surprised, they were the tracks that we made. Now I am trying to do some research with some of the guys that I was working with to see if there is any way they may have a copy of the other numbers, but this music is fantastic. I think we recorded 8 or 10 numbers but I only have to 4.
(IM) That would be around the same time as probably the Fonseca material? (WR) No, this was not done with Fonseca, I did that on my own I 1967 that I remember clearly when I did it.
The reason why we did it was because we had the studio time and we had the band together and we said lets do it and put it out, but then somebody stole all the music, the masters disappeared. And this is like over 20 years later and I receive this package in the mail with the four numbers - they are fantastic.
(IM) The Fonseca material that has never seen the light of day, I have heard that the master tapes have been lost, whether its true I don't know? (WR) Well, he (Carmelo Fonseca) was not the most organised person I can tell you about. At that time they did not invest the money. To be honestly speaking, I did not think that any of the albums that I did justice to my band. The sound of my group was always powerful, whether they were with two trumpets, or three trumpets with a sax or a trombone, they had a powerful sound. The bands in NY used to fear my band to a point. As a matter of fact the biggest compliment I got for my band was from Eddie Palmieri. We were both working at this place alternating in different night-clubs. We were a combination of bands, at the Hilton Hotel on 34th St, I think it was, we were playing a dance and I remember I was going to start at 10 o'clock and he was due at 11. When I walked in I met Eddie who was having a cognac and we wewre good friends and we began to talk. And then he said Willie I hate to play against your band, and I felt kind of a shock. I said my band is not good enough? No, he said, its not that, it that every time I pay against your band I have to get my band really tight. It was such a compliment that
to this day I remember it clearly, cause Eddie is one of the guys I admire the most in the music business, I love the way he plays. I saw Eddie one night at this club called the New Broadway, I remember the he was starting at 10 o'clock and I was due on at 11, I think he had a double gig that night. Somehow the musicians had mixed up and he was there by himself. At that time in New York the band had to be there on time. When I spoke to him he said I don't know the guys are not here, and then some of them came in later. So I said to him listen why don't you use my rhythm and my bass player (a great bass player a guy from Panama who used to play with Arsenio Rodriguez) and just play the piano. At that time I had the guys from the album with 'Salsa Con Willie Rodriguez'
(MCD1026). And he just started to play the piano and it was an amazing show he put on, the place was jam packed and people just got up and standing in front of the bandstand to listen to him play. It was unrehearsed just jamming, he had good guys behind him.
(IM) Talking about piano players you said that Ritchie Ray played with you? (WR) Ritchie recorded with me on two albums. I knew Ritchie before he had his band, we played at La Campana in the Bronx. My group was the main
attraction at the time, he had a quartet, it was him, Bobby (Cruz), a drummer and a bass player. And
that's when I first heard him play, he caught my ear he had a fantastic style. Through the years we made very good friends.
(IM) Which LPs is he on? (WR) He recorded with me on a few numbers, he had written Ritchie's Jala Jala, and I had written Jala Jala Boogaloo. He recorded his first and I recorded mine afterwards. I took a little bit of his intro, and then I changed it a little bit, I figured that I was going to be the star of that particular type of music. He did record with me, my piano player was sick so I called him up because he had a band with two horns the same as mine so he knew the sound. So he played with me and Bobby did coro with Yayo El Indio. On that album the vocalist was Chivirico Davila, who I consider to be one of the greatest salsero singers in New York. He worked
with me for a while.
(IM) Leo Casino also worked with you as a vocalist one the HEATWAVE LP? (WR) Leo Casino used to have a group, a small group. He was a good singer and used to be a bass player. But I said you should be a singer you have a
good voice. He broke up his group and opened up a nightclub called La Galesa, which later on was called Casino Catocha and became very famous in NYC. My
vocalist wanted to go back to Puerto Rico, so I asked him to join the band. He was afraid but then once we got started he recorded with me on that album. He sounds good, the SIMON number is his and so is A MI NEGRA. We made up that descargas DESCARGA DJ that we made up in the studio no rehearsal just one take. When I used to record descargas jam sessions it was one take no going back, I would tell the guys its one take whether you do it good or bad it would stay there.
Willie Rodriguez and his Orchestra (Fonseca Records LP-1120)
1. Colorin Colorao (W.R. - P.S.)
2. El Ritmo Lo Traigo Yo (W.R. - P.S.)
3. Sueltate La Lengua (E. Olive)
4. Fuego De Amor (W.R. - P.S.)
1. Monte Adentro (W.R. - A.S. - P.S.)
2. Mi Montuno (L.S. - P.S.)
3. Mozambique (W.R. - P.S.)
4. Cimarron (L.S. - P.S.)
(IM) On the Fonseca LP the Descarga DJ track is credited to Carmelo and Willie? (WR) Yeah, that's Carmelo Fonseca, his name is on a few of my tunes. And a few of
But he did not write them! The tune COLORIN COLORAO which became a very big hit, that tune actually we made up in the studio. It was a tune Ritchie Ray and Bobby Cruz originally were working on. When we were doing the second half of that album we were one number short. So Ritchie or Bobby says why don't we give Willie COLORIN COLORAO. So we recorded it and Fonseca put his name on it and he shouldn't have done that. But that
number is not mine, I think it has my name on it but its Ritchie's and Bobby's. We recorded it to finish up the album and we had Ritchie on piano and Dic Cheatham on trumpet on the trumpet solo. We were very close to those guys there was no competition, we were friends and we used to share the music and we used to share many other things.
(IM) After you left Mary Lou and you went with Silver Star, did you ever record again yourself? (WR)
No, what I did which I have to finish is something I have been working on for about 5 years now. I began to work developing a sound, a very melancholic sound with the horn. And I have been working on this kind of a blues / jazz, its like a lament kind of a sound. The first time I tried it out was in Chinatown, a friend of mine's birthday he had hired a restaurant and I turned up as a surprise for him, and I played one of the tunes and they went crazy! This is just with the horn, nothing else. Then I tried it again in Mexico at some hotel which used to get packed in the afternoon with tourists. And I remember that I took out my horn and I was on the terrace no-one could see me but they could hear the horn. When I started to play after a couple of bars everything went quiet and I was playing for around 10 minutes. I was just playing this soft blues which is very contagious, catchy. When I finished they went wild
applauding and screaming then I got up and the manager of the hotel he wanted me to work on the floor show that they had. I tried it out in Miami and Puerto Rico to get the reaction of the people and it has been very positive. I have done three number so far, and I have to finish it off. I found that I keep going over and over it, I use the horn just the horn alone. I call it healing music. I do hope the finish it before I drop dead!
(IM) The music you recorded in the 1950s and 60s has stood the test of time and still dancers love it. (WR)
At that time we were recording in the studio doing just one track, then two track, I think the Soogie album was done 4 tracks. You had to begin and finish the number because there was no editing or anything like that. What you heard that's the way it stood.
(IM) How did you get on with Bobby Marin (who worked at Mary Lou as producer). (WR) Bobby Marin is a great guy. He produced a lot of people, he was an unselfish good person, he was not selfish as all.
(IM) Did you know he has his own label again, Latin Cool? (WR) Bobby has his own label again? I got to check him out.
He was a very good producer and a great guy to work with.
Special thanks to Willie Rodriguez.
Thanks to Walter Wismeth for several of the LP pictures.