This week, Rhythm Planet celebrates the triple threat of tropical latin music: Cuban singer Tito Gomez, Puerto Rican superstar Tito Rodriguez, and the great timbalero and bandleader Tito Puente.

Tito Gomez (1920-2000) is perhaps the least well-known of  the three, but he is known to Cuban aficionados as one of the great singers. He won a contest in 1938, one called La Corte Suprema del Arte (the Supreme Court of Art). Shortly afterwards, he joined the Orquesta Riverside, and had his first big hit with “Vereda Tropical” (Tropical Path), made famous later by singer Eydie Gorme. We’ll feature a rare radio broadcast from 1952, complete with a Coca-Cola commercial (“La Pausa Que Refresca”).

Here is a classic cha-cha with Gomez fronting the Orquesta Riverside:

Tito Rodriguez (1923-1973) was lo mas suave of all Puerto Rican singers. He was a star at the palace of the mambo on New York City’s Upper Westside, The Palladium. You can see one of those great nights featuring his band and some great mambo dancers, including Cuban Pete, in this video:

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Ernesto Antonio “Tito”Puente (1923-2000) is the most famous Tito of them all, probably because he outlived many others, but mostly because he recorded prolifically (over 100 albums), toured constantly, and did memorable collaborations with Celia Cruz and many other big stars. Tito was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. His mother got complaints from neighbors who heard him banging on the walls: “Get that kid some drums!!” Just as his career was gathering steam in New York, World War II broke out. He went on to be the bandleader on the Navy frigate U.S.S. Santee, and was so popular that his commanding officers would not let him off the ship. Puente sailed into Tokyo Bay in September, 1945, when General Macarthur signed the peace treaty with Japan. Tito then returned to New York to continue building his long and illustrious career.

Here he is at the Montreal Jazz Festival, performing his famous song, “Oye Como Va”. Puente wrote the song and when he heard Carlos Santana’s  version, he wondered, “Who is this kid playing my song anyway?” That all changed when the first royalty check arrived. Later Tito would say, “Carlos, thanks for recording my song, please feel free to record any others!”

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Click to stream via KCRW Radio App

Rhythm Planet Playlist: 12/6/13

  1. Tito Puente / Ran Kan KanBest of the Concord Years / Charly
  2. Tito Puente / El Que Usted Conoce / Tito Puente In Puerto Rico / Tico
  3. Tito Puente / Cuando Te Vea / Dance Mania / Sony Legacy
  4. Tito Puente / Ode To Cachao / Oye Come Va: The Dance Collection / Concord
  5. Tito Gomez / Coca Cola Commercial: Despierta Emilia  / Tito Gomez En Vivo / Discmedi
  6. Tito Gomez / Me Voy A Pinar Del Rio / Me Voy A Pinar Del Rio / Antilla
  7. Tito Rodriguez / Avisale A Mi Contrario / El Inolvidable / Codico-Fania
  8. Tito Rodriguez / El Vive Bien / El Inolvidable / Codico-Fania
  9. Tito Rodriguez / Esta Es Mi Orquestra / Big Band Latino / Palladium-Latin Jazz & Dance

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  • David Polk

    I love these Latin music and afro-latin programs. Thank you, and more, please!!

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