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A discographic profile of the popular Puerto Rican bandleader, composer, producer and timbales player.

Profile: Willie Rosario by John Child (


(b Fernando Luis Marín Rosario, 6 May '30, Coamo, Puerto Rico) Steadfast salsa bandleader, composer, producer; steady, no frills timbales player (timbalero), also bongo; his band has been a training ground for various musicians and singers. Led own band El Conjunto Coamex in home town of Coamo P.R. at 16; moved to NYC still in his teens, worked with Noro Morales, Aldemaro Romero, Johnny Seguí, Herbie Mann. Formed own four trumpet and rhythm section band '58 and made respected El Bravo Soy Yo '63 on Alegre (reissued on Inca), prod. by label's founder Al Santiago, with lead singer Frankie Figueroa; the band regarded as one of the best on the scene. Mid-'60s albums Fabuloso y Fantastico and Latin Jazz Go Go Go on Neliz reissued '98, latter with lead singer Paquito de Jesús. During the boogaloo era he made LPs Boogaloo & Guaguancó '68 on Atco (one track included in the excellent compilation Sabroso! The Afro-Latin Groove '98 on Rhino) and Two Too Much '68 prod. by Santiago on Musicor (with Figueroa), latter marked the debut of his trademark four trumpet/baritone sax frontline. (He did not approve of boogaloo, calling it 'American music played with Latin percussion', according to John Storm Roberts.) He played percussion on some of legendary series of '60s descarga LPs by the Alegre All Stars (see Al Santiago and Charlie Palmieri) and Cesta All Stars. He switched to Inca label with El Bravo De Siempre c. '69, incl. his first big hit "La Cuesta De La Fama," sung by Panamanian Meñique (Miguel Barcasnegras), followed by De Donde Nace El Ritmo '71 (reissued '95), Mas Ritmo '72 both with lead singer Chamaco Rivera. He relocated back to Puerto Rico '72 (though he recorded in NYC until the mid-70s); Junior Toledo (d '90) replaced Rivera on Infinito '73, with Figueroa in the chorus, Otra Vez '75 with Toledo (Louie Ramírez, mus. dir./arr.), Gracias Mundo '77 with vocals by Bobby Concepción and Guillo Rivera (prod. by former Rosario sideman Bobby Valentín), best-of Campanero Rumbero '78 compiled by Santiago.

To Florida-based Top Hits (TH) for From The Depth Of My Brain '78, El Rey del Ritmo! '79 (both with Toledo and Guillo). Guillo departed, made highly regarded solo debut La Linea '81 (reissued '96), followed by '82 collaborations El Run Run and Se Fugarón (both reissued '97) with Toledo, all on Performance. Willie celebrated 20th anniversary with El de a 20 de Willie '80 (lead singers Tony Vega and Concepción). The Portrait of a Salsa Man '81 had Vega and Concepción joined by Gilberto Santa Rosa on lead vocals; Atizame El Fogón '82 and The Salsa Machine '83 were the last on TH, latter the last with Concepción; 2 CD set Oro Salsero: 20 Exitos '94 on Rodven is a worthwhile TH hits compilation. Joined Valentín's Puerto Rican Bronco label with hit Nuevos Horizontes '84; 25th anniversary marked by Afincando/25 Aniversario ; Grammy-nominated Nueva Cosecha '86 had lead singers Vega and Santa Rosa joined by Tony (Pupy Cantor) Torres from NYC-based Manny Oquendo & Libre, incl. remake of Willie's 'Dame Tu Amor Morenita' from El Bravo Soy Yo : this was Vega and Santa Rosa's last with Rosario, both went on to develop successful solo careers. Rosario's A Man Of Music '87 featured Pupy Cantor with new singer Josué Rosado; Cantor left, Willie bought in ex-Mario Ortiz member Primi Cruz (b '56, P.R.; stints with Orquesta Kaffé '73-5, Concepto Latino '75-83 before El Gran Combo leader Rafael Ithier recommended him to Ortiz, with whom he made four LPs '84-7) and Bernie Pérez (b Yabucoa, P.R.; formerly with Pedro Conga's Orquesta Internacional) to share vocals with Rosado on The Salsa Legend '88 and Unique/ 30th Anniversary '89, the latter being Rosado's last. Viva Rosario! '90 incl. the major salsa romántica hit "Anuncio Clasificado/ Damelo" (Rosario also does not approve of salsa romántica, for which he disparagingly coined the term salsa monga , meaning: limp/flaccid salsa); he garnered a Farándula Diplo award for 'Salsa Band Of The Year' '91; his Bronco finale The Roaring Fifties '91, with Cruz and Pérez joined by Henry Santiago, paid homage in contemporary style to the mambo period; Lo Mejor De Willie Rosario '90 is a commendable Bronco 'best of' selection.

He changed to Musical Productions (MP) and performed with the label's leading lights on MP All Stars '92; he celebrated his 35th anniversary with the misleadingly titled Tradición Clásica '93 (because it was dominated by the romántico sound) on NRT (a division of MP), with new vocalist Rico Walker joining Henry Santiago; Cruz and Pérez made their solo debuts with Primi Cruz '93 on NRT and Con Caché '95 on Copa respectively. Returned to his familiar solid sound on Sorpresas! '95 on Tiffany, adding Cheo Andújar as a third lead singer. In addition to those named, numerous musicians and arrangers, many of which were or went on to become prominent Latin names, have contributed to Rosario's progressive típico sound and precision drilled organisation over the years, incl. Ray Santos (contributed arrs. '79-84); Javier Fernández (pianist '78-83, contributed arrs. '80-83); trumpeter David 'Piro' Rodríguez (b c. '62, Puerto Rico; debuted on '80 LP, mus. dir. '82, then mus. consultant '83 before departing; later became a regular Tito Puente sideman); José Madera (b '51, NYC, USA; a regular arr. since '81); the late José Febles (regular arr. from '82); pianist/arr. Ricky Rodríguez (replaced Fernández '84, remained until '88; contributed arrs. '84-91); trumpeter/arr./composer Humberto Ramírez (b '63, P. R.; member of horn section '85-88, prod. '86-'88, contributed arrs. '85-89, again '95; went on to become Tony Vega's mus. dir. and lead his own Latin jazz group); trumpeter/arr./composer Julio Alvarado (debuted in horn section '87, replaced Ramírez as prod. on '89 LP, to which he also contributed arrs. and two songs; arr. one track on '95 album). Willie celebrates his 40th anniversary with Back To The Future '99 on Bronco, a reunion with Bobby Valentín (as the album's producer and arranger of four tracks), Santa Rosa and Vega.

-This is one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child ( for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UKú16.99.

They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Mr. Donald Clarke.

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