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Remembering the great Cuban vocalist, Rudy Calzado.


by Luis de Quesada (

In Memoriam

A few days ago when my friend Bruce Polin told me the news about the death of a fellow Cuban, singer and songwriter Rudy Calzado, my answer to him was, "Cuban music loses another one of the great Calzado Brothers." First it was brother Sergio in Cuba and now it is Rudy! I first heard and saw Rudy Calzado right after he joined Fajardo Y Sus Estrellas as lead singer in Havana, around the fall of 1953. At that time, Rudy was featured in this great orchestra as the main vocalist and soloist. A bit later, in 1954, brother Sergio also joined him in the orchestra. Later still, around the end of that year, fellow "Santiaguero" Rafael "Felo" Bacallao also joined Fajardo's chorus. Felo, Rudy and Sergio were not only great singers, but also great dancers, Felo being the most skilled. Their on-stage dancing during the orchestra's performances captured the delirious applause of audiences and fans in Havana and throughout the island.

During the spring of 1955 maestro Enrique Jorrin, creator of the cha cha cha, briefly returned from Mexico to reorganize and expand his orchestra. He invited Rudy Calzado to join his then new orchestra as lead singer. Rudy accepted, and after recording some singles for RCA, and making some presentations on Cuban television, and at radio and musical and dancing events in Havana, he left with Jorrin to go to Mexico indefinitely. Rudy's on-stage dancing skills are mentioned in the RCA Victor Mexicana 1955 recording "Aprenda A Bailar El Cha Cha Cha," with "La Blusa Azul" on the flipside. While in Mexico, Rudy managed to shuttle back and forth to Havana every chance he got and was often featured in recordings and also live performances with different musical groups such as Beny More, Orquesta Kubavana de Carlos Barberia, Aldemaro Romero, Orquesta Novedades and Orquesta Sublime. With Beny More he was featured in the chorus of the RCA recording of "Tratame Como Soy." As I commented at the time to a friend in CMQ, "he's the only singer in Cuban music history who manages to be in both places at the same time." His Mexican tour with Jorrin can best be described as legendary and their recordings with both RCA Victor Mexicana and Orfeon were all superb. When Jorrin returned from Mexico in 1959, Rudy left the orchestra and a few months later joined Felix Reyna and brother Sergio in Reyna's newly formed Orquesta Estrellas Cubanas.

The following year, 1960, Rudy departed for New York City and there joined Belisario Lopez & His Orchestra as lead singer until 1964 when he left for the West Coast for an indefinite period of time. In New York City he also joined and recorded with Pacheco Y Su Charanga, Mongo Santamaria, Pupi Y Su Charanga and also recorded his first solo album for Alvarez Guedes' Gema label Rudy Calzado Y Su Charanga. He was also featured with Chano Martinez, Tito Puente, Machito, La Playa Sextette and recorded with several other groups in California's Bay Area, mostly with Mongo Santamaria for the Fantasy label. Later, in Los Angeles, he joined his old friend and coworker Rolando Lozano (of Orquesta Aragon and Orquesta America fame) in Charanga Antillana. While in California he shuttled back and forth to Mexico and there he recorded for Orfeon with a studio orchestra which he named Orquesta Ifa. In recent years he was featured in Boncana Maiga's "Africando"in New York City. Also recently Rudy returned to Havana and recorded several CD albums with Generoso Jimenez, Pio Leyva and others.

Rudy's songwriting skills fully matched his skills as a singer, dancer and director. Some of his outstanding hits recorded by such Cuban immortals as Vicentico Valdes, Fajardo, Jorrin, and others include a varied repertoire of top charting material such as: "Nunca Pienses Que Te Olvido," "Ki Ki Ri Ki," "Yo Soy Jiqui," "Dame Tu Cariño," "Aprenda A Bailar El Cha Cha Cha," "Yo Soy De Oriente," "Todo Eso Y Mas," "Lola Y El Merecumbe.""No Me Niegues Tu Cariño" and many others.

An important chapter in the history of Cuban music concludes with Rudy Calzado's departure from the world of the living, but his memory and legacy lives with us forever! Farewell dear old friend!
To learn more about Mr. Calzado's musical history, read John Child's Profile: Rudy Calzado.

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