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04/04/03

Profile of the salsa bandleader, saxophonist, flautist, clarinetist, pianist, vocalist, percussionist, arranger, composer, producer.

by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com)

Rodríguez, Bobby "Compañia"


(b 5 Aug. '50, Spanish Harlem, NYC, USA; d 12 Mar. '03, Mount Sinai Hospital, Manhattan, NYC) Salsa bandleader, saxophonist, flautist, clarinetist, pianist, vocalist, percussionist, arranger, composer, producer. He was musical director, arranger, composer and tenor saxophonist with his brother Ray Rodríguez' orchestra late '60s to mid-'70s; worked on Ray's LPs Introducing Ray Rodríguez And His Orchestra '68 and Delusion '69 on Alegre, Ray Rodríguez y su Orquesta '70 on Cotique, Ray Rodríguez and Duro '74 on Mericana; second album incl. the outstanding "Olvidame" (Forget Me) co-penned by Bobby and albino lead singer Nestor Sánchez "El Albino Divino". Sánchez departed to work with Tony Pabón's La Protesta '69-75, then Conjunto Candela '76, Larry Harlow '77-82, Julio Castro '84, Grupo Fascinación mid-'90s and as a solo artist. Bobby played on Joe Bataan's Fania albums Mr New York And The East Side Kids '71 and Saint Latin's Day Massacre ' 72 and his smash hit Salsoul '73 on Mericana.

He organised his own brass and flute-led band La Compañia (The Company) '74 blending típico Latin music with jazz, soul and funk influences, together with a songbook liberally peppered with English-lyric numbers; worked NYC salsa club circuit before making LP debut on Fania sister label Vaya with Lead Me To That Beautiful Band '75, including Rubén Blades penned hit "Numero 6" about subway delays. Puerto Rican born Junior Cordova (an alumnus of Nelson Feliciano, Rafael Cortijo and Kako's bands) and José Acosta provided Spanish vocals; trombonist Eddie Iglesias (b 8 June '52;d 29 June '02; aka Eddie Hernández, a second generation New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent who started with Bataan's band) sang English vocals. Bobby's live follow-up Salsa At Woodstock '76 included another Blades written hit "What Happened". Bobby, Acosta, Iglesias and La Compañia's timbalero Charlie Salinas performed on the Alegre All-Stars' 17th anniversary album Perdido '77 produced by Al Santiago. Bobby's hit single title track of Latin From Manhattan '78 was a salsa/Dixieland jazz makeover of Al Jolson's '30s hit. The album included the original recording of his classic composition "Sonero Del Barrio", which became the theme song of Los Soneros del Barrio founded in '99 by the late Martin Arroyo (an alumnus of La Compañia) and co-led by lead vocalist Frankie Vázquez. He produced, directed, arranged and played on Survival '79 on Tico by brother Ray's Orchestra Duro. Hay Que Cambiar La Rutina '80 and The Force Of The 80's '81 were his last two Vaya offerings.

Iglesias departed '84 to co-lead/co-produce (with percussionist/co-producer José Pintor) the nine-piece Los Amigos and the Bad Street Boys ("Los Amigos" was later dropped), taking Salinas and Acosta with him; also featuring a bilingual repertoire, they debuted with the popular Cheek To Cheek , followed by Taste of the Neighborhood/ Sabor del Barrio , Looking For Trouble (Buscando Problemas) and José Pintor presents The Bad Street Boys on JAP mid-'80s to '88; "best of" compiled on The Bad Street Boys '95 on JAP. Frankie Morales provided Spanish lead vocals on The Bad Street Boys first three albums, then sang briefly with the Lebron Brothers before going solo and subsequently working with Estrellas Caimán, Tito Puente and others. Iglesias went on to become a member of Los Soneros del Barrio.

Bobby made a comeback with the renamed band La Nueva Compañia (The New Company) on Mi Regreso '84 on Caimán, including a magnificent remake of "Olvidame", with guest lead vocalist Orlando Castillo "Watusi" (b 23 Mar., Marín, Yaracuy State, Venezuela; a member of Los Satélites, Porfi Jiménez y su Orquesta, Federico y su Combo Latino and other bands before relocating to NYC '79 to pursue a freelance/solo career; recorded solo albums: Ustedes, Mi Rumba y Yo '81 on Vaya, Echale Watusi! '87 on Tibiri, Siempre Pa'lante '92 on Cali [reissued Como Nunca on TTH and Barrio on Latin World]; participated in all-star Salsa Ritmo Caliente '88 on Tibiri; made UK debut with Tito Puente '90). Iglesias, Cordova and Salinas reunited with La Nueva Compañia for Caimán follow-up Juntos Otra Vez '87 (Back Together Again). Bobby assisted with sketch arrangements and performed with the Partially New Alegre All-Stars at a free reunion concert 4 July '94 at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, NYC.

It was only after Bobby's death on March 13th '03 that it was revealed he had been suffering from stomach cancer for a couple of years.



- This is a revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com) for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music , 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UK 16.99.

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




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