Eddie “La Bala” Perez: 3 Things I’ll Remember of Him

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The news of Eddie “La Bala” Perez death saddened me as it did the Latin music world. “La Bala”, a nickname he got since a young kid for being a thin and a fast runner, was a dedicated musician.

“La Bala” was part of two of the most popular and important bands in Latin music; Cortijo y Su Combo and El Gran Combo.

For me, as for many Latin music fans, there are 3 things that I’ll remember Eddie Perez for:

1. Falsetto Coro – in my previous blogs where I talked about Eddie Perez, I always mention how Eddie Perez high pitch coro always impacted me as a kid. In those days I would swear that there was a boy in the group doing coro. In his book “1 Bala, 2 Combos, 1 Vida“, “La Bala” says people thought it was a female voice. I can’t tell what it was about that falsetto coro, but it gave the songs a particular flavor that made them almost comical. It was a kind of highlight of the fun part of the music.

2. The Shoulders “Meneito” – Eddie had a distinctive should shake that transmitted the “sabor” (flavor) he felt for the music he was playing. He did this “meneito” (which is how he called it) while at the same time bending backwards and sometimes lifting the right knee up. When you saw him do the “meneito”, it would immerse you in the swing of the song.

Eddie "La Bala" Perez played with Cortijo and El Gran Combo.
Eddie Perez talks about his experiences with El Gran Combo and Cortijo in his book, which he published this year.

Eddie Perez tells the story of how the “meneito” came about in his book. This was before El Gran Combo, and actually during a hiatus where Eddie had left Cortijo y su Combo due to a dispute he had with Rafael Cortijo. Playing with another band, he lend his saxophone strap to another musician. When his friend brought it back, he noticed it wasn’t the same one; it was a longer one. This long strap would fit well, so while he was playing he moved his shoulders to try to accommodate it in place. People noticed and liked his “meneito” and it stuck even after he replaced the long strap with a normal size one.

This “meneito” became a trademark of Eddie as he returned to play with Cortijo, and perhaps even more during his time with El Gran Combo.

3. “Ahiiiiiiiiiiii” – the 3rd trademark that “La Bala” brought to El Gran Combo was his final exclamation yell of “Ahiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” at the end of a song. It became like a signature at the bottom of a letter, but this was at the end of a song for El Gran Combo. Again, I enjoyed this yell at the end because it gave the final exclamation of flavor the song just completed. This is so hard to describes in words, but if you’ve witnessed El Gran Combo playing live, you know what I’m talking about. You may have also heard it in one of their live recordings, as for example in the soundtrack of the movie “Salsa”, where El Gran Combo plays “Julia” and Eddie does this yell at the end.

Eddie “La Bala” Perez was a humble Puerto Rican, that loved doing what he did, and did it the best way he could. He was part of many 1st in Puerto Rican music history, including when TV began, participating in the first band to be on TV, when producer Tommy Muñiz hired Cortijo y su Combo for a TV show, despite the racist backslash of putting an all-black band on TV at that time.

And like the Cortijo song “Quitate de la Via Perico” says at the end…”Que descanse en paz”.

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  1. […] depth about Eddie “La Bala” Perez’s departure in a couple of blogs you can find HERE and […]

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