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This month we commemorate the birthday of Latin music great Tito Rodriguez. He would’ve been 96 years old this January.
Sang with Bandleader Jose Curbelo
After serving in the US Army during WWII, Tito Rodríguez landed as singer of the Jose Curbelo Orchestra in 1946. That year he recorded a live album with Curbelo in which he was briefly bandmate of Tito Puente.
After the war, Puente was discharged from the Navy and began studying composing as well as freelanced to pay the bills.
Puente made some arrangements for the great maestro Curbelo. He ended participating in the 1946 recording made live at the China Doll in New York City.
The Friendship of Rodríguez and Puente
Tito Rodríguez was eventually fired by Curbelo for dating one of the dancers of the club they played. The Japanese girl would end up becoming his wife.
Now unemployed, Rodriguez formed his own band in 1947. Initially he named his band “Los Diablos del Mambo“. He would later evolved that to “Los Lobos del Mambo“, only to eventually end with Tito Rodriguez and his Orchestra.
Puente followed his friend by forming his band about a year later. Since both became premier bands in the Latin music scene, people began attributing them a feud that close friends of both have said never really existed. Both bands became among the best in Latin music along with Machito and his Afro Cubans.
Video of “Repica el Timbal”
One of the songs on the Jose Curbelo recording at the China Doll was “Repica el Timbal”. The song features Tito Rodríguez at vocals and Tito Puente on timbales.
For this and other songs that featured Tito in the timbales, Curbelo would bring Puente to the front with his timbales. Tito Puente would perform at the front of the band standing up. This allowed him to also showcase his dancing skills while playing. Up until then, timbaleros played in the back and sitting down.
This is quite a historic recording.
“Avísale a Mi Contrario”
One of the songs people attributed to the Rodriguez-Puente feud was “Avisale a Mi Contrario”. This song was written by Ignacio Piñero back in 1906. So making it a “tiradera” song between the two is not true. However, the rumor helped make the song one of Rodriguez’s biggest hits.
Here’s the video of the song.
Happy Birthday Tito Rodriguez!