Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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BOBO, Willie

(b William Correa, 28 Feb. '34, NYC; d 15 Sep. '83, Los Angeles) Latin percussionist, from Puerto Rican family; father a weekend musician playing cuatro (a ten-stringed guitar). Bobo played bongos at 14, then congas, timbales, trap drums. Was Machito's bandboy; briefly tutored by Mongo Santamaria '48, recommencing '50; he acted as Mongo's English interpreter. Recorded '50s with Mary Lou Williams, who dubbed him Bobo. With Tito Puente '54--7, replacing Manny Oquendo (see Libre) on bongos; at first gig deputized for Puente (who was late) on timbales; became part of Puente's revered percussion unit known as Ti-Mon-Bo: Tito, Mongo, Bobo. Bobo played timbales during Puente's solos on vibes; played timbales on George Shearing's The Shearing Spell '55 with Al McKibbon on bass, Armando Peraza on bongo and conga; appeared on Birdland network radio programme with Puente as Willie Boborosa '57. Albums with Puente incl. Puente In Percussion '55 on Tico, Cuban Carnival '56, Puente Goes Jazz '56, Top Percussion '58 (incl. hit track 'Ti Mon Bo'), all on RCA. Played on Cal Tjader LP M s Ritmo Caliente '57 with Mongo; Bobo and Mongo co-led short-lived Puente splinter group Conjunto Manhattan. Both belonged to Tjader's group '58--61; albums with Tjader incl. Cal Tjader's Latin Concert, A Night At The Blackhawk, Tjader Goes Latin, Concert By The Sea (two vols recorded '59, combined on Monterey Concerts), Concert On The Campus, Demasiado Caliente and Live And Direct '58--60, all on Fantasy. Sessioned on Mongo's Fantasy LPs YambŁ '58, Mongo '59 (incl. 'Afro-Blue', became standard), Our Man In Havana '60. With Mongo's orchestra '61- -2, charanga band with decidedly jazz leanings, albums incl. Sabroso!, Pachanga With Joe Loco (reissued as half of the CD Loco Lotion '94), Arriba! La Pachanga, M s Sabroso, Viva Mongo!, Mighty Mongo (coupled with previous LP in CD reissue At The Blackhawk '94) '61--2 on Fantasy. Worked as sideman with Herbie Mann incl. Right Now '59 and Herbie Mann Live At Newport '63, both on Atlantic, and Latin Mann '65 on CBS. Also worked with Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt (Stitt Goes Latin '60s on Roost), Terry Gibbs (El Latino! '60s on Roost), others. Organized his own Latin fusion group and made Bobo! Do That Thing/Guajira '63 for Tico, Bobo's Beat '64 (aka Latin Beat), featuring saxist Joe Farrell, trumpeter Clark Terry, organist Frank Anderson, and Let's Go Bobo '64, both on Roulette, but disbanded due to lack of gigs. Tjader's best-selling Soul Sauce '64, on which he performed, motivated him to form another Latin fusion group; he signed with Verve and released a string of LPs '65 to early '70s: Spanish Grease (title track was an R&B hit), Uno, Dos, Tres 1.2.3, Feelin' So Good, Juicy, Bobo Motion, Spanish Blues Band and compilation Evil Ways. During the '70s he issued Do What You Want To Do on Sussex, Tomorrow Is Here '77 on Blue Note, Hell Of An Act To Follow '78, prod. by Wayne Henderson, and Bobo '79, both on CBS. Diagnosed with cancer '80, kept it secret until shortly before his death.