Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



An influential dance style of the late 1960s in NYC, aka bugalú. Max Salazar wrote, 'the Latin boogaloo, a combination of R&B and Cuban son montuno, was introduced in '66 ... by either the Joe Cuba Sextet or the Pete ''Boogaloo'' Rodríguez orchestra'. (There was also a single called 'Boo-Ga-Loo' by Tome and Jerrio c.1965.) Johnny Colón (b 1942, NYC; trombonist, vocalist, leader etc) had a monster debut hit with 'Boogaloo Blues' '66 (the title track of an album on Cotique produced by George Goldner: the album was believed to have sold over three million in the USA, though sales were never recorded and no royalties paid). Colón defined boogaloo as 'a fusion of Latin with jazz, or Latin with R&B', and credited as inventors Ricardo Ray for his co-written 'Lookie, Lookie' (on Ray's Alegre debut Se Soltó/On The Loose/Introducing The Bugaloo '66) and Pete 'Boogaloo' Rodríguez (dubbed 'The King of Boogaloo') for the tunes 'I Like It Like That' and 'Micaela' (both on I Like It Like That (A Mi Me Gusta Asi) '67 on Alegre). The latter two were co-written by Rodríguez sidemen, conguero Manny Rodríguez and Tony Pabón (trumpeter, composer, bandleader, singer, TV host, Latin music distributor; b 6 March 1941, Santurce, Puerto Rico, grew up in NYC from age three). Producer/label boss Al Santiago is typically precise: 'Ricardo Ray came out with the first boogaloo singles and Pete ''Boogaloo'' Rodríguez came out with the first boogaloo album (Latin Boogaloo '66 on Alegre, reissued '94; included ''Pete's Boogaloo'' co-penned by Pabón and Manny Rodríguez).'

But Joe Cuba was widely given a lot of credit (along with his voicalist, Jimmy Sabater). At Cuba's death in 2009 Juan Flores, a professor of Latino studies at New York University, was quoted: 'It was cha-cha with a backbeat. The thematic core was the cultural interaction between African-Americans and Puerto Ricans. It was the music of a new generation of Nuyoricans, and Joe Cuba symbolized the emergence of that generation, steeped in the Cuban sound, but also in doo-wop and soul music.'

Boogaloos mainly featured English lyrics, sometimes risqué, and brash, rough-and-ready music with characteristic use of trombone frontline influenced by Eddie Palmieri, and pivotal Latin percussion; they reflected the experience of second-generation Puerto Rican New Yorkers, and crossed over to non-Latin audiences. Other early key singles included Joe Cuba's first million-selling boogaloo hit 'Bang Bang' '66 and Héctor Rivera's top 40 hit 'At The Party' '67; both were established bandleaders while others such as Tito Puente initially resisted the trend, but the strength of its popularity eventually obliged them to record boogaloos. Larry Harlow mixed boogaloo and R&B-inspired songs with Cuban material; Willie Rosario kept to a purer edge, playing a slow mambo style; a Ray Barretto LP Acid '67 drew on R&B and jazz, and was not strictly boogaloo but not possible without it. The first Willie Colón LP El Malo '67 included boogaloos. The style merged into Latin soul, a minor strand against a major revival of purist Cuban music, epitomized by Joe Bataan's Salsoul '73, hinted at in his debut Gypsy Woman '67 (described in sleeve note as 'soul' Latin), and Riot! '68 (described him as no. 1 Latin soul singer). These fusions led directly into disco in the 1970s, with emphasis on Latin percussion, heartbeat, zany lyrics. Johnny Colón and others of the boogaloo generation believe that the style's sudden extinction was due to jealous bandleaders and promoters and a Latin disc jockey orchestrating a blacklist and restricting airplay. Good compilations are We Got Latin Soul Vols 1--3 on Charly.

Most quotes here are from from Salsiology 1992 by Vernon W. Boggs. More reading includes Boogaloo by Arthur Kempton, and From Bomba to Hip-Hop by Juan Flores.

In 2011 filmmaker Mathew Ramirez Warren was close to finishing a documentary film about it all, called We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo. Money still needed to be raised to pay for permissions: films can't use a single note of music without cash on the barrelhead. To judge from a film trailer, the finished product will be a joy to behold. Go here to see the clip.