In this interview, legendary producer Bobby Marin shares with us his personal experience with Boogaloo, a vibrant Latin music style that evolved in New York during the 1960s. Bobby Marin played a major role in the development of Boogaloo. He worked alongside big Latin Boogaloo artists including Joe Cuba, Joe Bataan, Louie Ramirez, and Tito Puente, among others. Through the words of Bobby Marin, the following is an exclusive introduction to one of the most exciting rhythms ever invented in Latin music.
How did you get into Boogaloo?
The first time I heard the word Boogaloo was in 1966. I was living in Michigan, where I had been stationed serving the USAF. Boogaloo was actually a genre of R&B, I believe out of Chicago. In early 1966, there was a record being played in New York called "Boogaloo Down Broadway," I believe that is when the phrase became popular.
Why is it called Boogaloo?
I guess someone picked up the phrase and incorporated it to the new sound being created by young Latino band leaders out of the Bronx and Brooklyn. First time I heard the Boogaloo phrase on a Latin recording was in 1966 in a recording by Richie Ray with a song entitled "Lookie Lookie".
How is Boogaloo different from Salsa?
There is a great difference between Salsa and Boogaloo. Putting it as simple as possible, Latin Boogaloo is a funky guajira with a back beat, hand clappin', and English lyrics. By the way, the term became Latin Boogaloo, ultimately, in order to make the distinction from the R&B Boogaloo recordings. We produced upbeat boogaloos like some of the tunes you hear on Fania's Ali Baba album and on Joe Cuba's Psychedelic Baby.
Eventually, kids came up with a dance to go along with hits being recorded by Joe Bataan, Johnny Colon, Joe Cuba and Pete Rodriguez. And they began to dress more casual when they attended dances; there was a community being formed, and the craze was on! In fact, the Salsa band leaders were having a big problem with Boogaloo's popularity, finding it difficult to book gigs.
I actually have a funny story to share with your readers. One day, Tito Puente (who was adamantly anti-Boogaloo) walked by me at a studio as I was working on a follow-up tune to Joe Bataan's "Gypsy Woman". The song was titled "It Was Love". Tito stopped and asked me what I was playing. I told him what it was, and he asked me to play and sing it again, which I did. All of a sudden Tito snatched the music paper from the piano and commented "F*ck Joe Bataan, I'm recording this;" which he did. That was Tito's first Boogaloo recording.
What role did you play in the development of Boogaloo?
When I arrived in New York, in the summer of 1966, the Boogaloo sound was in its initial stage. I noticed this while assisting my brother Richard during his Latin recordings for Decca, Mercury, RCA and other major labels.
My involvement, I guess, began when I met Louie Ramirez, one of the most talented musicians I have ever run across. Louie wanted me to help write a couple of Boogaloo tunes for his new album In The Heart of Spanish Harlem. He knew I had been writing for Rock groups in Michigan, including Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels.
Anyway, Louie and I quickly became a Boogaloo-writing team. Before long we were being approached by labels, producers and recording artists. It seemed like the more music we created, the more other bandleaders recorded Boogaloo tunes. For a long while, the evening radio DJ's, Symphony Sid and Dick Ricardo Sugar played nothing but Latin Boogaloos. The music they played was requested by their listeners.
Who were the most influential Boogaloo artists?
Pete Rodriguez, Johnny Colon, Joe Bataan, Joe Cuba, Joey Pastrana, King Nando, and the Lebron Brothers were among the most popular.
Which are your top Boogaloo songs?
When I first heard "Boogaloo Blues" by Johnny Colon, I knew where this business was headed. That was my favorite. I would say these are my favorite Boogaloo recordings:
- "Gypsy Woman" - Joe Bataan
- "Bang Bang" - Joe Cuba
- "I Like It Like That" - Pete Rodriguez
- "At The Party" - Hector Rivera
Which are your favorite Boogaloo albums?
Rather than try to recall so many great recordings going back 45 years, I would simplify it by recommending any recording on the Cotique label during the mid to late 1960s.
Is Boogaloo still alive or is it something that belongs to the past?
Up until about a year ago, I would have said "Let the dead rest." But, about a year ago, during a trip I made to Los Angeles for Fania Records to promote a Joe Cuba double CD I had produced, I was stunned. During the record release party, a local band by the name of The Boogaloo Assassins performed for a huge, young crowd. They played only Boogaloo music and the crowd went absolutely wild when they heard this exciting music.
Recently, I attended a Boogaloo concert in Central Park that featured the bands of Joe Bataan and Johnny Colon. Again, I noticed the incredible passion emanating from this more mature crowd. The entire music industry needs a kick in the ass and if produced well, new Latin Boogaloo recordings can be just what the doctor ordered. I am working on a new site that will feature Boogaloo music, articles, photos and stories about that great era. I plan to re-expose some of these exciting recordings to the public, and then let nature take its course. Is the world ready for Boogaloo revisited?