Joe Cuba [1931-2009]
Gilberto Miguel Calderón was born to Puerto Rican parents in Spanish Harlem and as a teenager he performed as a percussionist in several bands. He had given up music to study law in college when a chance encounter and conversation with Tito Puente inspired him to start his own band.
So he put together a group and, on the advice of his agent, called it the Joe Cuba Sextet, a name that stuck with him for the rest of his career. Fronted by singers Willie Torres and Jimmy Sabater, his sextet debuted at the Stardust Ballroom in 1954 and impressed listeners with its big sound and distinctive combination of timbales, congas, and vibraphone. Cheo Feliciano later joined the group as a singer.
The Joe Cuba Sextet became known not only for popular Latin dance genres of the day like mambo, guaracha, and pachanga, but also for innovative fusions of Latin and African American styles, broadly referred to as Latin soul.
In 1962 they recorded one of the great anthems of Latin soul, To Be With You, featuring Jimmy Sabater crooning in English over a bolero rhythm. His 1966 hit, Bang Bang, which mixed English and Spanish lyrics and included the happy shouts and sounds of a house party, made the mainstream radio charts and helped drive a craze for the Latin boogaloo in the mid-1960s.