Johnny Pacheco [1935 -]

Composer, arranger, bandleader, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Johnny Pacheco was born in 1935 in Santiago de los Caballeros in the Dominican Republic.  His father, Rafael Azarías Pacheco, was the clarinetist and bandleader for the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, and he encouraged Johnny to study the violin at an early age. 

When Johnny was 11 years old his family moved to New York, where he continued to progress as a musician.  He learned to play accordion, saxophone and clarinet, and later studied percussion at the Julliard School of Music.  Inspired by Cuban charanga ensembles (which include piano, violins, and flute) Pacheco also learned to play the wooden flute, the instrument for which he ultimately became most well-known.

In 1960 Pacheco organized his first band, Pacheco y su Charanga, and signed with Alegre Records to record Johnny Pacheco y su Charanga Vol. 1.  The album sold over 100,000 copies and helped popularize a new dance craze whose name—the “pachanga”—was a cross between “Pacheco” and “charanga.” A demanding bandleader, Pacheco produced a bright and powerful sound, with a deep afinque (groove, rhythmic lock) to keep the dancers happy.

Having established himself as one of the leading figures in the New York Latin music scene, Pacheco next turned his attention to the recording business, teaming with Jerry Masucci in 1963 to establish the FANIA record label.  On this label he released his next record, Cañonazo, for which he switched from a charanga to a conjunto ensemble.  The FANIA label soon attracted many of the most talented young Latin musicians in New York, and Pacheco decided to combine them in an all-star group, the “Fania All Stars,” to promote the label.

On August 26, 1971, under Johnny Pacheco’s musical direction, the Fania All Stars played a show at the Cheetah Night Club in Manhattan.  The event was filmed and made into the concert documentary, Our Latin Thing. Its exuberant combination of urban grit, counter-culture, and musical energy helped popularize FANIA’s new sound—marketed now as “salsa” music—all over Latin America.

A dynamic musician, businessman, and promoter who was always a little ahead of his time, Johnny Pacheco became one of the most admired and loved figures on the Latin music scene internationally. He has written more than 150 songs, including "La dicha mía," "Quítate tú pa' ponerme yo," "Acuyuyé" (the model for The Young Rascals’ 1966 hit, “Good Lovin’”), "El rey de la puntualidad," and Tito Puente's "El número cien." His many awards include the NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) in 1996; the Presidential Medal of Honor awarded by Dominican Republic president Joaquín Balaguer in 1996; the Bobby Capó Lifetime Achievement Award, given to him by New York governor George Pataki in 1997; and induction to the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1998.

Fania All Stars
Celia Cruz
Johnny Pacheco