Tito Puente Biography and Art

Tito puente Memorial Mural, South Bronx, NY. Picture by Charmante.
Name: Ernest Anthony Puente, Jr.
Birth date: April 20, 1923.
Birthplace: Spanish Harlem, New York City.
Breakthrough: In the early-1950s when his band took up residence at the Palladium, a dance venue on Broadway.

If you are a music and dance buff, then for sure, you’ll be excited to read this Tito Puente biography. He is a legend and one of the most famous Hispanic people in the field of music.  Of Puerto Rican origin, Tito Puente was born in Harlem, New York on the 20th of April, 1923.

He took piano lessons at the age of six giving him an early exposure to music. He also started learning dance at an early age. He, along with his sister Anna, were part of an artistic group called “Stars of the future.”

As a young lad, Puente won four awards for his talent in dance, but a bicycle accident put an end to his dreams of becoming a top notch dancer. Puente had said, “If there is no dance, there is no music.”

An Artist in the Making

Any Tito Puente biography speaks of his admiration for Gene Krupa on account of which Puente added percussion to his study. He dropped out of school and started working by performing Latin dance music for a beach band in Miami. In 1939 he returned to Manhattan and started working with José Curbelo, the first Mambo king.

Tito Puente Memorial Mural, South Bronx, NY.

Tito puente Memorial Mural,
South Bronx, NY.
Picture by Charmante.

In 1942, Puente joined the Navy. He fought in nine battles over three years in World War II. While in the Navy, he played the saxophone and drums with the ship’s band.

The GI Bill, which was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 designed to provide greater opportunities to returning war veterans of World War II, allowed him to join the Julliard School of Music where he studied Musical Theory, Orchestration and Conducting.

The Tito Puente Mambo Connection

Tito's Image

Tito Puente
Picture by Ne

In 1949 Tito founded “The Piccadilly Boys” and won fans with the cha-cha-cha and the Mambo. We learn a lot about the performances of this band in the Tito Puente biography from the Dictionary of Hispanic Biography published by Gale.

The Tito Puente Mambo connection was a craze. This high-energy music brought people of all races together. Puente became associated with Mambo and also had a feel for jazz, giving it a Latin touch. In his words, “Sometimes jazz can be boring, but I give it a new twist.”

His association with Carlos Santana as revealed in any Tito Puente biography brought him great popularity. Santana recorded Puente’s old hit number ‘Oye, Como Va’ in 1970 that went into the Top 40. In 1977, both performed together in Manhattan in front of screaming crowds.

In his life Tito played conga drums, claves and tap drums along with saxophone and clarinet, showing his versatility. According to the Musicofpuertorico.com, “Puente has been credited with introducing the timbal and the vibraphone to Afro-Cuban music.”

This Tito Puente biography is a tribute to his musical genius, and the great influence he exerted over Latin music. He was called “Sultan of Salsa”, “El Rey del Timbal” and the “King of Latin Music.”


Tito’s Awards and Musical Output

Tito's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Picture by mdawaffe.

Tito’s Hollywood Walk of Fame Star
Picture by mdawaffe.

He won five Grammy awards in 1979 for the “Tito Puente Homenaje a Beny” Album. This album was Puente’s tribute to Beny More, the Cuban singer.  He also received Grammy awards in 1983 (On Broadway), 1985 (Mambo Diablo), 1990 (Gosa Mi Timbal) and in 2000 (Mambo Birdland) just before his death.

His musical output was prodigious. He has to his credit, over 2002 arrangements, composed more than 450 songs and recorded 120 albums. He had performed in more than 10,000 live performances. For Tito Puente music poured out, in his every breath.

Puente participated in the film ‘The Mambo Kings’ made in 1992. The same year he was honored on the Hollywood Walk of fame with a star.

His album “Dancemania” was chosen by The New York Times as one among the 25 most influential albums of this century. He also appeared on “The David Letterman Show.”

Puente’s Humanitarian Side

Tito Puente Way in Spanish Harlem. East 110th Street from 5th to First Avenues.

Tito Puente Way in Spanish Harlem. East 110th Street from 5th to First Avenues.
by SRH 24 &

Tito Puente & Celia Cruz.  El Rey del Mambo & La Reina de la Salsa.

Tito Puente & Celia Cruz.
El Rey del Mambo & La Reina de la Salsa.
by BrooklynGyrrl

Not only was he a genius but also a humanitarian. Puente started the Tito Puente Scholarship Fund to assist young artists with musical talent.

The great showman and versatile genius, as this Tito Puente biography reveals, never slowed down until the very end. His last album was released in July 2002 after his death in March 31 2000. As the website, LP Music.Com rightly puts it, To Latin music lovers, Tito Puente will always be “The King.”

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